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NSF and DOE boost chemistry professor’s battery research


DeKalb, Ill. – National Science Foundation (NSF) and US Department of Energy (DOE) fund research by NIU chemistry professor Tao Li, whose work could lay the groundwork for improvements to the ubiquitous rechargeable batteries used in devices electronics, electric vehicles and energy storage on the grid.

NSF awarded Li a three-year grant of $ 271,000 to characterize the transport property and microstructure of battery electrolytes. Essential to battery performance, electrolytes are chemicals that allow an electrical charge to pass between two terminals.

NIU Professor Tao Li

Li is also the co-principal investigator of a $ 3 million grant from DOE to the Argonne National Laboratory for the study of solid-state electrolytes in lithium batteries. Li’s research aims to pave the way for the development of next-generation batteries.

“There is great interest in the development of improved batteries as the world seeks to reduce its carbon footprint, including by shifting from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric vehicles,” Li said.

“The NSF grant will help us better understand liquid electrolytes in hopes of improving the batteries of the future. But liquid electrolytes are flammable and the DOE grant aims to develop solid state electrolytes to improve safety and storage, ”he said.

This is the second NSF Prize awarded to Li in three years. In 2019, he received a $ 200,000 grant to study new ways to convert greenhouse gases into useful fuels.

Professor Tao Li (far right) with NIU Ph.D. students (left to right) Bowen An, Xinyi Liu, Wei Xu and research recruit Emma Whitlock.

Li, who holds a joint appointment between NIU and Argonne National Laboratory, will integrate battery research into undergraduate and graduate student education programs, encourage students from under-represented groups in STEM to participate in research and will broaden the impact of research through outreach activities such as workshops with teachers from local schools on K-12 science education.

His research group currently consists of one postdoctoral staff, six graduate students, two former research recruits and three current research recruits. Erik Sarnello, one of Li’s students, will get his doctorate. this semester and start a post-doctorate at Argonne.

Li’s research has also gained international recognition.

Earlier this year, he received the Scientific Medal from the International Association for Advanced Materials (IAAM), an international non-profit organization based in Sweden. The award is given to researchers at all stages of their careers, with the aim of further honoring and encouraging ground-breaking research, according to the IAAM website. As the recipient of the Science Medal, he lectured via webinar in mid-September as part of the IAAM Advanced Materials Lecture Series.

Li has also been invited to apply for the Eni Award 2022, a prestigious award for scientists and researchers around the world who focus on issues related to energy and sustainability.

Media contact: Tom Parisi

About NIU

Northern Illinois University is a nationally recognized, student-centered public research university whose expertise benefits its region and spans a wide variety of fields including science, humanities, the arts. , business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Ill., And its student and professional training centers in Chicago, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 fields of study while serving a diverse and international student body. .

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