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Researchers in David Ji's lab

Building Better Batteries: Chemical Solutions to Climate Crises

In Prof. David Ji’s research team at OSU, students are thinking big. To find solutions to the devastating threats of climate crises requires a panoramic view of the challenges and the entire paradigm of research effort. Fortunately, Ji research team is armed with one of the most powerful tools in generating new knowledge and novel solutions for energy storage technologies: chemistry.

A problem worth solving

Global warming, climate change, and environmental pollution represent the most significant challenges of our time. In order for the society to make the transition from fossil fuel energy resources to cleaner, more renewable sources of energy, new grid-level energy storage systems are indispensable. These new energy storage systems need to have excellent longevity as well as have high energy and power densities to enable the widespread installation of renewables as the cost-effective alternatives to the conventional, pollution-intensive sources of energy. Currently, the market-dominating battery technologies suffer from significant safety, toxicity, and resource availability issues. As such, Ji research team focuses on novel battery chemistries that incorporate abundant materials and unique electrochemical mechanisms. Student researchers in the Ji team think outside-the-box and advance the knowledge to tackle these problems in unconventional ways.

Innovative solutions

Ji research team thrives at the edge of knowledge. “Pushing the boundaries of what is known about chemical bonding in ionic solids will lead to future groundbreaking discoveries,” says Ji. The research group has been a pioneer in the development of novel ion-storage mechanisms in solids for electrochemical energy storage since it began at OSU in 2012. They have contributed significantly to the development of new aqueous battery systems and novel electrocatalysts for fuel cells. Their studies on the electrochemical behaviors of unique charge carriers in solids and electrolytes have helped surface a roadmap toward research for next-generation storage batteries. “The overarching goal of our research is to construct a new paradigm of storage batteries,” says Ji. “We look at problems within the battery field from the perspective of a chemist and holistically design new electrochemical systems for energy storage at the level of new chemical reactions, which is beyond a typical approach of materials science.” The team is known for cutting-edge research in providing fundamentals and innovative solutions to long-standing problems.

Commitment to service

Every student who has joined the Ji research team is passionate about helping others. “A large reason we study battery chemistry is that we want to make the world a better place and are concerned about the devastating effects of climate change,” says Sean Sandstrom, a graduate student in the Ji group. The group currently consists of a postdoc, ten graduate students, including exchange students, and three undergraduate research assistants. “We hope to not only train but also to inspire the next generation of scientists to dream big and tackle grand challenges,” says Ji.