Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Advisor

Dennis Desheng Meng

Abstract

High voltage electrophoretic deposition (HVEPD) has been developed as a novel technique to obtain vertically aligned forests of one-dimensional nanomaterials for efficient energy storage. The ability to control and manipulate nanomaterials is critical for their effective usage in a variety of applications. Oriented structures of one-dimensional nanomaterials provide a unique opportunity to take full advantage of their excellent mechanical and electrochemical properties. However, it is still a significant challenge to obtain such oriented structures with great process flexibility, ease of processing under mild conditions and the capability to scale up, especially in context of efficient device fabrication and system packaging. This work presents HVEPD as a simple, versatile and generic technique to obtain vertically aligned forests of different one-dimensional nanomaterials on flexible, transparent and scalable substrates. Improvements on material chemistry and reduction of contact resistance have enabled the fabrication of high power supercapacitor electrodes using the HVEPD method. The investigations have also paved the way for further enhancements of performance by employing hybrid material systems and AC/DC pulsed deposition.

Multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) were used as the starting material to demonstrate the HVEPD technique. A comprehensive study of the key parameters was conducted to better understand the working mechanism of the HVEPD process. It has been confirmed that HVEPD was enabled by three key factors: high deposition voltage for alignment, low dispersion concentration to avoid aggregation and simultaneous formation of holding layer by electrodeposition for reinforcement of nanoforests. A set of suitable parameters were found to obtain vertically aligned forests of MWCNTs. Compared with their randomly oriented counterparts, the aligned MWCNT forests showed better electrochemical performance, lower electrical resistance and a capability to achieve superhydrophpbicity, indicating their potential in a broad range of applications. The versatile and generic nature of the HVEPD process has been demonstrated by achieving deposition on flexible and transparent substrates, as well as aligned forests of manganese dioxide (MnO2) nanorods.

A continuous roll-printing HVEPD approach was then developed to obtain aligned MWCNT forest with low contact resistance on large, flexible substrates. Such large-scale electrodes showed no deterioration in electrochemical performance and paved the way for practical device fabrication. The effect of a holding layer on the contact resistance between aligned MWCNT forests and the substrate was studied to improve electrochemical performance of such electrodes. It was found that a suitable precursor salt like nickel chloride could be used to achieve a conductive holding layer which helped to significantly reduce the contact resistance. This in turn enhanced the electrochemical performance of the electrodes.

High-power scalable redox capacitors were then prepared using HVEPD. Very high power/energy densities and excellent cyclability have been achieved by synergistically combining hydrothermally synthesized, highly crystalline α-MnO2 nanorods, vertically aligned forests and reduced contact resistance.

To further improve the performance, hybrid electrodes have been prepared in the form of vertically aligned forest of MWCNTs with branches of α-MnO2 nanorods on them. Large- scale electrodes with such hybrid structures were manufactured using continuous HVEPD and characterized, showing further improved power and energy densities. The alignment quality and density of MWCNT forests were also improved by using an AC/DC pulsed deposition technique. In this case, AC voltage was first used to align the MWCNTs, followed by immediate DC voltage to deposit the aligned MWCNTs along with the conductive holding layer. Decoupling of alignment from deposition was proven to result in better alignment quality and higher electrochemical performance.

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