Put a little salt in your battery

Australian Battery Society – Innovator Award Winner Jason

The Australian Battery Society – Energy Renaissance Innovator Award recipients are ones that we at Energy Renaissance are honoured to sponsor and promote. We are delighted to announce Jason Wooi, another of our award winners. During his PhD studies at UNSW, Jason is examining the cathode-electrolyte interaction in Na-ion batteries (SIBs).

Let’s have 5 minutes with Jason!

Tell us about your research and what inspired you to work on this topic?

Hi. My name is Jason Wooi and I am a first year PhD student at UNSW. My research is related to exploring the understanding and optimisation of the Cathode-Electrolyte Interphase (CEI) in Na-ion batteries. The CEI is a very thin film that forms between the cathode and the electrolyte. My project is the initial step in exploring this topic, where I explore the initial reactions that lead to the formation of the CEI in a hypothetical Na-ion battery system through computational simulations. The CEI is an exciting topic to research since it has a high impact on the performance of a battery and is not as thoroughly understood compared to other components in a battery due to the high difficulty in characterisation of the CEI. In addition, I discovered that it was an unexplored topic in Na-ion batteries as battery chemistries for Na-ion batteries are still being developed for commercial use. Using my background in computational chemistry from my Honours, I was inspired to work on this topic from a computational perspective. I hope to further our understanding of the complex formation of the CEI in Na-ion batteries, the differences as compared to the CEI in Li-ion batteries and what could be done to optimise the CEI for improved battery performance. I hope my research will play a role in the advancing for greener battery chemistries through making Na-ion batteries more commercially viable.

What is the most exciting thing you are doing as part of your studies?

There are so many exciting things about my studies that it is hard to pick just one. One aspect I’m excited about is that I am playing a role in accelerating our transition to an electric future, as through improved batteries we enable electric vehicles for transport, energy storage for the electric grid that could be paired with a renewable energy, and better portable electronic devices like the smartphones in our pockets today. In addition, it is cool that I can work on improving the viability of new battery technologies like Na-ion batteries. An aspect I find particularly interesting to me, is that I primarily use a tool that only recent advances in technology and our fundamental understanding of physics and chemistry have allowed, the investigation of components of a battery on an atomic scale through computation. It is a tool that was not as widely available in the previous decades and will continue to undergo innovation and improve as technology improves. Finally, it is exciting to find out things that nobody has ever discovered before about the inner workings of the Cathode-Electrolyte Interface (CEI), a topic that is not frequently explored in Li-ion batteries and even less in alternative battery technologies like Na-ion batteries.

How has the Energy Renaissance Innovator Award funding helped you?

The funding has been immensely helpful in providing financial funds that allow me to travel to and pay for conferences, to learn and gain feedback from other top battery researchers on my research. I will be using the funds to go to the International Meeting of Lithium Batteries 2022. A conference that attracts battery researchers from all over the world, where they will present the latest research on batteries. I will also be presenting a poster on my research at the conference, where I will receive direct feedback that will be invaluable early on in my PhD.

What impact do you think your studies will have on energy storage in the future, especially for the commercialisation of your energy storage technology in Australia?

I believe my studies can provide a sizable impact on improving the viability of Na-ion battery technology in Australia. The Cathode-Electrolyte Interface (CEI) is a component of the battery that is not crucial for a battery to function. For example, the cathode, anode or Solid-Electrolyte Interphase (SEI) which is a thin film that forms between the anode and electrolyte, are all crucial battery components that are required for a battery to function. As a result, the research related to the understanding and optimisation of the CEI is more overlooked compared to other battery components. However, with Li-ion batteries the optimisation of the CEI has led to significant battery improvements. Since Li-ion batteries and Na-ion batteries have a similar battery chemistry, I believe that similar performance improvements could be made through the optimisation of the CEI in a Na-ion battery. The improvement of the performance of Na-ion batteries could significantly impact the commercial viability of the batteries, possibly spurring research interest in Na-ion batteries and its potential commercialisation in Australia.