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Chemistry researchers win 2016 TechConnect National Innovation awards

Three teams of chemistry researchers, led by Professors Marc Hillmyer, Lee Penn, Theresa Reineke, and Andreas Stein, won 2016 TechConnect National Innovation awards.

Isosorbide–based Polymers
Professors Marc Hillmyer and Theresa Reineke
Graduate Student James Gallagher

Sugar derivatives have been used as building blocks in bio-based polymers because of their rigid structure and functionality. An isosorbide-based methacrylate monomer has been synthesized to produce block polymers. This new isosorbide derivative is easily synthesized from commercial materials and can be further polymerized to form block co-polymers. Potential applications include methylmethacrylate replacements, adhesives, coatings and thermoplastic elastomers: isosorbide-based block polymers, renewable and biobased vs. petroleum based, simple, effective synthesis, controlled polymerizations, high glass transition temperature (Tg ≈ 130 °C), and good thermal stability (Td = 251 °C)

Purification of Thin Film Solar Cell Absorber Materials
Professors Lee Penn and Eray Aydil (from the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science)
Chemistry Graduate Student Alexander Pinto
CEMS Post-Doctoral Fellow Seung Wook Shin

This technology seeks to provide a safer, easier and more effective method for removal of copper sulfide impurities in thin film solar cell materials such as Copper Zinc Tin Sulfide (CZTS) and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS). Specifically, the new method is potentially more cost-effective than current methods and uses less toxic solvents that are easier to handle.

Li-ion battery cathode—higher energy density/charge capacity
Professor Andreas Stein
Yuan Fang, M.S., Anh Vu, Ph.D., Benjamin Wilson, Ph.D
. (recent graduates)
Collaborators: Professors Donald Truhlar (chemistry), William Smyrl (CEMS)

This innovative zirconate-based cathode material has the potential to have significantly higher charge capacity than cobalt based cathodes. The nanoparticle form of the zirconate compound increases the ability for the battery to charge and discharge repeatedly without reducing the charge capacity. The versatility and efficiency of reusable lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) makes them the gold standard for use in personal electronics. However, with the emergence of hybrid and electric vehicles, there is rapidly rising demand for lithium batteries that showcase reliability and charge capacity. Zirconate-based LIBs have been shown to be more efficient (in terms of charge per mass) than cobalt-oxide-based LIBs. Zirconate is also more economically available than cobalt, leading to an overall improved battery in terms of performance, cost and reliability. The lithium zirconate cathodes have significantly higher theoretical charge capacity per mass of standard cobalt cathodes, are created with lower cost cathode material, and offer a solution to alternative energy intermittency reliability issues.

This work is part of a project in collaboration with Professor Donald Truhlar (Chemistry) and Professor William Smyrl (CEMS) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under award no. DE-SC0008662.

About the award

Innovation rankings are based on the potential positive impact the submitted technology will have on a specific industry sector. Innovations are submitted from global academic technology transfer offices, early-stage companies, small business innovative research (SBIR) awardees, and government and corporate research laboratories. The award-winning collaborative research will be recognized at the TechConnect National Innovation Summit occurring, May 22-25, in Washington, D.C.

For additional information, visit the TechConnect website.