The main objective of our research program is the development of multi-purpose, flexible/mouldable electrode and electrolyte materials for potential health, energy storage, and catalytic applications. We will study materials that have plastic-like qualities but with metal nanoparticles contained within that will make these materials more reactive, and be more conductive of electricity and ions.
Electrode reactions happen at the interface between materials (liquid, solid, liquid etc.), and it is important to know how all of these materials interact with each other, and how fast they do so. Surface morphology (eg roughness) also plays a role in reactions. To measure how each of these parameters effects these reactions, we will create a machine that can measure how cell performance while measuring their shape and structure as well. By measuring changes with these highly sensitive probes, we will determine material suitability and determine what chemicals could be used to improve performance. This work, combined with conventional electrochemical methods, will be used to develop predictive models of nanocomposite material performance, which will enable us to develop new technologies and new scanning probe methodologies. We will also install electroactive materials into our nanoprobes to make highly sensitive proof-of-concept (bio)sensors.
Short-term objectives will focus on metal nanoparticles embedded in ionic liquids or organic ionic plastic crystals. Through our scanning probe methods, we will gain insight into interactions between these compounds. We will explore simple one-step charge transfer processes, up to multi-step electrocatalysis. The impact of NPs on the physical properties of ionic liquids and organic ionic plastic crystals films will also be investigated. They have been shown to enhance viscosity and the formation of defects/grain boundaries, respectively, which in-turn enhance ionic and electronic conductivity. The role of nanoparticles in electrocatalysis in organic ionic plastic crystals is virtually unexplored and will be a major focus of the research team at Memorial.