Design and Assembly of Hybrid Nanomaterial Systems for Energy Storage and Conversion
Energy storage systems are critically important for many areas in modern society including consumer electronics, transportation and renewable energy production. This dissertation summarizes our efforts on improving the performance metrics of energy storage and conversion devices through rational design and fabrication of hybrid nanomaterial systems.
This dissertation is divided into five sections. The first section (chapter 2) describes comparison of graphene and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) on improving the specific capacitance of MnO2. We show that CNTs provided better performance when used as ultrathin electrodes but they both show similar performance with rapid MnO2 specific capacitance decrease as electrodes become thicker. We further designed ternary composite electrodes consisting of CNTs, graphene and MnO2 to improve thick electrode performance (chapter 3). We demonstrate that these electrodes were flexible and mechanically strong, had high electrical conductivity and delivered much higher capacity than electrodes made without CNTs.
Chapter 4 describes assembly of flexible asymmetric supercapacitors using a graphene/MnO2/CNTs flexible film as the positive electrode and an activated carbon/CNTs flexible film as the negative electrode. The devices were assembled using roll-up approach and can operate safely with 2 V in aqueous electrolytes. The major advantage of these devices is that they can deliver much higher energy under high power conditions compared with those designed by previous studies, reaching a specific energy of 24 Wh/kg at a power density of 7.8 kW/kg.
Chapter 5 describes our approach to improve the energy and power densities of nickel hydroxides for supercapacitors. This was done by assembling CNTs with Co-Ni hydroxides/graphene nanohybrids as freestanding electrodes. The assembled electrodes have dramatically improved performance metrics under practically relevant mass loading densities (~6 mg/cm2), reaching a specific capacitance of 2360 F/g at 0.5 A/g and 2030 F/g even at 20 A/g (~86% retention).
Finally, we discuss our efforts on designing highly active electrocatalysts based on winged nanotubes for oxygen reduction reactions (ORR). The winged nanotubes were prepared through controlled oxidization and exfoliation of stacked-cup nanotubes. When doped with nitrogen, they exhibited strong activity toward catalyzing ORR through the four-electron pathway with excellent stability and methanol/carbon monoxide tolerance owning to their unique carbon structure.
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