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Interview with PHD students from the National Institute of Chemistry

Updated: Feb 27

An interview was conducted by Maja Pivko from the National Institute of Chemistry, with two PHD students of theirs where they discussed their work within the PSIONIC project. Read the full interview below!

1. Please introduce yourself with a brief overview of your role and tasks within the project

U: My name is Urban and my work focuses on polymer-based protective coatings that are used on the anode side – metallic lithium. We are trying to optimize the performance of metallic lithium anodes in batteries that employ solid polymer electrolytes, as well as understand the underlying phenomenon that are happening at the electrode-electrolyte interphase.

L: My name is Luis Guerrero. Unlike Urban, I concentrate on the cathode side, specifically working on protective coatings based on Lithium single-ion conducting polymers for high nickel content NMC particles for high-voltage cathode materials.

2. What particular technical skills or knowledge have you gained or developed while working on this project?

U: Well I had some experience with batteries from my previous work for masters’ and bachelors’ thesis, so I mostly had to ‘adapt’ to this new system, that is much more challenging to be honest. Among other things I use a lot Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy, which is a new technique for me and required quite a lot of learning.

L: I would also say that electrochemical characterization is more complex. It involves more steps, configurations, voltages...In addition, new equipment, such as XPS, allow us to conduct comprehensive material characterizations. For example, we want to know how the material degrades when it has been cycled.

3. What are some of the biggest challenges you encountered and how did you solve them?

L: In my case, now that I'm a PhD student, proposing and planning my experiments became a challenge. Doing a PhD involves becoming more independent when you need to decide what will be the future experiments in order to get useful information. And of course, learn about the solid-state batteries ourselves. It involves a combination of literature review, learning and experimentation.

U: I agree with Luis on this. But from a more technical point of view, I would say that the biggest obstacle I had to tackle was the disassembly of the battery cells in order to perform post mortem characterization. How to solve these problems? – Well, unfortunately you have to try a bunch of different approaches until something works well.

4. Are there any future directions or developments within the project that you are excited about?

L: I mean, moving from working with liquid systems to solid-state batteries is challenging and exciting, and the goal is to apply the knowledge we've gained in developing protective coatings for both anodes and cathodes in the field of solid-state batteries. I consider we are in a good direction.

U: The interesting part for me is that there are a lot of industrial partners, that are able to provide materials and their experience. The project is aiming to produce a new battery, that will eventually be adapted for use in cars. This means that one day I will get to point at a car and brag “I helped to develop that battery” (joke).


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