My project for the summer involved building and designing new 3D batteries. These batteries use metal with microscopic holes which allow them to better absorb small ions. My main focus was a battery with a Lithium-Iodine base. This battery is currently used in its 2D form (flat, layered sheets) in pacemakers. In an effort to make the battery last longer, my goal was to make both a 2D and a 3D version of the battery. This involved an entirely new synthesis method, as well as multiple designs to optimize the battery. I used a microporous nickel foam and plated it with lithium. Then, because the iodine layer could no longer be applied using traditional methods, I worked with my PI to dissolve the layer in a THF solution and drop cast it onto the sample. Throughout the project, there were many failed designs. Each time, I had to work to find out what part of the battery had failed and how to fix it.
From these failed attempts, I have learned that there is no “monotonous” part of research. Every step is, by definition, new and going to create new results. However, getting to a result that works was extremely difficult and took a lot of work researching online, and trying to struggle through patented research to find crucial information. While the actual work itself was quite interesting and always presented new things to explore, there was often a lot of downtime as I was not experienced enough to proceed with many of the steps on my own. As an undergraduate, I learned research can be hard not because the work is difficult, but because the concepts are new and there are no textbooks to read and the literature is scattered throughout the internet. Regardless, I have learned a great deal about the science of batteries and how to maximize the life of any battery. I have been able to apply concepts learned throughout my college experience as well as go beyond the concepts discussed in some of my classes. This summer will certainly influence the classes I take in the future.