Dr. Claire Xiong, assistant professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering was named a 2017 Scialog Fellow. Scialog supports research, intensive dialog, and community building to address scientific challenges of global significance. Scialog Fellows collaborate on high-risk discovery research on untested ideas, identify bottlenecks, and encourage innovative approaches.
Dr. Xiong’s research focuses on sustainable energy innovation. Her expertise is in the areas of materials design, materials discovery, materials processing, and advanced characterization related to rechargeable batteries.
Renewable energy, especially wind and solar power, is of primary importance worldwide. Clean power can have positive environmental and economic impact; however, relying on these intermittent sources of energy can also be problematic. What happens in instances of cloud cover or low wind? Electrical grids become unstable resulting in damaged electronic devices, loss of communication, or regional blackouts. Traditionally, clean power sources are backed up with more stable fossil-fuel generators that provide power during peak energy usage. Going forward, innovations in battery technology can provide a more efficient source of energy storage.
Rechargeable batteries (e.g., lithium-ion or sodium-ion batteries) allow load-leveling and the shifting of intermittently generated energy from wind turbines and solar panels. These techniques provide on-demand electricity, especially when wind or solar energy generation is low. Although today’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery technology has transformed the industry of portable electronics (cell phones, laptop computers, etc.), meeting grid storage application demands presents greater challenges. Meeting these challenges requires innovative approaches and transformative ideas to design, discover, and optimize new materials. “I am fascinated by the imperfections in electrode materials which can lead to enhanced electrochemical and structural properties and faster movement of ions within electrode materials, leading to better energy, power, and battery life,” says Xiong. The potential for large scale rechargeable battery use is promising. Combined with other sources of energy, rechargeable batteries could provide power in areas devastated by storms. They could also be used to further stabilize the use of wind and solar energy.
Dr. Xiong has a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry and electrochemistry from the University of Pittsburgh, and an M.S. in inorganic chemistry and a B.E. in applied chemistry from East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai. She participated in two post-doctoral fellowships, one at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University and another at the Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Laboratory. At Harvard, her research involved electrochemical characterization of micro-fabricated cathode materials for micro-solid oxide fuel cells. At Argonne National Laboratory, she worked on the development of novel nano-architectured electrode materials for energy storage and conversion. As a Scialog Fellow, Dr. Xiong realizes the opportunity to work with top researchers to further advance clean energy usability.