The use of carbon fiber composites is accelerating around the world. Made by combining carbon fibers with a matrix, such as a polymer, these materials are today found in everything from high-performance bikes and tennis rackets to bagpipe drone reeds, airplane wings, and the dashboards of luxury cars.
But what if these strong, lightweight, highly adaptable materials could also store and release electrical energy? That’s the central research question for Ahmad Amiri, who joined the Russell School of Chemical Engineering as an assistant professor in fall 2023. He is carrying out this research in collaboration with Andreas A. Polycarpou, dean of the College of Engineering & Computer Science. Undergraduate and graduate students are also actively involved, taking part in laboratory work as well as contributing to the fabrication and testing processes.
“The dual functionality of the structural batteries we’re researching is really promising,” said Amiri, who is also affiliated with the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “By integrating load-bearing capacity with energy storage, we envision being able to reduce overall weight and space utilization while providing a stable energy source in various applications, such as portable electronics, electric cars, drones, and even air taxis.”
In pursuit of lighter and more efficient carbon fiber composites, Amiri and his team have already fabricated a structural anode and cathode. Now, they are in the process of developing a suitable electrolyte. “Once this step is completed,” Amiri commented, “we plan to subject the samples to electrochemical and mechanical tests to showcase our first air-compatible energy-storing composite.” The remaining steps will entail refining the fabrication process, optimizing the electrochemical performance, and conducting further assessments of the composite’s mechanical properties.