Building a better battery

Tyler Fears, Chem’10, Phys’10, a Ph.D. student in chemistry, is using nanomaterials that act as cathodes to expand the capacity of lithium-ion batteries through an Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His project is funded by a five-year, $3 million grant awarded to MU by the National Science Foundation.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Tyler Fears studies nanomaterials in Schrenk Hall.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Tyler Fears studies nanomaterials in Schrenk Hall.

Fears works with Helmut Kaiser, research professor at the MU Research Reactor Center, and Haskell Taub, MU professor of physics and astronomy, to observe the structure of the cathode nanomaterials using neutron diffraction, the process of scattering neutrons by matter. He prefers neutron scattering over the more common X-ray scattering technique because its interaction with light elements lets him see the materials’ structures in greater detail.

“These materials can also be used in lightweight and strong composites, which absorb energy,” says Fears. “Think of a bullet-proof vest. The material absorbs the energy of the bullet by compressing without shattering.”

Fears recently submitted a patent application for a project that involves making vanadium oxide gels and films at one-tenth the cost of previous methods. The gels can help form the composites used in his current research. The films have uses in energy-efficient window coatings.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Tyler Fears studies nanomaterials in Schrenk Hall.

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