Nankai Chemical Research and Development of Controllable Preparation of Spinel Nanocrystals

Recently, Professor Chen Jun’s team project “Micro-Nano Structure and Electrochemical Energy Device” of Nankai University’s School of Chemistry won the Tianjin Natural Science Award. The project belongs to the field of inorganic energy material chemistry. It has the following researches: “Controllable preparation and electrocatalytic performance of spinel micro- and nanostructures” and “Design and preparation of micro- and nano-structured electrode materials and electrochemical lithium/magnesium storage properties”. The breakthrough is of great significance for the development of new high-energy, high-power, long-lived electrochemical energy systems and the promotion of chemistry and its interdisciplinary development. The system is applied to rechargeable lithium metal/zinc air battery, which is the longest cycle life high energy density metal zinc air battery. It has high safety features and is expected to become the safe power battery for the next generation of electric vehicles.


Respirable metal air battery amplification preparation

Rechargeable "metal-air batteries" use Li, Na, Mg, Al, Zn and other light active metals as negative electrodes, and air electrodes composed of carbon, noble metals, or transition metal oxides as positive electrodes, and take oxygen from the air during discharge. The oxygen is released when it is charged, so it is known as a "breathable" battery. Metal-air batteries have an ultra-high theoretical energy density, and electrode active materials are cheap and easy to obtain. In particular, the use of CO2 as an active material to replace oxygen to generate electricity means that the battery system is expected to be concentrated in areas where CO2 is enriched, such as animals and humans. Automobile exhaust, coal-fired power generation exhaust, Mars exploration, and other fields provide a stable source of energy. Therefore, they are considered as the "next generation green high specific energy battery."

However, the actual performance of the metal air battery is limited by the reaction kinetics of oxygen reduction/oxygen evolution of the air electrode, and an electrocatalyst is required to increase the reaction efficiency. Platinum group noble metals and their alloys are electrocatalysts that are both catalytically active and stable. However, they are expensive, scarce, and difficult to scale. They require the development of inexpensive non-precious metal-based alternative materials.

Spinel oxides are an important class of functional materials that have a wide range of uses in the fields of electricity, magnetism, catalysis, and energy, and are also potential electrocatalysts for metal air batteries. This kind of compound is usually prepared by the traditional solid-phase sintering method. It needs high-temperature heating for a long time to overcome the diffusion resistance and the reaction energy barrier. When the energy consumption is high, although the crystallinity of the obtained product is good, the composition is easy to segregate, the composition and the morphology. It is difficult to control, has a large particle size, a small specific surface area, and a low reactivity, which limits its application in electrocatalysis, energy storage, and the like.


Spinel Manganese Oxide Micro-Nano Structure Controllable Preparation and Battery Application

Chen Jun's team is difficult to realize the synthesis of spinel at room temperature due to the traditional high-temperature solid-phase method. It proposes and establishes a new method of “reduction-oxidation-transformation crystallization”, develops the synthesis methodology of inorganic solid materials, and prepares high-reactivity oxygen at room temperature. Reduction/precipitation of electrocatalytic spinel nanocrystals; use of spinel instead of Pt electrode for lithium metal/zinc air rechargeable batteries, where the zinc air battery energy density reaches 335 Wh/kg, which is the longest cycle life at present. High-energy-density metal-air batteries are expected to become safe power batteries for the next generation of electric vehicles.

The new strategy for preparation of spinel nanocrystals proposed in the project is conducive to green preparation, new energy utilization, and energy conservation and emission reduction. The spinel nanomaterials developed can replace platinum-based catalytic materials, and develop high-efficiency, low-cost, new-type large-capacity long-life batteries. Metal air batteries provide new ideas. Related research results were published in the academics of Nature Chem. (2011, 3, 79; 2012, 4, 962), Nature Commun. (2015, 6, 7345), Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2015, 54, 4338) In the journal, it was invited to be published in the review of Chem. Soc. Rev. (2015, 44, 699); 4 patents with independent intellectual property rights were authorized for invention patent protection, and 2 patents had been transformed. Research results were obtained by academician of the American Academy of Sciences, John Goodenough of the University of Texas, academician of the American Academy of Sciences, Professor HJ Dai of Stanford University, academician of the American Academy of Engineering, Karen Gleason of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, academician of the American Academy of Engineering, vice chairman of the American Electrochemical Society, and New York University’s Stony Brook Prof. S. Takeuchi, Professor of International Electrochemistry Authoritative Professor John R Owen, University of Southampton, UK, etc., cited and evaluated positively in academic journals, and was selected as the highlight of the research and results of the “China Science Foundation” (2015 Vol. 29, No. 5). Introduce. The project results have effectively promoted the development of inorganic energy material chemistry. (Reporter Ma Chao)

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