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Award-winning research on lithium ion batteries

Matteo Bianchini, author of an article about analysis of the properties of a Li-ion redox system, has been selected as winner of the PANalytical Award 2014

By Peter van Velzen, CEO of PANalytical

Haven’t you wondered occasionally how very dependent we all are of electricity? Just about everything we use is powered in one way or other. More and more mobile devices are used which get ever more powerful and combine various tasks in one single machine. With this increasing performance and consequently increasing energy consumption of mobile electronics the requirements for battery performance increase as well.

Li-ion batteries have become the leading technology to power portable electronic devices. In this family of rechargeable battery types lithium ions move from the negative electrode during discharge and back when charging. Their main characteristics are high energy density, no memory effect and only a slow loss of charge when not in use.

With these rapidly growing demands, efforts to develop new materials for batteries with larger capacity and energy density are ongoing at numerous facilities. A research group known for its excellence in battery technology research is the Laboratoire de Réactivité et de Chimie de Solides in Amiens (LRCS, France). In 2014 one of their PhD students, Matteo Bianchini, published an outstanding example of a detailed investigation of a potential new Li-ion redox system.

We received Matteo Bianchini’s article ‘Multiple phases in the ɛ-VPO4O-LiVPO4O-Li2VPO4O system: a combined solid state electrochemistry and diffraction structural study’ (published in J. Mater. Chem. A, 2014, 2, 10182) last year as one of the submissions for the PANalytical Award 2014. Just a few days ago I was honored to phone Matteo and congratulate him for being the winner of this award.

He is a young scientist at the beginning of his career and definitely a worthy candidate for this prize. The jury members reported to me how impressed they were by the comprehensive investigation which was carried out with a masterful understanding of crystallography. All 5 judges had listed the article as their number one.

Matteo was delighted about the good news and told me that the prize money will certainly be helpful while looking for new scientific challenges as a postdoc abroad. He also explained his rather confusing affiliation to three different institutes: the Laboratoire de Réactivité et de Chimie de Solides in Amiens will issue his PhD while he does his experiments at the Institut de Chimie de la Matière Condensée in Bordeaux. Finally, the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble is funding Matteo’s work and the project.

The award will be presented to Matteo at this year’s European Crystallography Meeting (ECM) in Rovinj, Croatia on 26 August where he will present his work to the professional community during a talk. I hope to meet him there and hear details about his research.

Meanwhile I strongly encourage other young scientists to submit their work for the next PANalytical Award. This is very easy via; this year’s deadline is 1 December. I am always delighted to inform the winner of our award, and this definitely is one of my most pleasant privileges. I am eagerly looking forward to the upcoming 2015 award next spring.

In his article Matteo describes in detail the properties of a Tavorite-type vanadium oxyphospate LiVPO4O, a promising Li-ion system with interesting peculiarities. It has the ability to exploit two redox couples, V5+/V4+ and V4+/V3+. The researchers investigated the electrochemical behavior and the various 3-dimensional structures of the system by using in situ and ex situ X-ray and neutron diffraction.

For the in situ diffraction studies a novel electrochemical cell has been developed. This way structural changes of the LixVPO4O (0<x<2) at various voltages could be followed. Finally the triclinic structure of the end member of the reaction could be determined. The detailed data allowed the researchers to plot a phase diagram for the material and led to a deep understanding of the properties of this redox system.

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