Meet the Researcher - Renee Saraka

Breakout Room: 11

ReneeSaraka_HeadshotResearcher Name: Renee Saraka
Title of Research: Correlating Processing Conditions to Short- and Long-Range Order in Coating and Drying Li-Ion Batteries
Division Representing: Engineering
Institution: Drexel University
Institution Location: Pennsylvania
Home State: Pennsylvania
District Number: 3
Advisor/Mentor: Nicolas Alvarez; Maureen Tang
Funding Source: Internal University grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Enrichment Programs; NSF

Research Experience:  
Monroe Energy, Process Engineering Co-op - May - Sept. 2020Built a foundation of petrochemical refining principles and processes by monitoring and troubleshooting daily operations of various units and conducting equipment inspections AdvanSix, Process Engineering Co-op - April - Sept. 2019 Assessed plant operations and enchanced the long-term success of the plant by leading management of change projects, conducting root cause investigations, and collected process information for safety improvement effortsTeledyne Energy Systems, Inc., Chemical Engineer Co-op - April - Sept. 2018 Engaged with engineers and technical staff in a research and manufacturing setting to create custom-made lithium-ion batteries and develop new products Drexel University, Undergraduate Researcher (Full Time), June - Sept. 2017Develop research skills and begin a self-directed research project under the supervision of faculty and graduate student mentors Drexel University, Undergraduate Researcher (Part Time) Sept. 2017 - Present Continually work on research project while also taking classes and participating in co-op jobs to progress on research project, resulting in multiple conference presentations and one publication 

Presentation Experience: 
Accepted Conference Presentations*was not held due to COVID-19Stanford Research Conference, April 2020*National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, March 2020*Conference of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, October 2018National Collegiate Research Conference at Harvard University, January 2018FMC Tower Sustainability Tour and Student Poster Symposium, November 2017STAR Scholars Summer Showcase (Drexel University Poster Presentation), September, 2017 Throughout these several poster presentation experiences, I have learned to have informal conversations with my peers, as well as a general audience to convey the most important parts of my work in a way that anyone can understand and use graphics to help tell a 'story.' I have also served as president of Alpha Omega Epsilon, Beta Mu Chapter, where I was responsible for running weekly meetings to conduct organization business. As a peer mentor in Drexel's Career Development Office, I have lead panels of my peers to help get information to new students on co-op opportunities. Also, at the end of each co-op experience, I was asked to give a presentation of the work I conducted during my time working there, which required consolidating 6 months of work into a 20 minute presentation for members of technical and leadership teams.  

Significance of Research:       
Battery researchers typically focus on the formulation of cathodes by varying chemistries and compositions of non-active components. However, the physical act of making a battery cathode is known to affect final electrochemical performance of the battery. There is a lack of fundamental understanding of this relationship between processing conditions and microstructure in a slurry phase, the dry film phase and how the performance of the battery is effected. This study determines the effects of the coating shear rate and drying temperature on battery electrode performance via discharge capacity of battery cells. Rheological measurements and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) are used to correlate slurry and electrode microstructures to trends in discharge capacity. The application of the radial distribution function is used to quantify differences in the electrode microstructure. More specifically, we show that the correlation between carbon and active material EDS detections to be the most relevant in understanding battery performance. Electrodes with both short- and long-range carbon/active material orders have the highest discharge capacities. This microstructure can be obtained through high shear rates, which induce better carbon dispersion via strong hydrodynamic forces, or through high temperature drying by preventing unwanted time-dependent structural changes after flow cessation. This analysis provides concrete evidence for the importance of both short-range and long-range contacts between the conductive additive and active material on battery performance.

Uniqueness of Research: 
With the growing use of lithium-ion batteries in our society, battery researchers are constantly looking for new ways to improve capacity. Typical research focuses on changing the composition of the battery, which comes with various adversities to the system, but this study aims to improve the performance of one formulation by understanding the best way to make the battery.