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Chemists ID Catalytic 'Key' for Converting CO2 to Methanol

Results from experiments and computational modeling studies that definitively identify the "active site" of a catalyst commonly used for making methanol from CO2 will guide the design of improved catalysts for transforming this pollutant to useful chemicals.

Cryo-Electron Microscopy Achieves Unprecedented Resolution Using New Computational Methods

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM)--which enables the visualization of viruses, proteins, and other biological structures at the molecular level--is a critical tool used to advance biochemical knowledge. Now Berkeley Lab researchers have extended cryo-EM's impact further by developing a new computational algorithm instrumental in constructing a 3-D atomic-scale model of bacteriophage P22 for the first time.

New Study Maps Space Dust in 3-D

A new Berkeley Lab-led study provides detailed 3-D views of space dust in the Milky Way, which could help us understand the properties of this dust and how it affects views of distant objects.

Single-Angle Ptychography Allows 3D Imaging of Stressed Materials

Scientists have used a new X-ray diffraction technique called Bragg single-angle ptychography to get a clear picture of how planes of atoms shift and squeeze under stress.

New Feedback System Could Allow Greater Control Over Fusion Plasma

A physicist has created a new system that will let scientists control the energy and rotation of plasma in real time in a doughnut-shaped machine known as a tokamak.

Towards Super-Efficient, Ultra-Thin Silicon Solar Cells

Researchers from Ames Laboratory used supercomputers at NERSC to evaluate a novel approach for creating more energy-efficient ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells by optimizing nanophotonic light trapping.

Study IDs Link Between Sugar Signaling and Regulation of Oil Production in Plants

UPTON, NY--Even plants have to live on an energy budget. While they're known for converting solar energy into chemical energy in the form of sugars, plants have sophisticated biochemical mechanisms for regulating how they spend that energy. Making oils costs a lot. By exploring the details of this delicate energy balance, a group of scientists from the U.

High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Two-Dimensional MXene Materials Get Their Close-Up

Researchers have long sought electrically conductive materials for economical energy-storage devices. Two-dimensional (2D) ceramics called MXenes are contenders.


Three SLAC Employees Awarded Lab's Highest Honor

At a March 7 ceremony, three employees of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were awarded the lab's highest honor ­- the SLAC Director's Award.

Dan Sinars Represents Sandia in First Energy Leadership Class

Dan Sinars, a senior manager in Sandia National Laboratories' pulsed power center, which built and operates the Z facility, is the sole representative from a nuclear weapons lab in a new Department of Energy leadership program that recently visited Sandia.

ORNL, HTS International Corporation to Collaborate on Manufacturing Research

HTS International Corporation and the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed an agreement to explore potential collaborations in advanced manufacturing research.

Jefferson Lab Director Honored with Energy Secretary Award

Hugh Montgomery, director of the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), was awarded The Secretary's Distinguished Service Award by the Secretary of Energy earlier this year.

New Projects to Make Geothermal Energy More Economically Attractive

Geothermal energy, a clean, renewable source of energy produced by the heat of the earth, provides about 6 percent of California's total power. That number could be much higher if associated costs were lower. Now scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have launched two California Energy Commission-funded projects aimed at making geothermal energy more cost-effective to deploy and operate.

Southern Research Project Advances Novel CO2 Utilization Strategy

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy has awarded Southern Research nearly $800,000 for a project that targets a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method of producing some of the most important chemicals used in manufacturing.

Harker School Wins 2017 SLAC Regional Science Bowl Competition

After losing its first match of the day to the defending champions, The Harker School's team won 10 consecutive rounds to claim victory in the annual SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Francis Alexander Named Deputy Director of Brookhaven Lab's Computational Science Initiative

Alexander brings extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research to the position.

Kalinin, Paranthaman Elected Materials Research Society Fellows

Two researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sergei Kalinin and Mariappan Parans Paranthaman, have been elected fellows of the Materials Research Society.

Two PNNL Researchers Elected to Membership in the National Academy of Engineering

Two scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will become members of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.


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Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Modeling the "Flicker" of Gluons in Subatomic Smashups

A new model identifies a high degree of fluctuations in the glue-like particles that bind quarks within protons as essential to explaining proton structure.

Rare Nickel Atom Has "Doubly Magic" Structure

Supercomputing calculations confirm that rare nickel-78 has unusual structure, offering insights into supernovas.

Microbial Activity in the Subsurface Contributes to Greenhouse Gas Fluxes

Natural carbon dioxide production from deep subsurface soils contributes significantly to emissions, even in a semiarid floodplain.

Stretching a Metal Into an Insulator

Straining a thin film controllably allows tuning of the materials' magnetic, electronic, and catalytic properties, essential for new energy and electronic devices.

How Moisture Affects the Way Soil Microbes Breathe

Study models soil-pore features that hold or release carbon dioxide.

ARM Data Is for the Birds

Scientists use LIDAR and radar data to study bird migration patterns, thanks to the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility.

The Future of Coastal Flooding

Better storm surge prediction capabilities could help reduce the impacts of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes.

Estimating Global Energy Use for Water-Related Processes

Scientists find that water-related energy consumption is increasing across the globe, with pronounced differences across regions and sectors.


