This Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) project from Cornell University will develop applications for high performance lubricants and non-flammable electrolytes for lithium ion and other advanced batteries. These applications will be generated utilizing a new platform technology of nanoparticle ionic materials (NIMs) discovered at Cornell. NIMs consist of inorganic core particles wrapped within a dense layer of organic molecules. Tethering mobile molecules to the tiny particle cores yields a family of nanoscale materials whose properties can be tuned to conduct electrical charge or serve as a lubricant, while not releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) because NIMs are solvent-free. Thus, used as lithium battery electrolytes, NIMs can be designed to provide competitive electrical conductivity and electrochemical stability for high performance, while eliminating the risks of conventional battery electrolytes employing flammable solvents. Likewise, in applications as lubricants, ultra-slippery gel-like NIMs greases and oils can be designed to enhance energy efficiency and longevity of high-performance machine components that present small tolerances and commensurate high contact pressures, yet demand stable lubricant mechanical properties over extended periods of time.
The broader impacts of this project are enhancement of education and entrepreneurship, and an improvement in U.S. economic competitiveness. Since this project will facilitate commercial deployment of new hybrid materials in two high-growth technology sectors: electrical energy storage and high performance machinery (e.g. wind-turbines, heavy-duty trucks, and high-speed rail), significant economic multiplication of the initial funding investment is expected. For education and entrepreneurship, the project will educate engineering researchers in the structure-property-performance relationships of NIMs in partnership with both industrial partners interested in the scaling up of NIMs production and performance and with Johnson School of Business graduate students, who will assist project participants in adapting NIMs for these new applications and in transitioning these technologies to the marketplace. More broadly, interactions of the project participants with K-12, Research Experience for Undergraduates, Research Experience for Teachers, and Women in Engineering programs organized by the Cornell Center for Materials Research and the College of Engineering will significantly expand the educational experiences provided by the project.
Partners at the inception of this project are all part of the Knowledge-Enhancement Partnership (KEP) unit, consisting of Cornell University (Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the KAUST-Cornell Center for Energy and Sustainability, Cornell Center for Materials Research, and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management); two small businesses: NOHMS Technologies, Inc. and Primet Precision Materials, Inc. (both of Ithaca, NY); and a standalone small business subsidiary of Quaker Chemical: Summit Lubricants, Inc. (Batavia, NY).