Prof. Matthew McDowell's Lab
Georgia Institute of Technology
Our research goal is to understand how materials behave and transform in real-life environments within energy and electronic devices, which will enable us to engineer improved materials for new technologies.
The importance of observing dynamic processes
In energy and electronic devices, mass/electron transport, high temperatures, and reactive environments are the norm. Materials in these systems are not static; instead, they often change, transform, or degrade in response to these operating conditions.
Our research group focuses on using in situ experimental techniques to probe materials transformations under realistic conditions, and we seek to understand how these changes influence properties. These fundamental scientific advances guide the engineering of materials for breakthrough new devices.
Students and other researchers in the group synthesize materials, analyze their properties, and utilize a variety of in situ characterization methods to understand dynamic structure and chemistry. This information is then understood in the context of the material’s behavior within devices.
1. phase transformation mechanisms in next-generation battery materials
Next-generation batteries require materials with higher charge storage capacity, or they require the development of new materials for entirely new battery systems beyond lithium-ion (for example, sodium-ion or multivalent batteries). The reaction and phase transformation mechanisms of new materials determine how much charge they can store and how long they last within batteries.
It is critical to understand these reaction mechanisms across multiple length scales (from the atomic scale to the mesoscale) within battery electrodes. We use powerful in situ experimental techniques, including transmission electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, and x-ray spectroscopy methods, to reveal structural, chemical, and morphological transformations in real time.
2. understanding interfaces in solid-state batteries
Solid-state batteries could be safer and have higher energy density than Li-ion batteries. However, chemical instabilities and high impedance at interfaces between solid-state electrolytes and electrode materials limit performance. Our group is working on understanding the evolution of interfaces between electrodes and solid electrolyte materials in solid-state batteries using a variety of in situ techniques. With this knowledge, we are also tailoring interfaces for improved stability.
3. interfacial properties and dynamics of layered chalcogenides
Layered chalcogenides are used in next-generation electronic devices and as catalysts for energy conversion. This project focuses on understanding how the structure, chemistry, and properties of heterointerfaces between layered chalcogenides and other materials, including intercalated species, evolve under synthesis, processing, and operating conditions. This knowledge is critical for designing optimal transport, chemical, and electronic properties at interfaces.
4. Low-temperature batteries
Our group is understanding and developing lithium metal electrodes for use at low temperatures beyond that which is possible with conventional Li-ion batteries. This work could be important for spaceflight, electrified aircraft, and other applications involving extreme environments.