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APS Student Receives Scholarship for Research on Promising Battery Technology

Connor Slamowitz, a fourth-year APS materials science Ph.D. student, recently obtained a Baden-Wurttemberg/North Carolina Faculty Mobility Scholarship to pursue research into a promising technology that would improve battery storage capacity for renewable energy. 

For two weeks in April, Slamowitz conducted research at the University of Stuttgart in Germany on a fluoride-ion battery electrode that could pave the way for higher-performing batteries. An ingredient in many toothpastes, sodium fluoride, a compound of fluorine, is typically used against tooth decay. But compounds containing fluorine can also increase the useful life of batteries, which are increasingly important as the United States transitions to renewable energy and electric cars. 

“It was a great experience, because I was able to work with collaborators who are experts with these applied systems,” said Slamowitz, who was recognized at the Annual Graduate School Student Recognition Celebration for receiving the scholarship. “Fluoride-ion batteries are a promising innovation that could offer high capacity and low cost while utilizing abundant and stable materials.” 

While in Germany, his team tested electrodes in a special environment involving a high-temperature, solid-state electrochemical cell. Unlike traditional batteries with liquid electrolytes, solid-state cells promise enhanced safety, but they also pose challenges. Finding suitable electrodes for these batteries, they found, was a challenge.

Through the collaborative effort with the Clemens Lab in Germany, Slamowitz, a graduate research assistant in the Warren Lab at UNC, was attempting to optimize the performance of an electrode made of yttrium carbide, a material that scientists believe may discharge and recharge without degrading. In batteries, electric current flows into an electrode from an external circuit, and the process of repeatedly storing and releasing energy decreases the longevity of a rechargeable battery over time. 

“In an effort to optimize the performance of the solid-state electrochemical cell, my team tested a lot of different materials, electrolytes and stabilizing agents that led to a breakthrough—charging and discharging our battery,” he said. “Our success wouldn’t have been possible without my collaborators in the Clemens Lab.”

The team also explored electrode composition, experimenting with how particles connect or stick together with the materials that conduct electrical energy. When particles are the right size, they allow for better connectivity of both ions and electrons throughout the entire system. The movement of electrons is what allows batteries to do useful work, like powering devices, such as light bulbs, cars and houses. By adjusting the size of these particles, they hope to make better connections, which can make their battery work more efficiently and last longer. 

“We’ve identified some really promising directions and I’m very excited to continue working with the University of Stuttgart to advance battery technology and foster international cooperation in the field,” said Slamowitz. “Fluoride-ion battery technology is new and relatively unexplored. By building strong partnerships with global experts, I believe we can quickly and efficiently push forward into a more sustainable future.”

May 30, 2024
Connor Slamowitz, a fourth-year APS materials science Ph.D. student

Connor Slamowitz, a fourth-year APS materials science Ph.D. student