Materials Seminar – Prof. Brett Helms (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

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1315 Seminar Hall
@ 12:05 pm


Title: Designing Ion-Conducting Materials for Batteries and Beyond


Brett A. Helms is a San Francisco-Bay Area native. He received his B.S. from Harvey Mudd College in 2000 and his Ph.D. in 2006 at the University of California, Berkeley with Jean M. J. Fréchet in designing branched polymer architectures for catalysis. His postdoctoral research was conducted at the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven with E. W. (Bert) Meijer where his focus was on supramolecular chemistry. In 2007, he began his independent career at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab as a Staff Scientist. His research program there is devoted to materials discovery and development to solve outstanding challenges in energy and sustainability. He is the co-founder of two deep-tech Bay Area Start-Ups: Sepion Technologies and Cyklos Materials.


Access to selective membranes is critical to advancing next-generation batteries as well as resource extraction and refinement. To that end, I will introduce polymers of intrinsic microporosity as a versatile platform for membranes, whose permselectivity is dictated by sub-nanometer pores on the length scale of solvated ions found in electrolytes. I will highlight important roles played by computational materials design and molecular dynamics simulations in controlling solvation, desolvation, partitioning, diffusion, and transport of ions in the membrane. This foundational knowledge establishes provides a roadmap for the diversity-oriented synthetic development of new polymer membranes with specific pore architectures and chemistry with tailored transport selectivity that enable superior performance in energy devices where they are featured. I will provide context for how these membranes have accelerated the development of higher-power batteries for electric aircraft, higher-efficiency batteries for grid-scale storage, and systems enabling the direct extraction of lithium from brine. I will also discuss how far some of these efforts have advanced to commercialization.

Host: Prof. Song Jin