New paper published in Advanced Materials Interfaces on mechanisms in high-performance tin oxide / MXene batteries. As the demand for power and energy storage continues to grow, we researchers are constantly exploring new ways to improve battery performance. One promising approach involves using conversion/alloying materials, such as tin oxide, to design high-performance lithium-ion batteries. While these materials show excellent performance and ease of preparation, they often suffer from mechanical instabilities during cycling that limits their usefulness. This issue can be addressed (and overcome) by combining tin oxide with MXene.
In this study, we prepared a 50/50 (by mass) tin oxide / Ti-MXene (SnO2/Ti3C2Tz) nanocomposite and optimized it as a negative electrode for lithium-ion batteries. The result? A nanocomposite that delivers over 500 mAh/g for 700 cycles at 0.1 A/g and demonstrates excellent rate capability, with 340 mAh/g at 8 A/g.
The success of this nanocomposite lies in the synergistic behavior of its two components, which we confirmed through ex situ chemical, structural, and morphological analyses. Not only does this knowledge allow us to formulate a reaction mechanism with lithium-ions that provides partial reversibility of the conversion reaction, but it also opens up new possibilities for designing high-performance lithium-ion batteries.

Thanks to our great team of collaborators:

Team Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico – RSE SpA & Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca:
Antonio Gentile
Chiara Ferrara
Stefano Marchionna
Riccardo Ruffo

Team INM-Leibniz Institute for New Materials:
Stefanie Arnold
Volker Presser

Team Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Yushu Tang
Julia Maibach
Christian Kübel

New paper published in Applied Catalysis B: Environmental which explores a promising new approach to resource recovery and wastewater treatment. Nitrate is widely distributed in industrial wastewater and contaminated water bodies, and electrochemically converting it into ammonia holds great potential. At the same time, the treatment of harmful algal blooms (HABs) presents a significant challenge worldwide. It’s time-consuming, resource-intensive, and has a high CO2 footprint. But what if we could see this carbon and nitrogen-rich biomass as a vast renewable resource, rather than disposable waste? That’s precisely what we set out to do.

Within our Sino-German collaboration, we developed a Fe-dispersed carbon-based catalyst derived from HABs biomass. The resulting material achieved a maximum ammonia yield rate of 16449 μg/h/cm2 (1.2 mmol/h/mg_cat) and NH3 Faradaic efficiency of 87.3%. Furthermore, the catalyst demonstrated excellent stability, with continuous operation over 50 hours. Our experimental and theoretical calculation results suggest that the Fe-N4 site facilitates the electrocatalytic nitrate reduction reaction by reducing the energy barriers of the NO3-to-NH3 pathway.

We believe our strategy of upcycling HABs biomass waste into functional catalysts represents a significant step forward in renewable and carbon-neutral energy technologies. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this field and are excited to continue exploring new solutions to some of our most pressing environmental challenges.

This work was a collaboration with our Chinese colleagues from Jiangnan University (He Wang, Shuaishuai Man 满帅帅, Han Wang, Qun Yan) and Jiangsu Hongqi Biotechnology (Yong Zhang).

New paper published in npj Materials Degradation (open access). In cooperation with the group of Frank Mücklich at Saarland University and partners, we have found that coating laser-patterned stainless-steel surfaces with carbon nanotubes (CNT) or carbon onions (CO) can create an effective solid lubrication system. By storing the particles inside the pattern, lubricant retention is improved and depletion in the contact area is prevented. In previous works, we used laser interference patterning to create line patterns with different depths and coated them with CNTs or COs. Friction tests were conducted to study the effect of structural depth on the lubricity of these surfaces, and we found that shallower textures result in lower friction coefficients. Our latest study examines the degradation of the carbon nanoparticles on substrates with different structural depths, and Raman characterization shows severe degradation of both particle types. This degradation is classified within Ferrari’s three-stage amorphization model. Electron microscopy also confirms that CNT lubricity is improved at the cost of increasing particle defectivity, while CO-derived tribofilms experience even more substantial structural degradation.

Welcome new postdoc Dr. Gracita Tomboc! With past experience at Myongji University, Korea University, and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, we are excited about our upcoming joint work on energy and electrochemistry.

Welcome new AMASE Students Peter Burger and Maria Holmström! AMASE is an international Master’s program and an amazing opportunity to study not just materials science but to do so in multiple European cities! Both will be working on novel materials and methods for electrochemical desalination. Welcome to the team!