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New Method Provides Nanoscale Details of Electrochemical Reactions in Electric Vehicle Battery Materials

Article ID: 621494

Released: 2014-08-02 05:00:00

Source Newsroom: Brookhaven National Laboratory

New Method Provides Nanoscale Details of Electrochemical Reactions in Electric Vehicle Battery Materials

UPTON, NY-Using a new method to track the electrochemical reactions in a common electric vehicle battery material under operating conditions, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have revealed new insight into why fast charging inhibits this material's performance. The study also provides the first direct experimental evidence to support a particular model of the electrochemical reaction. The results, published August 4, 2014, in Nature Communications, could provide guidance to inform battery makers' efforts to optimize materials for faster-charging batteries with higher capacity.

"Our work was focused on developing a method to track structural and electrochemical changes at the nanoscale as the battery material was charging," said Brookhaven physicist Jun Wang, who led the research. Her group was particularly interested in chemically mapping what happens in lithium iron phosphate-a material commonly used in the cathode, or positive electrode, of electrical vehicle batteries-as the battery charged. "We wanted to catch and monitor the phase transformation that takes place in the cathode as lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode," she said.

Getting as many lithium ions as possible to move from cathode to anode through this process, known as delithiation, is the key to recharging the battery to its fullest capacity so it will be able to provide power for the longest possible period of time. Understanding the subtle details of why that doesn't always happen could ultimately lead to ways to improve battery performance, enabling electric vehicles to travel farther before needing to be recharged.

X-ray imaging and chemical fingerprinting

Many previous methods used to analyze such battery materials have produced data that average out effects over the entire electrode. These methods lack the spatial resolution needed for chemical mapping or nanoscale imaging, and are likely to overlook possible small-scale effects and local differences within the sample, Wang explained.

To improve upon those methods, the Brookhaven team used a combination of full- field, nanoscale-resolution transmission x-ray microscopy (TXM) and x-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy (XANES) at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), a DOE Office of Science User Facility that provides beams of high-intensity x-rays for studies in many areas of science. These x-rays can penetrate the material to produce both high-resolution images and spectroscopic data-a sort of electrochemical "fingerprint" that reveals, pixel by pixel, where lithium ions remain in the material, where they've been removed leaving only iron phosphate, and other potentially interesting electrochemical details.

The scientists used these methods to analyze samples made up of multiple nanoscale particles in a real battery electrode under operating conditions (in operando). But because there can be a lot of overlap of particles in these samples, they also conducted the same in operando study using smaller amounts of electrode material than would be found in a typical battery. This allowed them to gain further insight into how the delithiation reaction proceeds within individual particles without overlap. They studied each system (multi-particle and individual particles) under two different charging scenarios-rapid (like you'd get at an electric vehicle recharging station), and slow (used when plugging in your vehicle at home overnight).

Insight into why charging rate matters

These animated images of individual particles, taken while the electrode is charging, show that lithiated (red) and delithiated (green) iron phosphate phases co-exist within individual particles. This finding directly supports a model in which the phase transformation proceeds from one phase to the other without the existence of an intermediate phase.

The detailed images and spectroscopic information reveal unprecedented insight into why fast charging reduces battery capacity. At the fast charging rate, the pixel-by-pixel images show that the transformation from lithiated to delithiated iron phosphate proceeds inhomogeneously. That is, in some regions of the electrode, all the lithium ions are removed leaving only iron phosphate behind, while particles in other areas show no change at all, retaining their lithium ions. Even in the "fully charged" state, some particles retain lithium and the electrode's capacity is well below the maximum level.

"This is the first time anyone has been able to see that delithiation was happening differently at different spatial locations on an electrode under rapid charging conditions," Jun Wang said.

Slower charging, in contrast, results in homogeneous delithiation, where lithium iron phosphate particles throughout the electrode gradually change over to pure iron phosphate-and the electrode has a higher capacity.

Implications for better battery design

Scientists have known for a while that slow charging is better for this material, "but people don't want to charge slowly," said Jiajun Wang, the lead author of the paper. "Instead, we want to know why fast charging gives lower capacity. Our results offer clues to explain why, and could give industry guidance to help them develop a future fast-charge/high-capacity battery," he said.

For example, the phase transformation may happen more efficiently in some parts of the electrode than others due to inconsistencies in the physical structure or composition of the electrode-for example, its thickness or how porous it is. "So rather than focusing only on the battery materials' individual features, manufacturers might want to look at ways to prepare the electrode so that all parts of it are the same, so all particles can be involved in the reaction instead of just some," he said.

The individual-particle study also detected, for the first time, the coexistence of two distinct phases-lithiated iron phosphate and delithiated, or pure, iron phosphate-within single particles. This finding confirms one model of the delithiation phase transformation-namely that it proceeds from one phase to the other without the existence of an intermediate phase.

"These discoveries provide the fundamental basis for the development of improved battery materials," said Jun Wang. "In addition, this work demonstrates the unique capability of applying nanoscale imaging and spectroscopic techniques in understanding battery materials with a complex mechanism in real battery operational conditions."

The paper notes that this in operando approach could be applied in other fields, such as studies of fuel cells and catalysts, and in environmental and biological sciences.

Future studies using these techniques at NSLS-II-which will produce x-rays 10,000 times brighter than those at NSLS-will have even greater resolution and provide deeper insight into the physical and electrochemical characteristics of these materials, thus making it possible for scientists to further elucidate how those properties affect performance.

Yu-chen Karen Chen-Wiegart also contributed to this research. This work was supported by a Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) project at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The use of the NSLS was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

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Related Links

Scientific paper: "In operando tracking phase transformation evolution of lithium ion phosphate with hard X-ray microscopy" DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5570

Media contacts: Karen McNulty Walsh, (631) 344-8350 or Peter Genzer, (631) 344-3174

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Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE's Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York on behalf of Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit applied science and technology organization.

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