Better batteries could result from $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to MU

Better batteries is a long-term goal of research by University of Missouri assistant professor Matthias Young and his team.

The research team received a three-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to first find out what's limiting solid-state lithium-ion batteries.

The range of electric cars and energy storage for wind and solar power all are affected by limitations to current batteries, Young said.

"The key problems of our world relate to finding sustainable energy," Young said.

Current lithium-ion batteries aren't ideal, he said.

"The current batteries, they have an organic liquid inside," he said.

The liquid electrolytes are flammable, he said.

Solid-state lithium-ion batteries — without liquid electrolytes — are considered an advancement, but they don't yet perform well.

"There are companies right now working on solid-state batteries, but there are things preventing them from working well," Young said.

Young's team will use the super-duper electron microscope at the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building to determine why. Officially, it's the Thermo Fisher Scientific Spectra 300 Transmission Electron Microscope.

"We think the problem is the key connections" in the batteries, Young said. "With the electron microscope, we can zoom in on an atomic level and view that connection point to see what connections are taking place."

Also working with Young on the project is Xiaoqing He, senior scientist in the NextGen Electron Microscopy Core and assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The work will use thin polymer coatings to act as membranes on the battery surfaces.

Graduate student Nikhila Paranamana also is part of the team.

Identifying the problems with the batteries could lead to ideas, Young said.

"We might also come up with potential solutions," he said.

Roger McKinney is the Tribune's education reporter. You can reach him at or 573-815-1719. He's on Twitter at @rmckinney9.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: MU research aims to improve batteries with $500,000 federal grant