Research Thrusts

The Center’s overarching research objective is to develop battery technologies designed to significantly enhance the scope and ambition of future NASA planetary science missions. Such electrochemical energy storage devices, which power robotic spacecraft, must operate under extreme temperatures and radiation exposure.  Our research efforts seek to develop new battery concepts for space applications by combining high-energy-density aluminum and zinc metal electrodes with ionic liquid electrolytes that exhibit significantly larger temperature windows, greater radiation stability, and vanishingly low vapor pressures compared to conventional organic electrolytes. Innovative engineering techniques will also be used to enhance battery performance while advanced spectroscopic, diffraction, and imaging techniques will generate new scientific understanding of metal-ionic liquid electrochemical systems. 

Thrust 1

Metal Electrodeposition in Ionic Liquids

Ionic liquids, molten salts with melting points below 100°C, exhibit significantly larger temperature and electrochemical stability windows, greater radiation stability, and significantly lower vapor pressures compared to conventional organic or aqueous electrolytes. Through identification of key structure-property relationships of the ionic liquids, ionic liquids appropriate for the extreme temperatures and radiation exposure expected in space will be investigated. Additionally, ionic liquid-related electrolytes will also be utilized. The electrochemical behavior of relevant battery metals will be investigated in each of the electrolytes, providing fundamental insights for the application of the electrolytes in novel batteries being developed as part of the other project thrusts.

Thrust 2

Rechargeable Aluminum Metal-Ionic Liquid Batteries

Rechargeable aluminum metal batteries using ionic liquid electrolytes are an emerging electrochemical energy storage technology with great promise. Novel aluminum metal-ionic liquid batteries will be designed, for the first time, to perform under the extreme temperatures & radiation exposure encountered in outer space & other planets. Different positive electrodes & ionic liquid electrolytes will be explored to identify new aluminum battery concepts tailored specifically to NASA mission objectives. 

Thrust 3

Rechargeable Zinc-Metal Ionic Liquid Batteries

Rechargeable zinc metal batteries have been subject to intense investigations using aqueous electrolytes due to the low cost, safety, and energy density of zinc metal, though the zinc metal batteries using ionic liquid electrolytes have seldom been explored. Using ionic liquids electrolytes studied in Thrust 1, zinc metal-ionic liquid batteries will be developed using appropriate positive electrode materials for space applications, with a particular attention to their performance subject to extreme temperatures and radiation. 

Thrust 4

Battery Electrode Engineering & Processing

3-D printing of material and architectures is a new disruptive manufacturing technology that has emerged as an innovative approach to fabricating components from the micron-scale to the macroscale, providing great opportunities to accurately control device geometry (e.g., dimension, porosity, and morphology). Using 3-D printing we will fabricate novel battery electrodes with enhanced specific energy, power densities, cycling abilities, and mechanical stability. These printing approaches will be used for manufacturing electrodes, current collectors, and solid state electrolyte/separators.

Thrust 5

Advanced Characterization

Scientific understanding of metal-ionic liquid batteries is still in its infancy—many questions remain, ranging from how ionic species electrochemically insert or deposit onto electrodes to how electrode compositions & structures evolve during their use. Research in this thrust will involve the use of advanced characterization techniques, ranging from multi-dimensional NMR spectroscopy to in operando X-ray diffraction, to understanding such questions. The objective is to better understand & control the macroscopic performance of metal-ionic liquid batteries up from the atomic scale. 


The City College of New York

Grove School of Engineering

Steinman Hall, Room Room 316

140th St & Convent Ave

New York, NY 10031


+1 (212) 650 8293