Controlling the Chemistry for Next-Generation Devices

Posted 16 August 2016

Neeraj Sharma is combining his passions for materials discovery and crystallography to create better materials for batteries and high precision devices.

To get the full benefit from renewable energy, we need to be able to store it. High capacity batteries that are more efficient, reliable, and cheaper to make have been the main focus in Neeraj’s laboratory.

Research on next-generation batteries, which uses salt water, earned Neeraj recognition as one of UNSW's 20 Rising Stars.

“It inspires me to keep the momentum going, to keep achieving to the best of my ability,” he says about being named a Rising Star.

This momentum is taking Neeraj’s battery concepts to new applications. He wants to find ways to stop materials from expanding or contracting with changing temperature. Most materials expand when they are heated up, but some materials contain a lot of space, and these crumple with heat. The idea is to prevent the crumpling by putting ions (like lithium, sodium, potassium) into these spaces.

To design materials resistant to heat stress, Neeraj will be going on sabbatical to learn from a global leader in negative thermal expansion, Prof John Evans at Durham University in the UK.

Neeraj is a Senior Lecturer and currently holds an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award at UNSW Chemistry. His research group is interested in solid-state functional materials. They specialise in observing the changes in the crystal structure of individual components of a device, as the device is operating.

First, materials or compounds are made and characterised, then a device is created with these materials. Using in operando diffraction, they can see how the materials change inside that device. By observing these changes, they can then modify the materials or design new materials to improve performance.

“I love two things, making new materials and watching chemical reactions take place,” says Neeraj.


See the full list of 20 Rising Stars here.

Read about Neeraj’s next-generation batteries in Uniken.