DEKALB, Ill. - The National Science Foundation has awarded a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Program…
DeKalb, Ill. – The National Science Foundation (NSF) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are giving a charge to the research of NIU Chemistry Professor Tao Li, whose work could lay the foundation for improvements to ubiquitous rechargeable batteries used in electronic devices, electric vehicles and grid energy storage.
NSF awarded Li with a grant of $271,000 over three years to characterize the transport property and microstructure of battery electrolytes. Crucial to battery performance, electrolytes are chemicals that allow an electrical charge to pass between two terminals.
Li also is a co-principal investigator on a $3 million DOE grant to Argonne National Laboratory for the study of solid-state electrolytes in lithium batteries. Li’s research aims to help pave the way for the development of next-generation batteries.
“There is intense interest in the development of improved batteries as the world seeks to reduce its carbon footprint, including by transitioning from gasoline- to electric-powered vehicles,” Li said.
“The NSF grant will help us gain a better understanding of liquid electrolytes with the hope of improving batteries of the future. But liquid electrolytes are flammable, and the DOE grant aims to develop solid-state electrolytes for improved safety and storage,” he said.
It’s the second NSF award to Li in three years. In 2019, he received a $200,000 grant to investigate novel ways of converting greenhouse gases into useful fuels.
Li, who holds a joint appointment between NIU and Argonne National Laboratory, will incorporate the battery research into teaching curricula for undergraduate and graduate students, encourage students from underrepresented groups in STEM to participate in the research, and broaden the impact of the research through outreach activities such as workshops with local school teachers on K-12 science education.
His research group currently has one post-doctoral staff member, six graduate students, two former Research Rookies and three current Research Rookies. Erik Sarnello, one of Li’s students, will graduate with his Ph.D. this semester and start a post-doctoral position at Argonne.
Li’s research has been recognized internationally as well.
Earlier this year, he received the Scientist Medal from the International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM), a Sweden-based, international nonprofit organization. The award is given to researchers at all stages of their careers, aiming to honor and further encourage groundbreaking research, according to the IAAM website. As a recipient of the Scientist Medal, he delivered a lecture via a webinar in middle September as part of IAAM’s Advanced Materials Lecture Series.
Li also was invited to apply for the Eni Award 2022, a prestigious prize addressed to worldwide scientists and researchers with a focus on issues related to energy and sustainability.
Media Contact: Tom Parisi
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