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Engineering the electrode-electrolyte interface: from electrode architecture to Zn redox in ionic liquid electrolytes

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The electrode-electrolyte interface in electrochemical environments involves the understanding of complex processes relevant for all electrochemical applications. Some of these processes include electronic structure, charge storage, charge transfer, solvent dynamics

The electrode-electrolyte interface in electrochemical environments involves the understanding of complex processes relevant for all electrochemical applications. Some of these processes include electronic structure, charge storage, charge transfer, solvent dynamics and structure and surface adsorption. In order to engineer electrochemical systems, no matter the function, requires fundamental intuition of all the processes at the interface. The following work presents different systems in which the electrode-electrolyte interface is highly important. The first is a charge storage electrode utilizing percolation theory to develop an electrode architecture producing high capacities. This is followed by Zn deposition in an ionic liquid in which the deposition morphology is highly dependant on the charge transfer and surface adsorption at the interface. Electrode Architecture: A three-dimensional manganese oxide supercapacitor electrode architecture is synthesized by leveraging percolation theory to develop a hierarchically designed tri-continuous percolated network. The three percolated phases include a faradaically-active material, electrically conductive material and pore-former templated void space. The micropores create pathways for ionic conductivity, while the nanoscale electrically conducting phase provides both bulk conductivity and local electron transfer with the electrochemically active phase. Zn Electrodeposition: Zn redox in air and water stable N-ethyl-N-methylmorpholinium bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)imide, [C2nmm][NTf2] is presented. Under various conditions, characterization of overpotential, kinetics and diffusion of Zn species and morphological evolution as a function of overpotential and Zn concentration are analyzed. The surface stress evolution during Zn deposition is examined where grain size and texturing play significant rolls in compressive stress generation. Morphological repeatability in the ILs led to a novel study of purity in ionic liquids where it is found that surface adsorption of residual amine and chloride from the organic synthesis affect growth characteristics. The drivers of this work are to understand the processes occurring at the electrode-electrolyte interface and with that knowledge, engineer systems yielding optimal performance. With this in mind, the design of a bulk supercapacitor electrode architecture with excellent composite specific capacitances, as well as develop conditions producing ideal Zn deposition morphologies was completed.

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  • 2011

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Corrosion and passivation of Mg-Al and Ni-Cr alloys

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In this dissertation, micro-galvanic corrosion effects and passivation behavior of single-phase binary alloys have been studied in order to formulate new insights towards the development of “stainless-like” lightweight alloys. As

In this dissertation, micro-galvanic corrosion effects and passivation behavior of single-phase binary alloys have been studied in order to formulate new insights towards the development of “stainless-like” lightweight alloys. As a lightweight material of interest, Mg-xAl alloys were studied using aqueous free corrosion, atmospheric corrosion, dissolution rate kinetics, and ionic liquid dissolution. Polarization and “accelerated” free corrosion studies in aqueous chloride were used to characterize the corrosion behavior and morphology of alloys. Atmospheric corrosion experiments revealed surface roughness and pH evolution behavior in aqueous environment. Dissolution in absence of water using choline-chloride:urea ionic liquid allowed for a simpler dissolution mechanism to be observed, providing additional insights regarding surface mobility of Al. These results were compared with commercial alloy (AZ31B, AM60, and AZ91D) behavior to better elucidate effects associated with secondary phases and intermetallic particles often present in Mg alloys. Aqueous free corrosion, “accelerated” free corrosion and ionic liquid dissolution studies have confirmed Al surface enrichment in a variety of morphologies, including Al-rich platelet and Al nanowire formation. This behavior is attributed to the preferential dissolution of Al as the more “noble” element in the matrix. Inductively-coupled mass spectroscopy was used to measure first-order rate reaction constants for elemental Mg and Al dissolution in aqueous chloride environment to be kMg= 9.419 x 10-6 and kAl = 2.103 x 10-6 for future implementation in kinetic Monte Carlo simulations. To better understand how “stainless-like” passivation may be achieved, Ni-xCr alloys were studied using polarization and potential pulse experiments. The passivation potential, critical current density, and passivation current density were found to decay with increasing Cr composition. The measured average number of monolayers dissolved during passivation was found to be in good agreement with percolation theory, with a fitted 3-D percolation threshold of p_c^3D=0.118 compared with the theoretical value of 0.137. Using these results, possible approaches towards achieving passivation in other systems, including Mg-Al, are discussed.

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  • 2018

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Effects of extrinsic and intrinsic proton activity on the mechanism of oxygen reduction in ionic liquids

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Mechanisms for oxygen reduction are proposed for three distinct cases covering two ionic liquids of fundamentally different archetypes and almost thirty orders of magnitude of proton activity. Proton activity is

Mechanisms for oxygen reduction are proposed for three distinct cases covering two ionic liquids of fundamentally different archetypes and almost thirty orders of magnitude of proton activity. Proton activity is treated both extrinsically by varying the concentration and intrinsically by selecting proton donors with a wide range of aqueous pKa values. The mechanism of oxygen reduction in ionic liquids is introduced by way of the protic ionic liquid (pIL) triethylammonium triflate (TEATf) which shares some similarities with aqueous acid solutions. Oxygen reduction in TEATf begins as the one electron rate limited step to form superoxide, O2*-, which is then rapidly protonated by the pIL cation forming the perhydroxyl radical, HO2*. The perhydroxyl radical is further reduced to peroxidate (HO2-) and hydrogen peroxide in proportions in accordance with their pKa. The reaction does not proceed beyond this point due to the adsorption of the conjugate base triethylammine interfering with the disproportionation of hydrogen peroxide. This work demonstrates that this mechanism is consistent across Pt, Au, Pd, and Ag electrodes. Two related sets of experiments were performed in the inherently aprotic ionic liquid 1-butyl-2,3-dimethylimidazolium triflate (C4dMImTf). The first involved the titration of acidic species of varying aqueous pKa into the IL while monitoring the extent of oxygen reduction as a function of pKa and potential on Pt and glassy carbon (GC) electrodes. These experiments confirmed the greater propensity of Pt to reduce oxygen by its immediate and abrupt transition from one electron reduction to four electron reduction, while oxygen reduction on GC gradually approaches four electron reduction as the potentials were driven more cathodic. The potential at which oxygen reduction initiates shows general agreement with the Nernst equation and the acid's tabulated aqueous pKa value, however at the extremely acidic end, a small deviation is observed. The second set of experiments in C4dMImTf solicited water as the proton donor for oxygen reduction in an approximation of the aqueous alkaline case. The water content was varied between extremely dry (<0.1 mol% H2O) and saturated (approximately 15.8 mol% H2O}). As the water content increased so too did the extent of oxygen reduction eventually approach two electrons on both Pt and GC. However, additional water led to a linear increase in the Tafel slope under enhanced mass transport conditions up to the point of 10 mol% water. This inhibition of oxygen adsorption is the result of the interaction between superoxide and water and more specifically is proposed to be associated with decomposition of theC4dMIm+ cation by hydroxide at the elevated temperatures required for the experiment. Oxygen reduction on both Pt and GC follows Nernstian behavior as the water content is increased. Separate mechanisms for oxygen reduction on Pt and GC are proposed based on the nature of the Nernstian response in these systems.

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  • 2011