Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have invented a novel composite material which could have potential for energy storage applications. The material is called bijel, short for “bicontinuous jammed emulsion gels”. Here, two non-mixing liquids are stabilized with solid particles forming liquid-liquid emulsions. They can’t separate and form a web of fluid channels, and this unique feature provides bijels with potential applications in energy storage, energy conversion, and conductivity. However, their large domain sizes and difficulty in the production hinder their use. According to an article in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, Berkeley’s Lab invention shows that sub-micrometre domains can be formed via homogenization. This enables the synthesis of a lot of material of the right size.
According to Caili Huang, lead author: “Bijels have long been of interest as next-generation materials for energy applications and chemical synthesis. The problem has been making enough of them, and with features of the right size. In this work, we crack that problem.”
Another unusual feature of the Lab’s formula is that it is based on nanoparticles of silica. Generally, particle-based pathway was not considered, because it is difficult for nanoscale particles of matter to stay in place. But by adding water, the particles could form stable bonds for up to a week. This is encouraging and hopefully future developments will make the bonds hold up for long periods of time.
Image: Caili Huang/ORNL