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Advancing Lithium Ion Battery Technology

Kyle Crompton, a doctoral student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, was recently awarded a prestigious SMART scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense.

SMART—the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation “Scholarship for Service” Program—awards scholarships to students pursuing advanced degrees in STEM fields. Upon graduation these scholars are hired as research staff at defense laboratories around the country to increase the number of civilian scientists and engineers in this capacity.

Crompton, who received the award this fall, is in the microsystems engineering Ph.D. program in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering and is a research assistant in the university’s NanoPower Research Labs working on advancing lithium-ion battery technology. He will receive full tuition, an annual stipend, and other support payments as part of the scholarship as well as participate in summer internships at the Department of Defense’s Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, located in Crane, Ind. After graduation, expected in 2018, he will become a civilian scientist at Crane, best known for its technical support and development of sensors, electronics, batteries, strategic systems and electronic warfare systems.

“While this scholarship program involves a long commitment, it also has flexibility and opportunities to work at Department of Defense research labs other than Crane. It is going to greatly broaden my experience in graduate school,” said Crompton, who is originally from Syracuse, N.Y. He completed undergraduate studies in physics at SUNY Geneseo. His work in the NanoPower Research Labs, specifically in the area of researching high performance electrode materials and designs for lithium-ion batteries, will potentially lead into work he will do at the Crane center.

“Over the past several years, the facility has begun including basic and applied research in addition to what it is has historically done, which is large-scale testing and analysis of batteries. This is part of an effort to expand the capabilities and knowledge base of the facility. That will be my role there after graduation,” he added. “One project I am currently working on at RIT is using silicon nanoparticles and single-walled carbon nanotubes to develop high capacity, high rate capability and highly stable anodes for lithium ion batteries. What this will translate to in full batteries is increased energy storage capability, faster charge and discharge rates and improved safety. This will have far reaching applications such as the aerospace industry and automotive industries.”

Current trends in the industry are on synthesizing different materials to develop higher performing, longer lasting and safer batteries, said Brian Landi, associate professor of chemical engineering and director of the Carbon Nanotube and Advanced Battery Group in the NanoPower Lab. He is also Crompton’s academic adviser for the doctoral program.

“We are not just studying material properties, but we use those new materials in prototype devices, which inform us on how we can modify the materials to make better batteries. So, when Kyle is done here, he’s going to know how to do cutting-edge materials research, as well as be a battery expert on how to make batteries, test batteries and how the two pieces link together,” Landi explained. “Only about seven percent of students who apply for the SMART scholarships receive them; Kyle was very competitive in these fellowships, and he was a wonderful selection for this program.”

RIT and the NanoPower Research Labs team are playing a significant role in all aspects of battery development, from investigating novel materials to making better batteries. The SMART Scholarship will complement a recently awarded grant to Landi from the U.S. Air Force for research titled “High Capacity Cathode and Carbon Nanotube-Supported Anode for Enhanced Energy Density Batteries.”