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Research finds nanomaterials which lengthen lithium-ion battery life

A professor has developed a way to improve lithium-ion technology.
September 22, 2014

An associate professor has developed nanomaterials that address two of the biggest limitations of lithium-ion technology. Jie Lian, an associate professor at the Rensselaer Plantronicstechnic Institute, has developed nanomaterials which improve lithium-ion technology from a mechanical and chemical aspect.

Based on the nanomaterials, the stress of the battery is lightened so that the amount of energy that can be held by the battery will improve. The nanomaterials also affect the way that electrons and lithium-ions interact so that layers of the battery won’t crack which would therefore lengthen the lifespan of the battery.

  • As the battery charges, lithium ions diffuse into the anode structure and cause it to physically expand. When discharging, as the battery is being used, lithium ions depart the anode structure and cause it to revert to its original size. The stress from these volume changes can result in damage to the battery, which generally leads to a significant loss in the amount of energy it can hold.
  • As the liquid electrolyte molecules in Li-ion batteries react with the electrons and lithium ions, the molecules decompose and form a solid-electrolyte interface (SEI) layer on the negative electrode surface. The SEI consumes lithium ions and impedes their ability to move through the battery. To make matters more challenging, the SEI layer is known to crack as the battery’s anode grows and shrinks, and then re-forms. This repetition can result in the formation of ever-thicker, increasingly prohibitive SEI layers, which negatively impact the performance and shorten the lifespan of the battery. – EETasia

Lian fixed these issues by developing “an electrode from cobalt oxide mesoporous nanospheres.” This sphere helps mechanical and chemical degradation which can cause “unprecedented” performance for a battery.

The transformation happens with the expansion and retraction of the nanospheres, causing the material’s pores to become larger over time. The refined structure of the nanospheres enabled the creation of a thin, stable SEI on their surfaces. Instead of cracking and reforming, the SEI simply expands and contracts in concert with the sphere. The perpetually thin SEI ensures lithium ions can quickly and efficiently diffuse in the electrode, and the reactivated electrode does not lose capacity even after thousands of charge-discharge cycles at a high charge rate. – EETasia

It has been a busy last week for lithium-ion technology as just last week, a study led by researchers from Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory claimed to have found that rapid charging of lithium-ion batteries may not be as damaging to the electrodes as thought and that the benefits of slow charging and discharging may have been overestimated. The study stated that by tweaking the electrode, researchers could increase the rate of recharging while maintaining a longer battery life.