A Ph.D. student from Missouri University of Science and Technology will further his research in lithium-ion batteries through an Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU). His traineeship is funded by a five-year, $3 million grant awarded to MU by the National Science Foundation.
Tyler Fears, a graduate student in chemistry from Poplar Bluff, Mo., is looking for ways to expand the capacity of lithium-ion batteries. He works with nanomaterials, such as nanoporous aerogels and ribbon-like nanocrystals, which can act as cathodes for the batteries. He uses neutron diffraction, the process of scattering neutrons by matter, at the University of Missouri Research Reactor Center, located at MU, to observe the structure of materials.
“These materials can also be used in lightweight and strong composites, which absorb energy,” says Fears. “Think of a bullet-proof vest. The material absorbs the energy of the bullet by compressing without shattering.”
Fears uses neutron scattering at the nuclear reactor instead of the more common X-ray scattering technique because its interaction with light elements allows him to see the materials’ structures in greater detail.
The IGERT grant encourages greater interdisciplinary research. Fears is working with the physics and astronomy department at MU, Dr. Helmut Kaiser, research professor at the MU Research Reactor Center, and with Dr. Haskell Taub, professor of physics and astronomy at MU. Fears hopes that his IGERT funding will lead to a post-doctoral research position at a national laboratory with neutron scattering capabilities.
Fears recently submitted a patent application for a different research project that involves making vanadium oxide gels and films at one-tenth the cost of previous methods. The gels can help form the composites used in his current research. The films have uses in energy-efficient window coatings.
Fears earned bachelor of science degrees in chemistry and physics from Missouri S&T in 2010. Dr. Jeffrey Winiarz, associate professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T, and Dr. Nicholas Leventis, Curators’ Professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T, are his graduate advisors.
The IGERT program was developed to meet the challenges of educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers with interdisciplinary backgrounds, deep knowledge in chosen disciplines, and technical, professional and personal skills. For more information about IGERT, visit http://igert.missouri.edu.