CellphoneThe development of the lithium-ion battery has helped enable the modern day electronics revolution, making possible everything from cellphones to laptops to electric vehicles and even grid-scale energy storage.

However, those batteries have limited lifespans. Battery expert Daniel P. Abraham is looking to address that.

“As your cellphone battery ages, you notice that you have to plug it in more often,” says Abraham, ECS member and scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. “Over a period of time, you are not able to store as much charge in the battery, and that is the process we call capacity fade.”

Abraham is a co-author of an open access paper recently published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, “Transition Metal Dissolution, Ion Migration, Electrocatalytic Reduction and Capacity Loss in Lithium-Ion Full Cells,” which addresses the question of why your battery doesn’t age well.

A majority of today’s electronic devices are powered by the lithium-ion battery. In order for the battery to store and release energy, lithium ions move back and forth between the positive and negative electrodes through an electrolyte.  In theory, the ions could travel back and forth an infinite number of times, resulting in a battery that lasts forever.

But that’s not what happens in the batteries that power your laptops and your electric vehicles. According to Abraham, unwanted side reactions often occur as ions move between the electrodes, resulting in batteries that lose capacity over time.

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Lithium-ionLithium-ion batteries power a vast majority of the world’s portable electronics, but the magnification of recent safety incidents have some looking for new ways to keep battery-related hazards at bay. The U.S. Navy is one of those groups, with chemists in the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) unveiling a new battery, which they say is both safe and rechargeable for applications such as electric vehicles and ships.

“We keep having too many catastrophic news stories of lithium-ion batteries smoking, catching fire, exploding,” says Debra Rolison, head of NRL’s advanced electrochemical materials section and co-author of the recently published paper. “There’ve been military platforms that have suffered severe damage because of lithium-ion battery fires.”

Once example of such damage came in 2008, when an explosion and fire caused by a lithium-ion battery damaged the Advanced SEAL Delivery Vehicle 1 at its base in Pearl Harbor.

While generally safe when manufactured properly, lithium-ion batteries host an organic liquid which is flammable if the battery or device gets too hot.

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BatteryLike all things, batteries have a finite lifespan. As batteries get older and efficiency decreases, they enter what researchers call “capacity fade,” which occurs when the amount of charge your battery could once hold begins to decrease with repeated use.

But what if researchers could reduce this capacity fade?

That’s what researchers from Argonne National Laboratory are aiming to do, as demonstrated in their open access paper, “Transition Metal Dissolution, Ion Migration, Electrocatalytic Reduction and Capacity Loss in Lithium-Ion Full Cells,” which was recently published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

The capacity of a lithium-ion battery directly correlates to the amount of lithium ions that can be shuttled back and forth as the device is charged and discharged. Transition metal ions make this shuttling possible, but as the battery is cycled, some of those ions get stripped out of the cathode material and end up at the battery’s anode.

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BatteryResearchers from Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science recently developed a method that could result in safer, longer-lasting, bendable lithium-ion batteries. To do this, the team applied ice-templating to control the structure of the solid electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries.

Recent reports of cell phones and hoverboards bursting into flames have made people aware of the safety concerns related to the lithium-ion battery’s liquid electrolyte. The researchers behind this new work decided to confront the safety issues by exploring the use of a solid electrolyte, therefore developing an all-solid-state lithium battery.

[The researchers] were interested in using ice-templating to fabricate vertically aligned structures of ceramic solid electrolytes, which provide fast lithium ion pathways and are highly conductive. They cooled the aqueous solution with ceramic particles from the bottom and then let ice grow and push away and concentrate the ceramic particles. They then applied a vacuum to transition the solid ice to a gas, leaving a vertically aligned structure. Finally, they combined this ceramic structure with polymer to provide mechanical support and flexibility to the electrolyte.

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BatteryA team of scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory is using the precision of an electron beam to instantly adhere cathode coatings for lithium-ion batteries. This new development, as reported in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, could lead to a leap in efficiency that saves energy, reduces production cost, and eliminates the use of toxic solvents.

This from ORNL:

The technique uses an electron beam to cure coating material as it rolls down the production line, creating instantaneous cross-links between molecules that bind the coating to a foil substrate, without the need for solvents, in less than a second.

