Innovative research by pushing boundaries is inevitably the aim of all doctoral candidates. Steven Arnold Klankowski is a perfect example for this. Under the supervision of the Professor of Chemistry- Jun Li (La Crescent, Minnesota), Klankowski is developing new materials to improve the energy storage capacity of Lithium-ion batteries.
He justifies his research goal by emphasizing on the need of a more sustainable alternative energy source that can power not only laptops and mobile phones, but also vehicles and why not even renewable energy powered technologies.
Klankowski, who is a material engineer, points out that “As our devices get smarter, so must our methods to supply greater amounts of portable electrical energy to power these devices”. In order to achieve this, he is trying a high-performance nanostructure of silicon coated onto carbon nanofibers to use as an electrode in lithium-ion batteries. He estimated that these electrodes not only increase the storage capacity of a battery almost 10 times compared with current electrodes, but also improve the charge capabilities of this battery.
He aims to optimize the energy capacity by examining ways to store more energy per electrode, while using the energy faster so that the standard Lithium-ion battery could become more like a capacitor. The laboratory experiments that he conducts involve observation of changes of the characteristics of the lithium-silicon-alloy material differ with each production cycle.
Furthermore, he examines the energy storage ability of the batteries by simulating charging and discharging of the material. In order to claim success, the improved battery should remain within the set standards by the U.S. Department of Energy, i.e. 80% capacity after 300 charge-discharge cycles. Klankowski is focusing on the lasting performance and states: “I hope one day to drive from Manhattan to my folks’ house in Minnesota on a single battery change”.
Klankowski has filed a patent application for the material with Kansas State University Research Foundation, which recently provided him with a scholarship to continue developing his research.