Principal Investigator

At a Glance

The misbehavior of batteries shows up in many ways and from a variety of root causes. The challenge is determining the where and what of the root causes. In 2017, the Princeton Lab for Electrochemical Engineering Systems Research made advances toward this understanding by studying the most fundamental electrochemical behaviors with novel electron microscopy.


Research Highlight

In the second year working with the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, the Steingart group built upon their studies of dendrites by examining the nanoscale growth of metals, or the “birth of a dendrite.” Three recent publications in collaboration with the University of California Los Angeles, IBM, and the University of Pennsylvania explore different aspects of plate metal growth1,2,3.

The group’s first effort exploits a challenge of in situ electron microscopy: observing with electrons can alter electrochemical behavior. To understand how to tame this behavior, the team designed a system to purposefully allow the electron beam to “write” and “erase” crystals, thereby turning the problem into a solution (Figure 2.2.1). Postdoctoral researcher Jeung Hun Park showed that crystals can be grown at arbitrary locations by electron beam-induced reactions of metal ions to metals from solutions. This work is expected to be extended to understand multicomponent alloys and core-shell nanostructures for fundamental investigations in energy storage.

Figure 2.2.1. Progression in time of electron beam-driven gold nanoparticle growth in solution.

The second effort examines multicomponent behaviors of zinc and bismuth to control morphology, building upon earlier group work studying macroscale effects4. The simultaneous deposition of reactive and noble species allows for super structures to be created that can reversibly cycle to provide high energy density storage (Figure 2.2.2). The challenge to date is that the localization of the co-deposit within an electrode is uneven. The work this year explains in part the heterogeneity, and may enable us to tame this problem in coming years.

Figure 2.2.2. Examples of zinc only (left) and ZnBi codeposition (right) at the nanoscale.

Finally, the group completes this work by assisting researchers at the University of Pennsylvania with a comprehensive study of interfacial evolution at the nanoscale (Figure 2.2.3). This work provides new insight into the earliest stages of metal growth, and therefore the origins of uneven depositions that can create unwanted (or desired5) dendrites.

Figure 2.2.3. Growth of an interface with overlaid velocity mapping.

In the next year the team plans to apply their toolset to two new challenges: 1) the growth of plate lithium metal (the most reducing species currently known) and 2) extending our understanding of nanoscale behaviors to microscale and macroscale battery behaviors that are directly visible with lab-scale electrical and acoustic diagnostics.



1 J. H. Park, D. A. Steingart, S. Kodambaka, and F. M. Ross, “Electrochemical electron beam lithography: Write, read, and erase metallic nanocrystals on demand,” Sci Adv, vol. 3, no. 7, p. e1700234, Jul. 2017.

2 J. H. Park, N. M. Schneider, D. A. Steingart, H. Deligianni, S. Kodambaka, and F. M. Ross, “Control of Growth Front Evolution by Bi Additives during ZnAu Electrodeposition,” Nano Lett., Jan. 2018.

3 N. M. Schneider, J. H. Park, J. M. Grogan, D. A. Steingart, H. H. Bau, and F. M. Ross, “Nanoscale evolution of interface morphology during electrodeposition,” Nat. Commun., vol. 8, no. 1, p. 2174, Dec. 2017.

4 Gallaway, J.W., A.M. Gaikwad, B. Hertzberg, C.K. Erdonmez, Y.K Chen-Wiegart, L.A. Sviridov, K. Evans-Lutterodt, J. Wang, S. Banerjee, and D.A., Steingart, 2014. An In Situ Synchrotron Study of Zinc Anode Planarization by a Bismuth Additive. J. Electrochem. Soc. 161(3): A275–A284. doi: 10.1149/2.037403jes.

5 Chamoun, M., B.J. Hertzberg, T. Gupta, D. Davies, S. Bhadra, B, Van Tassel, C. Erdonmez, and D.A. Steingart, 2015. Hyper-dendritic nanoporous zinc foam anodes. NPG Asia Materials. 7(4): e178. doi: 10.1038/am.2015.32.