Scholarship code CU3.279

Development of nanostructured electrolytic materials for more sustainable batteries

  • Reference person
  • Host University/Institute
    University of Torino
  • Internship
  • Research Keywords
    Solid-state battery
    Inorganic synthesis
    Physico-chemical characterization
  • Reference ERCs
  • Reference SDGs
    GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
    GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
    GOAL 13: Climate Action


Digital transition cannot take place without a great improvement in the technology for electricity management, in order to deeply exploit alternative energy sources and accounting for the growing demand of power. In this scenario, devices for energy storage and transfer (such as rechargeable batteries) are destined to play a predominant role, requesting more and more efforts for their optimization. As a matter of fact, even a modest increase in process efficiency is likely to result into huge environmental and economic benefits, because of their widespread application.In particular, conventional batteries atone for the use of liquid electrolytes, typically based on flammable and toxic organic solvents, posing serious limits in terms of stability and user safety. Moreover, the introduction at the end of last century of lithium as an energy vector (recently awarded with the Nobel prize), despite having greatly increased the batteries efficiency, has led to an unexpectedly high consumption of that metal, arising some concerns about its future availability and the long-term sustainability of this technology (especially considering the so far inefficient recycling strategies).Therefore, the research for innovative materials, whose large-scale production would be more affordable and economical, that can anyhow compete with the state-of-the-art batteries, is indispensable and cannot be postponed.In the last decades, the biggest breakthrough in that sense has been represented by the development of solid-state batteries, where the two electrodes are connected by a solid electrolyte. Despite the great interest of the scientific community on this topic, there is still space for innovation, either by optimizing the materials already proposed for this application or by designing new ones. Such materials are mostly ceramics, where the electronic properties are determined by the redox behavior of inserted heteroatoms, the crystalline structure and the morphology of the particles.The aim of the PhD project is the development of new inorganic solid-state electrolytes, prepared through the most common protocols of chemical synthesis (including sol-gel and solvothermal processes, chemical vapor deposition, and electrospinning), then testing them into electrochemical application to evaluate the conductivity, the potential range of stability and the cyclability in time of the charge/discharge process.Afterwards, the most promising materials will be deeply investigated by advanced spectroscopic methods to correlate the high performances with specific structural features at a molecular level, so that some fundamental guidelines can be extrapolated and generalized.Finally, it is worth noticing that also the synthesis itself of these materials can arise some concerns, especially because of the chemicals used as solvents and additives. Therefore, once a material (or a class of materials) will be selected, some ecofriendly solutions will be explored for the preparation, always evaluating the overall costs-profits balance of the process. For instance, it has been already demonstrated that in many cases the traditional volatile organic solvents can be effectively replaced by less expensive, easily accessible, and non-toxic deep eutectic solvents.

Suggested skills:

The PhD candidate can be a chemist, a material scientist or a chemical engineer, he/she should have a solid knowledge of electrochemical fundamentals and processes, and good skills in chemical synthesis and in computational data processing. Most important, he/she should be well disposed towards discussion and team works.

Research team and environment

The PhD project will develop in the frame of a collaboration between the Group of Physical Chemistry at the University of Torino and the Group for Applied Materials and Electrochemistry at the Polytechnic University of Torino (in the person of professor Claudio Gerbaldi).The former Group has a renowned experience in the synthesis of inorganic and metalorganic materials and their characterization through spectroscopic, microscopic and diffractometric methods, whereas the latter Group is expert in the development of innovative electrolytes and their application into ecofriendly energy storage and conversion devices (as respectively testified by the above uploaded publications and funded projects). Both Groups are well equipped for the manipulation of air-sensitive samples, through the use of glove-boxes and Schlenk lines, together with custom experimental setups for characterizing the samples in operando conditions and for testing them in commercial-like applications. Furthermore, some experiments at international large-scale facilities (such as synchrotrons and neutron sources) are prospected, upon submission of specific proposal, thanks to the long-standing experience of both Groups in these activities. More in general, all the national and international ongoing collaborations with other academic institutes and Companies will provide the PhD student with a very dynamic environment, offering several possibilities for his/her mobility and keeping him/her in constant touch with the needs of the modern society.Finally, the geographical proximity of the two Institutes constitutes a not negligible advantage, promoting a strong and frequent connection between the two units, thus overcoming the difficulties in the communication among the two different sectors.