Development of new energy conversion and storage materials containing oxyanion moieties

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Chemistry


The traditional approach to the manipulation of the structures and properties of materials has been to partially substitute the elements on one or more of the sites with similar sized elements which have different charges. Thus for example the conductivity of LaMnO3 (a solid oxide fuel cell material) is greatly improved by partial substitution of La (3+ charge) with Sr (2+ charge). Recent work in our group has however, shown that many of these materials will accommodate oxyanion groups (such as carbonate, sulfate, phosphate, silicate) with promising results shown. Thus silicon doping on the Mn site in SrMnO3 or CaMnO3 leads to a large improvement in conductivity, as well as a similar improvement in the performance as an electrode material in solid oxide fuel cells. The first aim of this project will be to extend these studies to other solid oxide fuel cell materials. Indeed there is growing evidence from our initial studies that materials with the perovskite structure show a propensity to accommodate carbonate groups. Such materials are widely utilised as solid oxide fuel cell cathodes. In such studies, research has shown that in addition to the bulk characteristics of the material, the microstructure is vitally important in ensuring optimum performance. This has led to considerable research into the design of nano-scale structures, utilising low temperature (e.g. sol-gel, combustion) synthesis techniques and carbon-based pore-formers. The fact that carbonate is readily accommodated in the perovskite structure raises important issues, that have been overlooked in previous studies by other groups:- in particular is the presence of carbonate leading to observed variations in performance, and so can we optimise the performance by controlling this aspect.
Following on from the results on solid oxide fuel cell materials, the possible manipulation of the structure and properties of Li/Na ion battery materials through oxyanion doping will be investigated. In this area, there has been considerable interest in materials containing oxyanion groups (e.g. LiFePO4) since such systems shown improved safety characteristics compared to simple oxide systems (e.g. LiCoO2). The approach here will be to investigate mixed oxyanion systems to control both the structure and performance, with the synthetic approaches developed for the fuel cell materials being extended to these battery materials in order to illustrate the diversity of this oxyanion doping approach. .
This research project falls within two of the key underpinning sectors of this EPSRC's energy research area, namely Materials for Energy Applications and Energy Storage. The information derived from this project will therefore make a key contribution to the UK's research standing in the energy area, while also providing a highly trained researcher for the UK energy industry.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509590/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1790616 Studentship EP/N509590/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2019 Abbey Jarvis
Description This grant has enabled further investigation into oxyanion studies on solid oxide fuel cell materials. This work has shown further evidence that oxyanion groups (such as carbonate, sulfate, phosphate, silicate) can be incorpated into perovskite and perovskite type materials. In addition to characterisation of the materials further testing of materials has been carried out in order to investigate the use of these materials for use in solid oxide fuel cells.
Exploitation Route Further oxyanion doping studies can be carried out on perovskite type materials in order to optimise structure and performance. Futher testing of materials could be carried out in order to test sutability for solid oxide fuel cells.
Sectors Energy,Environment

Description Community project at university green heart festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Stall set up on the university campus to discuss energy materials including demonstrations. This outreach event was aimed at the community to all ages.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Energy workshop year 10 students 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A 45 minute workshop was held with 25 year 10 students from a local school with the Communications, Outreach and impact officer. The session involved practical work including potato batteries and fuel cells. This included discussions on applications of batteries and fuel cells and how they work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description University open day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Students between the ages of 16-18 attended open days with family members and friends. The activity including demonstrations of a range of materials chemistry including fuel cell cars. In addition to the demonstration, posters were included in the set up in order to explain the research carried out at the University of Birmingham and the applications of the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019