Read the full article.

“Typical curing processes can require drying machinery the length of a football field and expensive equipment for solvent recovery,” says David Wood, co-author of the study. “This approach presents a promising avenue for fast, energy-efficient manufacturing of high-performance, low-cost lithium-ion batteries.”

Read the full paper, “Electron Beam Curing of Composite Positive Electrode for Li-Ion Battery.”

BatteryJoint research from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and the Council for Scientific Research reports the development of a new ceramic electrode for lithium-ion batteries that can lead to cheaper, more efficient, and safer conventional batteries.

“What we have patented are new ceramic electrodes that are much safer and can work in a wider temperature interval,” says Alejandro Varez, co-author of the research.

To achieve this result, the researchers made ceramic sheets by way of thermoplastic extrusion molds.

“This technique allows making electrodes that are flat or tube-shaped, and these electrodes can be applied to any type of lithium-ion battery,” Varez says.

According to the researchers, the cost of production is low and it could easily be adapted into current lithium-ion battery production, making this an easy technology to move quickly to industrialization.

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BatteryReports of a woman’s headphones catching fire while on a flight from Bejing to Melbourne has once again heightened interest in lithium-ion battery safety. According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the incident occurred while the woman was sleeping mid-flight wearing battery-powered headphones.

Early in 2016, battery expert and ECS fellow, K.M. Abraham, talked to ECS about lithium-ion battery safety concerns amidst reports of exploding hoverboards. Below are some excerpts of what he had to say.

“It is safe to say that these well-publicized hazardous events are rooted in the uncontrolled release of the large amount of energy stored in lithium-ion batteries as a result of manufacturing defects, inferior active and inactive materials used to build cells and battery packs, substandard manufacturing and quality control practices by a small fraction of cell manufacturers, and user abuses of overcharge and over-discharge, short-circuit, external thermal shocks and violent mechanical impacts,” Abraham told ECS. “All of these mistreatments can lead lithium-ion batteries to thermal runaway reactions accompanied by the release of hot combustible organic solvents which catch fire upon contact with oxygen in the atmosphere.”

Read Abraham’s full article.

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25 Years of Lithium-ion Batteries

Focus IssuesIn June 2016, the International Meeting on Lithium Batteries (IMLB) in Chicago successfully celebrated 25 years of the commercialization of lithium-ion batteries. According to Doron Aurbach, technical editor of the Batteries and Energy Storage topical interest area of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, research efforts in the Li-battery community continues to provide ground-breaking technological success in electromobility and grid storage applications. He hopes this research will continue to revolutionize mobile energy supply for future advances in ground transportation.

ECS has published 66 papers for a new IMLB focus issue in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. All papers are open access at no charge to the authors and no charge to download thanks to ECS’s Free the Science initiative!

(READ: Focus Issue of Selected Papers from IMLB 2016 with Invited Papers Celebrating 25 Years of Lithium Ion Batteries)

The focus issue provides important information on the forefront of advanced battery research that appropriately reflects the findings from the symposium.

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John Goodenough may be 94-years old, but he shows no sign of slowing down. Now, the co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could result in safer, longer-lasting batteries for everything from electric cars to grid energy storage.

“Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted,” Goodenough says in a statement. “We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries.”

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CellphoneA new paper published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, “Mixed Conduction Membranes Suppress the Polysulfide Shuttle in Lithium-Sulfur Batteries,” describes a new battery membrane that makes the cycle life of lithium-sulfur batteries comparable to their lithium-ion counterparts.

The research, led by ECS Fellow Sri Narayan, offers a potential solution to one of the biggest barriers facing next generation batteries: how to create a tiny battery that packs a huge punch.

Narayan and Derek Moy, co-author of the paper, believe that lithium-sulfur batteries could be the answer.

The lithium-sulfur battery has been praised for its high energy storage capacity, but hast struggled in competing with the lithium-ion battery when it comes to cycle life. To put it in perspective, a lithium-sulfur battery can be charged between 50 and 100 times; a lithium-ion battery lasts upwards of 1,200 cycles.

To address this issue, the researchers devised the “Mixed Conduction Membrane” (MCM).

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