BxCyNz nanostructures for next generation energy storage systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Materials


The focus of this work is to establish novel chemical means to generate low-dimensional BxCyNz materials for the implementation in energy storage devices. The properties of BxCyNz materials are strictly controlled by the chemical composition and structure. The Nanomaterials by Design research team has made much progress with the larger scale production of BxCyNz nanomaterials, hence paving the way to engineering novel functional materials that could be used in a series of energy storage devices such as batteries, supercapacitors, and next generation fuel cell technologies.

Preliminary tests showed that the performance of low-dimensional BxCyNz materials used as catalysts in the electrochemical hydrogen evolution reaction can be impressive. Through the tuning of their composition and surface chemistry it is envisaged to further improve their stability and efficiency compared to classical material systems with the ultimate aim of generating low-cost manufacturing routes.

Recently, we showed that an effective strategy to enhance the oxygen reduction reaction performance of multiwall carbon nanotubes in both acid and alkaline electrolytes by coating them with a layer of biomass derivative N-doped hydrothermal carbons. We further showed that the N-doped amorphous carbon coating plays a triple role: it (i) promotes the assembly of MWCNTs into a 3D network therefore improving the mass transfer and thus increasing the catalytic activity; (ii) protects the Fe-containing active sites, present on the surface of the MWCNTs, from H2O2 poisoning; (iii) creates nitrogenated active sites and hence further enhances ORR activity and robustness. BxCyNz materials or their derivatives are envisaged to outperform this system.
Moreover, the Nanomaterials by Design team conducted preliminary experiments on doped carbon nanostructures and showed that these are suitable candidates in high-frequency supercapacitor applications. State-of-the-art scalable aerosol-assisted chemical vapour deposition synthesis techniques in conjunction with in situ monitoring technologies allows us to engineer the dopant levels in carbon nanotubes and other materials. These material systems will be tested under a series of conditions.

The research group has a range of industrial collaborators and specific potential device applications will be sought once progress has been made with the tailored functional low-dimensional nanomaterials. Traditionally, the students of the Nanomaterials of Design research group are encouraged to engage with academic collaborators as well as industry partners whenever feasible.

This research project falls within the EPSRC Energy, Engineering, Healthcare technologies, Manufacturing the future, Physical sciences research areas.


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