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U-M leads new DOE-funded research center for ceramic ion conductors; MUSIC

A new $10.95-million research center, led by Michigan Engineering and funded by the US Department of Energy, will focus on understanding an emerging branch of science involving mechanical and chemical phenomena that affect advanced battery designs.

The University of Michigan (U-M) and eight partner institutions will explore the use of ceramic ion conductors as replacements for the traditional liquid or polymer electrolytes in common lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and in flow cells for storing renewable energy in the grid.

The recent discovery of ceramic ion conductors that simultaneously exhibit unprecedented performance and stability has the potential to change the electrochemical energy storage technology landscape.

—Jeff Sakamoto, professor of mechanical engineering at U-M and director of the new center

Ceramic ion conductors could help advanced batteries pack more power than lithium ion batteries of the same size. However, when these new conductors are in contact with other components, researchers have noticed some new and unusual behaviors arising from that blend of mechanical, electrical and chemical interactions.

The four-year DOE grant establishes a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) at U-M, the Mechano-chemical Understanding of Solid Ion Conductors (MUSIC). Established in 2009, the EFRC program is designed to “tackle the toughest scientific challenges preventing advances in energy technologies.”

Ceramic ion conductors represent one of those advances, and MUSIC is charged with performing the basic science needed to explore their potential impact on a variety of technologies. Those include long-duration energy storage and hydrogen fuel cells.

Critical barriers remain before widespread commercialization can be realized—many of which center around the unique mechanical properties that emerge at solid-solid interfaces in electrochemical cells. An overarching goal of MUSIC is to reveal the fundamental mechanisms of how mechanical stresses and strains interact with electrochemistry, which will inform future efforts to scale-up and accelerate commercialization of next-generation energy storage technology.

—Neil Dasgupta, MUSIC’s deputy director and an associate professor of mechanical engineering at U-M

MUSIC researchers will look at manufacturing techniques using new materials as a means of lowering battery costs. And they’ll examine how the introduction of ceramic ion conductors impacts degradation in lithium metal, sodium metal and other solid state configurations.

Partner institutions in MUSIC include: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Texas, Austin, Northwestern University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Princeton University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Purdue University.


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