New battery published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces on hybridization of carbon spherogels with titanium oxide and sulfur enables high performance lithium-ion battery electrodes. As a result from our research project with Michael Elsaesser from the Paris Lodron Universität Salzburg, we introduce a novel approach to enhancing lithium-ion battery electrodes. We have successfully combined titanium oxide and sulfur with carbon spherogels, achieving high performance in terms of stability and capacity. Our method resulted in electrodes combining high charge storage capacity and electrical conductivity, while maintaining a core-shell morphology. The process involved producing carbon spheres encapsulating titania and sulfur using a template-assisted sol-gel route, followed by thermal treatment with hydrogen sulfide gas. This treatment fully preserved the microporous hollow sphere architecture of the carbon shells, facilitating sulfur deposition and titania crystal protection.

New review paper published in Desalination. Our manuscript examines various Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technologies, a response to increasing lithium demand driven by its extensive use in batteries for diverse applications. Traditional lithium extraction methods, including mining and evaporation ponds, pose significant environmental challenges and may not suffice to meet global demand. DLE offers a potentially more efficient and sustainable alternative, akin to the impact of shale extraction on the oil industry. This study provides a comprehensive analysis of DLE techniques such as adsorption, ion exchange, membranes, direct carbonation, and electrochemical processes. It assesses their operational fundamentals, advantages, and limitations. The research aims to evaluate DLE’s capacity for efficient and sustainable lithium recovery amidst rising energy sector demands, addressing associated challenges like cost, environmental impact, and scalability. The findings intend to enrich understanding of DLE’s potential and hurdles, guiding future research in this critical technological area.

New paper published in Energy Advances from our continued collaboration with Michael Elsaesser (Paris Lodron Universität Salzburg) on carbon spherogels. Custom-designed nanoporous carbon materials enhance sustainable electrochemical technologies by offering better performance and efficiency. Carbon spherogels, which are highly porous carbon aerogel materials made up of a network of hollow carbon nanospheres with consistent diameters, are particularly promising. They offer unique advantages, including superior electrical conductivity, customizable porosity, adjustable shell thickness, and extensive surface area. In this work, we present a new, eco-friendlier approach to producing carbon spherogels using a sol-gel process that templates resorcinol-formaldehyde (RF) with polystyrene spheres in an organic solvent. By adjusting the molar ratio of resorcinol to isopropyl alcohol (R/IPA) and the polystyrene concentration, we identified the optimal conditions for creating carbon spherogels with tunable wall thicknesses. A simplified solvent exchange method from deionized water to isopropyl alcohol was developed to reduce surface tension in the gel’s pores, making this method both time and cost-efficient. The use of isopropyl alcohol, with its lower surface tension, allows for solvent extraction at room temperature and direct carbonization of RF gels with less than 20% loss in specific surface area compared to those dried supercritically. The resulting materials have specific surface areas ranging from 2300 to 3600 m2/g, as confirmed by transmission and scanning electron microscopy, which also demonstrated their uniform, hollow spherical network structure. Notably, these carbon spherogels act as high-performance electrodes for energy storage in supercapacitors, achieving a specific capacitance of up to 204 F/g at 200 mA/g with a 1 M potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution as the electrolyte.