Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Faculty Candidate Seminar


Flow and electrochemistry in batteries using energy-dense electroactive fluids


Dr. Kyle Smith




Monday, April 7, 2014 at 11:00:00 AM


MRDC Building, Room 4211


Dr. Baratunde Cola


The future power grid will require energy storage devices to buffer the intermittent supply from renewable resources (e.g., wind or solar). Unconventional battery architectures that minimize the cost of electrochemically inactive components are advantageous in such large-scale applications. Flow batteries provide such architecture by restricting electrochemical reactions to a power stack through which electroactive fluids are pumped from storage tanks. In the present work, the performance of flow batteries is studied under various operating conditions and with working fluids having a range of electrochemical and rheological properties. Specifically, energy-dense, non-Newtonian suspensions are considered of electron-conducting carbon with electroactive compounds embedded therein. Their charge/discharge behavior is simulated with a flowing porous-electrode model that treats ion- and electron-conducting phases as superimposed continua. Based on these predictions, material-centric strategies are identified to maximize efficiency in terms of key dimensionless parameters that include pumped flow-volume, rheology, wall slip, and two-phase thermodynamics. The strategies derived have found use in experimental flow cells that incorporate various electrode couples, including aqueous LiFePO4/LiTi2(PO4)3 and non-aqueous Li/S. On-going work will target understanding the coupling between microstructure and effective transport parameters (including conductivity, contact resistance, rheology, and slip parameters) via material-scale modeling and complementary experiments.


Dr. Smith was raised in Orrville, Ohio, after which he attended Purdue University and obtained Bachelorís and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering in 2007 and 2012, respectively. His Ph.D. work focused on the influence of non-spherical particle shape on microstructure and transport processes in granular, heterogeneous materials. During this time he was named a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, Purdue Chappelle Fellow, and Lambert Teaching Fellow. In addition, he collaborated with researchers at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in India, University College London, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. For the past year and a half, he has been a Post-Doc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has modeled and analyzed the electrode-scale transport processes occurring in batteries. He has also worked with experimental collaborators to demonstrate principles derived from modeling to maximize performance of flow batteries.


Refreshments will be served.