HDR Scholarship - Zinc batteries

Updated: 3 months ago
Location: Melbourne, VICTORIA

Project Supervisor

Dr Mega Kar

Additional Supervision

Dr Cristina Pozo-Gonzalo

Prof Maria Forsyth


Institute for Frontier Materials


Melbourne Burwood Campus

There is an urgent need to design inexpensive, non-flammable and stable materials for the next generation of rechargeable batteries beyond expensive and highly reactive lithium-ion, to overcome the intermittency of renewable energy in Australia. This project aims to provide major advances in stable and high-energy density rechargeable zinc-air, which has begun to attract increasing attention as the basis of a new generation of devices. The low cost and abundancy of Zinc (Zn) and oxygen (O2) make the manufacturing of these devices feasible for large-grid scale energy storage. Such batteries also make excellent candidates in flexible electronic devices in which light-weight and long-term power supply is essential. Currently commercial primary Zn-O2 batteries function in alkaline media where the evaporation of electrolytic water, passivation of the air-cathode, and formation of Zn-dendrites upon charging makes them unsuitable for rechargeable zinc-air batteries. However, progress in commercial rechargeable zinc-air batteries have been hampered by difficulties in designing an appropriate electrolyte which can simultaneously support both the long-term cycling of Zn anode and the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR)/oxygen evolution reaction (OER) at the cathode.

This project is aligned with two of Deakin University’s priority research areas, designing smarter technologies and enabling a sustainable world. This project focuses on designing low-cost, safe and stable electrolytes for next-generation rechargeable zinc‐air batteries (RZABs), which are urgently required to reduce carbon emissions and maximise the uptake of renewable energy across Australia and worldwide. These are needed at small-scale, domestic level as well as large-scale to stabilise the electricity grid. The project is aligned to IFM research pillars; re-designing materials for a circular economy.

This project will provide pathways toward cost-efficient, safe, and stable materials for energy storage devices, thereby contributing to the dual challenges of global warming and quality of life through major scientific and engineering innovations.

Successful outcomes of this project will generate high impact publications, national/international conference presentations, and help in submitting a strong Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) application (DE23) and a discovery project. The project is expected to further attract Australian industry several partners for e.g., Ionic Industries, Redflow etc. whose expertise lie in developing cost-effective, chemically stable graphene-based functional electrode and are seeking to incorporate new stable non-aqueous zinc electrolytes. This project will involve both Battri hub and the Sustainable and Functional hub utilizing key.

Project aim

This project aims to design new low-cost and stable non-aqueous electrolytes in optimising both the O2-cathode and Zn-anode reactions to achieve high efficiency and long-cycling life of rechargeable zinc-air batteries. Specifically, the project will focus on:

  • Designing new electrolytes comprising of various zinc salts in mixtures of organic solvents and ionic liquids to support non-dendritic, long-term, highly reversible cycling of zinc.
  • Understanding the mechanism which will enhance cycling efficiencies and cycle life of the cathodic reaction in the electrolytes.
  • Demonstrating a rechargeable zinc-air prototype device with enhanced efficiency and cycle life. The newly designed electrolytes will be characterised using spectroscopic (Raman, Fourier-transform infrared (FT-IR)), physico-chemical (conductivity, viscosity) and electrochemical (Cyclic voltammetry (CV)) techniques.

In collaboration with well renowned Prof. Gordon Wallace (University of Wollongong) in situ electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) will be used to determine the generated intermediate species i.e., superoxide (O2*−) during ORR/OER in various zinc electrolytes. FT-IR, Raman and 1H/13C Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, including solid-state and liquid NMR methods, will be used to study dynamics and the solvation of Zn2+ ions and O2 as a function of electrolyte composition and temperature.

Additionally 17O NMR will be carried out for the first time in IFM with expert A/Prof. Luke O’Dell. Such experimental techniques will be complemented with MD simulations, in collaboration with molecular modelling expert Dr. Fangfang Chen (IFM), to understand the solvation shells of Zn2+ and O2. Prototype swagelok Zn-O2 cells will be constructed using metallic Zn anode and conventional microporous air electrodes, operated under pure O2. New inexpensive, high-performance, non-noble metals will also be sought and tested as stable OER electrocatalysts. Finally the Zn surface and the air-cathode will be analysed post cycling, using SEM, EDX and FT-IR to understand the effects of electrode morphology and understand the mechanism of battery failure.

Applications will remain open until a candidate has been appointed

This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,900 per annum tax exempt (2022 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic currently residing in Australia. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Mega Kar

Dr Mega Kar
Email Dr Mega Kar
+61 3 924 68220

View or Apply

Similar Positions