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Summer 2013 Blog - Shayne Petkiewicz

Shayne Petkiewicz is spending twelve weeks in the Bay Area working at the Berkeley Lab. 

August 26, 2013

I can’t believe this summer has come to an end.   The past ten weeks working in the Doeff Lab at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs (LBNL) have absolutely flown by.  I had the great pleasure of working with so many interesting people in the lab.  They were all very helpful and continually challenged me to think critically about developing sodium-ion based electrodes.

It was this lab environment that allowed me to find ways to improve our electrode’s capacity.  By reducing the amount of titanium dioxide in the sodium manganese titanate cathode, we successfully increased the capacity of this material.  In addition, by reducing the amount of titanium dioxide, the material was also able to cycle for longer periods of time.  These are very exciting results as our alterations have increased the amount of charge that can be placed on the electrodes and have shown that the coin cell can keep running for longer times before breaking down.

The second electrode, a sodium fluoro-phosphate cathode, continues to have mixed results.  Although our adjustments did increase the capacity of the coin cells, the material did not exhibit any consistency from one sample to another.  Unfortunately, there was not enough time to continue modifying and testing this sample.  However, the few samples that did cycle, exhibited improvements so I am happy to say that we were moving in the right direction for this electrode.

Developing these two cathodes has been a fantastic learning experience.  I now have a much deeper understanding of the theory  involved in designing batteries as well as the practical battery synthesis and various characterization methods.

I have truly had a great time this summer and would like to extend my gratitude to the Doeff Lab at LBNL and the Cal Energy Corps for providing such and amazing experience.


July 26, 2013

The last few weeks have been very exciting!  While working in collaboration with my Postdoc, Mona Shirpour, we have continued to improve our electrode’s electrochemical capacities.

Holding two electrodes that are ready to be assembled into coin cells.

We realized that with one of our materials, a sodium manganese titanate cathode, had excess amounts of titanium dioxide.  The presence of this oxide in the final electrode was lowering the capacity (the amount of charge a battery can store per unit mass) of our coin cells.  We developed a new technique with reduced amounts of titanium dioxide with the hopes of improving the cell’s capacity.  The material is currently being made but we hope to begin testing this upcoming week.

Our second material, a sodium fluoro-phosphate cathode, has returned with mixed results.  Many of the cells did not cycle very well, although a couple did show promising results.  We have altered some of the parameters to the cathode’s preparation and the although the results are just beginning to be analyzed, it appears that the batterie’s performances have much improved.

In addition to performing all the lab duties, another undergraduate and myself are set to present our findings next week. Although the preparation and data analyses have been very time-consuming, doing so has provided a framework to develop a more in depth knowledge of how electrodes and batteries operate.

Every day I am more excited to come to the lab and continue learning about and exploring the many possibilities that these electrodes offer as more sustainable and efficient battery electrodes.


July 8, 2013

The glove box where the coin cell batteries are assembled under a controlled environment.

After working one month in the Doeff Lab, I am pleased to report that our research on identifying acceptable electrodes for Sodium-ion batteries is progressing nicely.  We are currently developing three materials as suitable electrodes.  Having made and tested the material’s phase using X-Ray Diffraction, we determined that two of the materials achieved the phase we hoped to achieve.  This is very exciting because it means that we can soon begin making coin cell batteries from these materials.  The third material initially did not yield the anticipated phase, however we have altered the protocol and hope to achieve the desired phase within the next day or two.

In addition to the research project I am working on, our lab group has begun having weekly lab group meetings.  These are a tremendous opportunity to learn about other people’s research and to ask questions about the theory and practice of my research topics.

In my short time as a research assistant in this program, I have also gotten to know the other members of our group very well.  Everyone is very friendly and helpful, and, after every group meeting we all go out to get dinner in Berkeley.

It has been a fantastic first month, I have learned so much and have been lucky enough to work in a very fun lab group.


June 26, 2013

Wow!  It has been a tremendous first few weeks working at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) focusing on developing sodium-ion based batteries.  My work takes place in the Doeff Lab, which consists of two post-docs, a graduate student, two undergraduates (myself included), and Dr. Doeff.  It is a very exciting atmosphere and I have already learned a tremendous amount about batteries and solid-state electrode synthesis.

Most of my time these first weeks has been devoted towards completing various safety trainings and acquiring a degree of comfort with the various experiments and instruments that I will be performing throughout the summer.  The experiments covered the whole range of assembling batteries, from making the electrode, pressing it against an electronically suitable material, to assembling the battery coin cell.

In addition to performing experiments, I have also learned how to characterize batteries using X-ray Diffraction (XRD) and battery cycling techniques.  These characterization techniques allow us to determine the phase of the electrode being used as well as the material’s electronic capabilities.

Having learned these basic protocols, I look forward to using these skills to experiment on novel cathodic and anodic materials that can be tested as possible electrodes for sodium-ion batteries.

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