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The synthesis and characterization of ionic liquids for alkali-metal batteries and a novel electrolyte for non-humidified fuel cells

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This thesis focused on physicochemical and electrochemical projects directed towards two electrolyte types: 1) class of ionic liquids serving as electrolytes in the catholyte for alkali-metal ion conduction in batteries and 2) gel membrane for proton conduction in fuel cells;

This thesis focused on physicochemical and electrochemical projects directed towards two electrolyte types: 1) class of ionic liquids serving as electrolytes in the catholyte for alkali-metal ion conduction in batteries and 2) gel membrane for proton conduction in fuel cells; where overall aims were encouraged by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Large-scale, sodium-ion batteries are seen as global solutions to providing undisrupted electricity from sustainable, but power-fluctuating, energy production in the near future. Foreseen ideal advantages are lower cost without sacrifice of desired high-energy densities relative to present lithium-ion and lead-acid battery systems. Na/NiCl2 (ZEBRA) and Na/S battery chemistries, suffer from high operation temperature (>300ºC) and safety concerns following major fires consequent of fuel mixing after cell-separator rupturing. Initial interest was utilizing low-melting organic ionic liquid, [EMI+][AlCl4-], with well-known molten salt, NaAlCl4, to create a low-to-moderate operating temperature version of ZEBRA batteries; which have been subject of prior sodium battery research spanning decades. Isothermal conductivities of these electrolytes revealed a fundamental kinetic problem arisen from "alkali cation-trapping effect" yet relived by heat-ramping >140ºC.

Battery testing based on [EMI+][FeCl4-] with NaAlCl4 functioned exceptional (range 150-180ºC) at an impressive energy efficiency >96%. Newly prepared inorganic ionic liquid, [PBr4+][Al2Br7-]:NaAl2Br7, melted at 94ºC. NaAl2Br7 exhibited super-ionic conductivity 10-1.75 Scm-1 at 62ºC ensued by solid-state rotator phase transition. Also improved thermal stability when tested to 265ºC and less expensive chemical synthesis. [PBr4+][Al2Br7-] demonstrated remarkable, ionic decoupling in the liquid-state due to incomplete bromide-ion transfer depicted in NMR measurements.

Fuel cells are electrochemical devices generating electrical energy reacting hydrogen/oxygen gases producing water vapor. Principle advantage is high-energy efficiency of up to 70% in contrast to an internal combustion engine <40%. Nafion-based fuel cells are prone to carbon monoxide catalytic poisoning and polymer membrane degradation unless heavily hydrated under cell-pressurization. This novel "SiPOH" solid-electrolytic gel (originally liquid-state) operated in the fuel cell at 121oC yielding current and power densities high as 731mAcm-2 and 345mWcm-2, respectively. Enhanced proton conduction significantly increased H2 fuel efficiency to 89.7% utilizing only 3.1mlmin-1 under dry, unpressurized testing conditions. All these energy devices aforementioned evidently have future promise; therefore in early developmental stages.

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Date Created
2014

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Mechanistic studies of one-electron reduced bipyridine reactions relevant to carbon dioxide sequestration

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Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will inevitably lead to long-term changes in climate that can have serious consequences. Controlling anthropogenic emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, however, represents a significant technological challenge. Various chemical approaches have

Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will inevitably lead to long-term changes in climate that can have serious consequences. Controlling anthropogenic emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, however, represents a significant technological challenge. Various chemical approaches have been suggested, perhaps the most promising of these is based on electrochemical trapping of carbon dioxide using pyridine and derivatives. Optimization of this process requires a detailed understanding of the mechanisms of the reactions of reduced pyridines with carbon dioxide, which are not currently well known. This thesis describes a detailed mechanistic study of the nucleophilic and Bronsted basic properties of the radical anion of bipyridine as a model pyridine derivative, formed by one-electron reduction, with particular emphasis on the reactions with carbon dioxide. A time-resolved spectroscopic method was used to characterize the key intermediates and determine the kinetics of the reactions of the radical anion and its protonated radical form. Using a pulsed nanosecond laser, the bipyridine radical anion could be generated in-situ in less than 100 ns, which allows fast reactions to be monitored in real time. The bipyridine radical anion was found to be a very powerful one-electron donor, Bronsted base and nucleophile. It reacts by addition to the C=O bonds of ketones with a bimolecular rate constant around 1* 107 M-1 s-1. These are among the fastest nucleophilic additions that have been reported in literature. Temperature dependence studies demonstrate very low activation energies and large Arrhenius pre-exponential parameters, consistent with very high reactivity. The kinetics of E2 elimination, where the radical anion acts as a base, and SN2 substitution, where the radical anion acts as a nucleophile, are also characterized by large bimolecular rate constants in the range ca. 106 - 107 M-1 s-1. The pKa of the bipyridine radical anion was measured using a kinetic method and analysis of the data using a Marcus theory model for proton transfer. The bipyridine radical anion is found to have a pKa of 40±5 in DMSO. The reorganization energy for the proton transfer reaction was found to be 70±5 kJ/mol. The bipyridine radical anion was found to react very rapidly with carbon dioxide, with a bimolecular rate constant of 1* 108 M-1 s-1 and a small activation energy, whereas the protonated radical reacted with carbon dioxide with a rate constant that was too small to measure. The kinetic and thermodynamic data obtained in this work can be used to understand the mechanisms of the reactions of pyridines with carbon dioxide under reducing conditions.

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Date Created
2015

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Nanoporous transparent conducting oxides and new solid acid catalysts

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New sol-gel routes were developed to fabricate transparent conducting oxide coatings for energy applications. Sol-gel synthesis was chosen because the metal oxide products have high surface area and porosity. Titanium sol-gel chemistry was the main focus of the

New sol-gel routes were developed to fabricate transparent conducting oxide coatings for energy applications. Sol-gel synthesis was chosen because the metal oxide products have high surface area and porosity. Titanium sol-gel chemistry was the main focus of the studies, and the synthesis of macroporous antimony-doped tin oxide was also explored. The surface chemistry and band characteristics of anatase TiO2 show promise for solar energy purposes as photoelectrodes in DSSCs and as photocatalysts to degrade organic dyes and to split water. Modifying the band structure by increasing the conduction band edge energy is specifically of interest for reducing protons in water. To this end, a new sol-gel method was developed for incorporating Zr-dopant in nanoporous anatase TiO2. The products follow Vegard’s law up to 20 atom%, exhibiting surface area of 79 m2/g and pore volume of 0.20 cm3/g with average pore diameter of 10.3 nm; the conduction band edge energy increased by 0.22 eV and the band gap increased by 0.1 eV.

In pursuit of a greener sol-gel route for TiO2 materials, a solution of TiOSO4 in water was explored. Success in obtaining a gel came by utilizing hydrogen peroxide as a ligand that suppressed precipitation reactions. Through modifying this sol-gel chemistry to obtain a solid acid, the new material hydrogen titanium phosphate sulfate, H1-xTi2(PO4)3-x(SO4)x, (0 < x < 0.5) was synthesized and characterized for the first time. From the reported synthetic route, this compound took the form of macroscopic agglomerates of nanoporous aggregates of nanoparticles around 20 nm and the product calcined at 600 °C exhibited surface area of 78 m2/g, pore volume of 0.22 cm3/g and an average pore width of 11 nm. This solid acid exhibits complete selectivity for the non-oxidative dehydrogenation of methanol to formaldehyde and hydrogen gas, with >50% conversion at 300 °C.

Finally, hierarchically meso-macroporous antimony doped tin oxide was synthesized with regular macropore size around 210 nm, determined by statistical dye trajectory tracking, and also with larger pores up to micrometers in size. The structure consisted of nanoparticles around 4 nm in size, with textural mesopores around 20 nm in diameter.

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Date Created
2016