BatteryWhen a battery is used, electrically charged ions travel between electrodes, causing those electrodes to shrink and swell. For some time, researchers have wondered why the electrode materials – which are fairly brittle – don’t crack in the expansion and contraction styles.

Now, a team of researchers from MIT, led by ECS member Yet-Ming Chiang, may have found the answer to this mystery.

This from MIT:

While the electrode materials are normally crystalline, with all their atoms neatly arranged in a regular, repetitive array, when they undergo the charging or discharging process, they are transformed into a disordered, glass-like phase that can accommodate the strain of the dimensional changes.


Harmful Algal for Energy Storage

While we typically work to preserve the environment, there are some aspects that cause more harm than good. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are one of these environmentally hazardous parts of nature, severely impacting human health, the ecosystem, and the economy.

While HABs put countless people at risk though polluted drinking water, researchers are now attempting to create some good from this negative. Through heating the algal at a very high temperature in argon gas, HABs can be converted into a material known as hard carbon. Typically made from petroleum, hard carbon also has development potential through biomass. Due to the material’s qualities and capabilities, hard carbons have the potential to be used as high-capacity, low-cost electrodes for sodium-ion batteries.

“Harmful algal blooms, caused by cyanobacteria (or so called ‘blue-green algae’), severely threaten humans, livestock, and wildlife, leading to illness and sometimes even death,” says Da Deng, co-author of the recent study. “The Toledo water crisis in 2014 caused by HABs in Lake Erie is a vivid example of their powerful and destructive impact. The existing technologies to mitigate HABs are considered a ‘passive’ technology and have certain limitations. It would significantly and broadly impact our society and environment if alternative technologies could be developed to convert the HABs into functional high-value products.”


The new structure has high mobility of Na+ ions and a robust framework.Ia

The new structure has high mobility of Na+ ions and a robust framework.
Image: Nature Communications

With the demand for hand-held electronics at an all-time high, the costs of the materials used to make them are also rising. That includes materials used to make lithium batteries, which is a cause for concern when projecting the development of large-scale grid storage.

In order to find an alternative solution to the high material costs connected with lithium batteries, the researchers at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Institute of Physics at the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing have begun focusing their attention on sodium-ion batteries.

The science around sodium-ion batteries dates back to the 1980s, but the technology never took off due to resulting low energy densities and short life cycles.

However, the new research looks to combat those issues by improving the properties of a class of electrode materials by manipulating their electron structure in the sodium-ion battery.