Polymer-based Energy Materials Lab
Soojin Park (Chemistry)
Next-generation batteries are expected to do more than merely last longer and ensure safety. With the emergence of wearable devices and foldable displays, batteries also need to become thinner and have the ability to be folded. This has spurred the development of such special batteries as skin-attachable batteries and lens-type batteries.
The Polymer-based Energy Materials Laboratory led by professor Soojin Park at the Department of Chemistry, POSTECH, is committed to the research and development of polymer-based battery materials for smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles as well as batteries that cater to the needs of next-generation devices. One of its most noteworthy research outcomes was published in the internationally-acclaimed journal of ‘Advanced Functional Materials’ to explain the development of ‘batteries that stretch’ like rubber with no compromise on performance.
Other remarkable research achievements include ultra-thin lens-like batteries and paper-like foldable batteries. Specifically, foldable batteries were fabricated by replacing the solid aluminum and copper normally used in the production of batteries with polymer nano materials whose components are similar to PET bottles. These foldable batteries maintain their performance even after being folded and unfolded 1,000 times, and in fact, do not even break when stricken with a hammer.
Furthermore, research is underway on high-capacity anodes, various silicon materials, and protective layers for high-capacity lithium metal anodes as a way to improve battery performance. The lithium-ion batteries we see mounted on smartphones and electric vehicles operate when lithium ions and electrons shuttle between the cathode and the anode surrounded by electrolyte, which enables the flow of current. The capacity of anodes and cathodes determines the amount of lithium ions and electrons being transferred, and this serves as a direct indication of the battery capacity. The natural or synthetic graphite that is presently used as the anodes for EVs does not allow for quick charging, and this highlights the need to develop alternative materials that support this critical capability.
The Polymer-based Energy Materials Laboratory is engaged in comprehensive polymer-based battery research, from meeting the needs of the present battery industry to researching next-generation batteries. The Lab has published more than 15 papers on average each year, steadily generating research outcomes. Several of these research papers are featured in the top 10% ranked academic journals and three to four of them are published by the top 3% ranking journals.
Today, the battery market is posting a CAGR of 25% and is forecast to override the memory semiconductor market in size by 2025. Both large businesses and academics are keenly interested in this specific field and its research requires a multi-faced approach, which allows researchers to take the initiative in their research work. Professor Park commented that “It is not research in and of itself that is solely important, but also its ability to meet the moment in real-life situations that gives scientists a greater sense of accomplishment”. Park also added that “One of the unique strengths of our Lab is that researchers can continue their work all the way to commercialization in industrial settings”.
Head of Lab
Chemistry Building 102