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Energy Materials

Prateek Dongare: mechanistic analysis of energy materials.

Benjamin Martindale: electrocatalysis and electrochemical devices.

Adam Weingarten: (photo/electro)-catalytic energy conversion.

Yaoqing Zhang: solid state ionics and electrochemical energy storage.

Welcome to the Nature Communications Editors’ Highlights webpage on energy materials. Each month our editors select a small number of Articles recently published in Nature Communications that they believe are particularly interesting or important.

The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the area of energy materials at Nature Communications.

Make sure to check the Editors' Highlights page each month for new featured articles.

Prateek Dongare

Proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) process is very important for water oxidation catalysis. Here, the authors introduced uncoordinated carboxylate in the second-coordination-sphere of Ni-Fe coordination polymer catalyst as an internal base to promote the water oxidation kinetics by such PCET process.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Electrochromic devices have a range of applications as switchable shutters. Here the authors report a hybrid device that uses complementary electrochromic molecules immobilized on nanoporous electrodes to concurrently achieve fast colouration and bleaching with high contrast over a broad spectral range.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Predictions of new solid-state Li-ion conductors are challenging due to the diverse chemistries and compositions involved. Here the authors combine unsupervised learning techniques and molecular dynamics simulations to discover new compounds with high Li-ion conductivity.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Electric fields have been proposed as having a distinct ability to catalyse chemical reactions through stabilizing polar intermediates. Here, the authors show that electric fields can catalyse the cis-to-trans isomerization reactions of cumulenes in solution in a scanning tunnelling microscope

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The spectroscopic tracking of complex, multi-step chemical reactions is challenging due to the dynamic timescales of the elementary steps. Here, the authors track a four-step, light-induced decarboxylation reaction in real time to provide new mechanistic insights.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Aqueous zinc batteries are promising candidates for large scale energy storage systems but development of the cathode material remains a challenge. Here, the authors show a conductive 2D metal-organic framework involving intercalation pseudocapacitance mechanism for enhanced rate capability.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Benjamin Martindale

Wearable self-powered electronics receive considerable attention, but development is hindered by bulky designs, energy storage systems, and safety issues. Here the authors demonstrate a flexible solar-charging integrated unit based on printed magnesium ion aqueous asymmetric supercapacitors.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Coupling of carbon dioxide reduction and organic oxidation is promising for sustainable chemicals production; however, economics are impacted by variations in product combinations and process design. Here the authors report technoeconomic analysis for a range of technologies and coproduction processes.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Room temperature rechargeable sodium sulfur batteries are promising for next-generation energy storage systems, but their development is limited by polysulfide dissolution and slow kinetics. Here the authors report a cathode that serves as a multifunctional sulfur host and imparts enhanced performance.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Dielectric materials are candidates for electric high power density energy storage applications, but fabrication is challenging. Here the authors report a pressing-and-folding processing of a dielectric with relaxor-like behavior, leading to high energy density in a polymer-based dielectric capacitor.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Electrochromic devices have a range of applications as switchable shutters. Here the authors report a hybrid device that uses complementary electrochromic molecules immobilized on nanoporous electrodes to concurrently achieve fast colouration and bleaching with high contrast over a broad spectral range.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Adam Weingarten

Noble-metal-free catalysts often show stability issues in acidic media due to structural degradation. Here authors show that phase-mixed engineering of cobalt diselenide electrocatalysts can enable greater covalency of Co-Se bonds and improve robustness for catalyzing hydrogen evolution in acid.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Chemical fuels, produced from light, afford an alternative to fossil fuel, but conversion materials suffer from low photon-to-fuel efficiencies. Here, authors incorporate gold/N-doped TiO2 on MgO surfaces and show enhanced photocatalytic water splitting performances at elevated temperatures.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The efficiency of Hematite (α-Fe2O3) photo-anodes is thought to be limited by ultrafast lattice distortions or polarons. Here, we use an optical-control method with photocurrent detection to track small polarons in real time and demonstrate that they impact photoelectrochemical cell activity

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Photoelectrochemical water splitting presents an integrated means storing sunlight into fuels, yet high optical losses and corrosion limit device performance. Here, authors boost absorption and durability in gallium-indium phosphide photocathodes via a sulfurized and nanostructured protection layer.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

While photoredox catalysis provides organic chemistry new avenues for chemical reactions, typical photocatalysts require expensive noble metals and show modest stabilities. Here, authors examine lead halide perovskites nanocrystals as stable and tunable photoredox catalysts for organic synthesis.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

High-entropy metallic glasses are an unexplored class of nanomaterials and are difficult to prepare. Here, the authors present an electrosynthetic method to design these materials with up to eight tunable metallic components and show multifunctional electrocatalytic water splitting capabilities.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Yaoqing Zhang

The authors report a sodium rich disordered birnessite cathode material Na0.27MnO2 for aqueous Na-ion storage. The impressive electrochemical performance is attributed to the co-deintercalation of structural water and Na-ion during the high potential charging process which stabilizes the layered structure.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

To unlock the potential of Mn-based cathode materials, the fast capacity fading process has to be first understood. Here the authors utilize advanced characterization techniques to look at a spinel LiMn2O4 system, revealing that a combination of irreversible structural transformations and Mn dissolution takes responsibility.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The irreversible layered-to-spinel phase transformation is detrimental for many cathode materials. Here, the authors show that reversibility can be realized in crystal water containing sodium birnessite by controlled dehydration, leading to enhanced ion diffusion kinetics and improved structural stability.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Polyoxyanion compounds are alternative cathodes to conventional oxides, but their reliance on the transition metal redox limits the performance. Here the authors report an oxalate system which possesses additional polyanionic redox reactivity, suggesting a new direction for cathode materials design.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The electrode/electrolyte interface plays a critical role in a Li-ion battery. Here the authors report that Al doping can tailor the interfacial reactions to lead to enhanced structural stability and cyclability of cathode. Al dopants form not only lattice solid solution but also Al2O3 islands on the surface.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Based on computations, the authors show that voltage stability of battery electrolytes is determined not by a single component but by formation of charge transfer complexes between salt anions and solvent molecules. A physical model is proposed and validated on several common electrolyte compositions.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications