Next Generation High Energy Rechargeable Zinc-Air Batteries

Zhongwei Chen

University of Waterloo

Abstract: Development of low cost, high energy, safe and long-life energy storage systems is critical for widespread commercialization of smart grid and electric vehicles. Rechargeable zinc-air batteries have been considered as most promising candidates as energy storage system for transportation, smart grids and stationary power. They can display a considerably high specific energy (1218 W h kg−1) and volumetric energy density (6136 W h L−1). Besides their high energy densities, zinc-air batteries also demonstrate other desirable characteristics, such as abundant raw materials, environmental friendliness, safety, and low cost. The current zinc-air battery is typically composed of four main components: an air electrode, an alkaline electrolyte, a separator, and a zinc electrode. For the electrically rechargeable zinc-air battery, each main structural component faces its own challenges.

In this presentation, I will present our recent work on advanced energy materials development for next generation rechargeable zinc-air batteries by focusing on the novel zinc electrode, nanostructured bifunctional oxygen electro-catalysts, 3D bifunctional air electrodes, and solid-state electrolytes. More specifically, we will discuss: 1) how the 3D zinc-sponge electrode solve problems of zinc dendrite, shape change and passivation, 2) how the nanoengineered materials can enhance the catalytic activity and durability of oxygen electro-catalysts, 3) how the 3D air electrode architectures can advance the practical performance of the zinc-air batteries, and 4) how the novel solid-state electrolytes can sustain cell operation substantially longer than common aqueous alkaline electrolytes do, as well as their extended applications include portable, flexible, and diversely shaped zinc-air batteries.

Biography: Dr. Zhongwei Chen is Professor & Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials for Clean Energy, Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, Director of Collaborative Graduate Program in Nanotechnology, Director of Applied Nanomaterials & Clean Energy Laboratory at University of Waterloo and Associate Editor of ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. His current research interests are in the development of advanced energy materials for metal-air batteries, lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells. He received his Ph.D. in Chemical and Environmental Engineering from the University of California - Riverside. Prior to joining the faculty at Waterloo in 2008, he was focusing on the advanced catalysts research by the Chancellor's Dissertation Fellowship in the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) at New Mexico, His current research is on advanced materials for fuel cells, batteries, and sensors. He has published 1 book, 6 book chapters and more than 200 peer reviewed journal articles including Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Communications, JACS, Angewandte Chemie, Advanced Materials, Advanced Energy Materials, Energy & Environmental Science, Nano Letters and ACS Nano. These publications have earned him to date over 12,000 citations with H-index 53 (Google Scholar). He is also listed as inventor on 18 US/international patents, with three start-up companies in USA and Canada. Dr. Chen also serves as an editorial board member for peer-reviewed journals including Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing), and the Vice President of the International Academy of Electrochemical Energy Science (IAOEES). In 2107, he was elected to be a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, recognizing his outstanding abilities. He was also recipient of the 2016 E.W.R Steacie Memorial Fellowship and the member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists in 2016, which followed shortly upon several other prestigious honors, including the Ontario Early Researcher Award, an NSERC Discovery Supplement Award, the Distinguished Performance and Research Excellence Awards from the University of Waterloo.