Energy Materials

Systems Materials Engineering for Post-Lithium-Ion Batteries

prehal lab

Batteries will be key in our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions but require major progress in sustainability, cost, and energy density. Our research focuses on understanding the interplay between individual materials, multiphase structures, and the overall system properties in future electrochemical energy storage. Systems of interest are supercapacitorsmetal-​air batteries and metal-​sulfur batteries or, broadly, any system with complex physical-​chemical phenomena in confined geometry.

Our research is based on

  • The development of new methods: Operando small angle x-ray/neutron scattering and cryo transmission electron microscopy are combined with stochastic modelling and machine learning for data analysis. Machine learning will be integrated into the experimental workflow to deal with the complexity of future battery systems.

  • The focus on the fundamentals: Electrochemical phase transformation and charge storage mechanisms, as well as structure-property relationships at mesoscopic length scales from 1 – 1000 nm.

  • A holistic systems materials engineering approach: We aim to put emerging energy storage systems into practice by identifying how the physicochemical interplay of materials across length scales defines overall systems properties. So far, much of the focus to realize post-lithium-ion batteries has been on materials chemistry; We aim to shift the focus on the rational structuring at mesoscopic length scales (1 – 1000 nm), to enhance transport and control phase transformation.


May 2024 – Research visit to the synchrotron Elettra in Trieste




On a weeklong trip to Trieste we tested some of our current lithium-sulfur battery systems at the austrian SAXS beamline. We were able to evaluate a new in-situ SAXS cell setup and gain new insights into the reaction mechanisms of polysulfides in novel electrolytes and cathode materials during charging and discharging. 



November 2023 – Arrival of our Laboratory SAXS Beamline


Our new SAXS/WAXS facility, XEUSS 3.0 from Xenocs, has arrived! It has been installed in the last three weeks. We are looking forward to the first measurements starting next week. The new SAXS/WAXS facility will be crucial for operando testing post-Li-ion batteries and electrochemical phase conversion in confinement.