Photo Credit: www.HydroQuebec.com

Hydro-Québec (an ECS institutional member) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory have announced a breakthrough in the lithium-ion battery materials field, publishing their research results in the Journal of Power Sources. Using a cathode made with new high voltage safe materials, the researchers have achieved a world first: building a 1.2 Ah lithium-ion cell with a voltage of 5 V.

“With the high voltage of this new cell, we can reach a very high energy density,” says Karim Zaghib, General Director of the Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage. “This highly desirable property can improve batteries used in a wide range of applications.” Army Research Laboratory scientists Jan Allen and Richard Jow, also inventors of this high voltage cathode material, believe that the high cell voltage can, in addition to enabling high energy density, improve the design of devices.

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used to power many electronic devices, including smartphones, medical devices and electric vehicles. Their high energy density, excellent durability and lightness make them a popular choice for energy storage. In response to the growing demand for their use in a wide range of products, there are many teams working to improve their storage capacity. In particular, there is great interest in developing new compounds that could increase energy storage capacity, stability and lifespan. That is why the innovation announced today has such a strong commercial potential.

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BatteryA collaborative team of researchers from Shinshu University in Japan have found a new way to curb some of the potential dangers posed by lithium ion batteries.

The team was led by Susumu Arai, a professor of the department of materials chemistry and head of Division for Application of Carbon Materials at the Institute of Carbon Science and Technology at Shinshu University.

These batteries, typically used in electric vehicles and smart grids, could help society realize a low-carbon future, according the authors. The problem is that while lithium could theoretically conduct electricity at high capacity, lithium also results in what is known as thermal runaway during the charge and discharge cycle.

“Lithium metal is inherently unsuitable for use in rechargeable batteries due to posing certain safety risks,” said Arai. “Repeated lithium deposition/dissolution during charge/discharge can cause serious accidents due to the deposition of lithium dendrites that penetrate the separator and induce internal short-circuiting.”

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Li-ion fuel cell

Superior high-voltage performance of Li-ion full cell with Li-rich layered oxide cathode prepared with fluorinated polyimide (FPI) binder, compared to the cell with conventional binder PVdF. (Click to enlarge.)
Image: Seung Wan Song

In order to increase the driving range of electric vehicles, researchers across the globe are working to develop lithium-ion batteries with higher energy storage. Now, scientists at Chungnam National University and Kumoh National Institute of Technology in Korea are taking a step toward that goal with their development of the first high-voltage cathode binder for higher energy Li-ion batteries.

Today’s Li-ion batteries are limited to charge to 4.2V due to the electrochemical instability of the liquid electrolyte and cathode-electrolyte interface, and loosening of conventional binder, polyvinylidenefluoride (PVdF), particularly at elevated temperatures. The fabrication of Li-rich layered oxide cathode with a novel high-voltage binder, as the research team demonstrated, can overcome these limitations.

Charging the batteries with Li-rich layered oxide cathode (xLi2MnO3∙(1−x)LiMO2, M = Mn, Ni, Co) to higher than 4.5V produces approximately doubled capacity than those with LiCoO2 cathode, so that doubled energy density batteries can be achieved.

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BatteryNew research from Sandia National Laboratory is moving toward advancing solid state lithium-ion battery performance in small electronics by identifying major obstacles in how lithium ions flow across battery interfaces.

The team of researchers, including ECS member Forrest Gittleson, looked at the nanoscale chemistry of solid state batteries, focusing on the area where the electrodes and electrolytes make contact.

“The underlying goal of the work is to make solid-state batteries more efficient and to improve the interfaces between different materials,” says Farid El Gabaly, coauthor of the recently published work. “In this project, all of the materials are solid; we don’t have a liquid-solid interface like in traditional lithium-ion batteries.”

According to El Gabaly, the faster the lithium can travel from one electrode to the other, the more efficient the batteries could be.

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BatteryA team of researchers from the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research is taking a potential major step toward developing energy dense, safe solid state magnesium-ion batteries.

This research marks another step in pursing batteries that utilize solid electrolytes, which could offer significant safety benefits over conventional lithium-ion batteries.

The work was developed out of efforts to create a magnesium battery with a liquid electrolyte. While magnesium has promising properties for energy storage, the researchers had trouble finding a viable liquid electrolyte for the technology that wouldn’t corrode.

“Magnesium is such a new technology, it doesn’t have any good liquid electrolytes,” said Gerbrand Ceder, co-author of the research and member of ECS. “We thought, why not leapfrog and make a solid state electrolyte?”

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A new bendable lithium-ion battery prototype continues delivering electricity even when cut into pieces, submerged in water, or struck with force.

“We are very encouraged by the feedback we are receiving,” says Jeffrey P. Maranchi, manager of the materials science program at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “We are not that far away from testing in the field.”

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Electric VehiclesAs sustainable technologies continue to expand into the marketplace, the demand for better batteries rises. Many researchers in the field are looking toward all-solid-state batteries as a promising venture, citing safety and energy density properties. Now, one company is looking to take that work from the lab to the marketplace.

Electric car maker Fisker has recently filed patents for solid state lithium-ion batteries, stating that mass scale production could begin as soon as 2023. The patent covers novel materials and manufacturing processes that the company plans to use to develop automotive-ready batteries.

Unlike other types of rechargeable batteries that use liquid electrodes and electrolytes, solid state batteries utilize both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes. While liquid electrolytes are efficient in conducting ions, there are certain safety hazards attached (i.e. fires if the battery overheats or is short-circuited). In addition to better safety, solid electrodes could also impact battery cost and energy density, opening up new possibilities for large scale storage applications.

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BatteryA new kind of lithium sulfur battery could be more efficient, less expensive, and safer than currently available lithium batteries.

“We demonstrated this method in a coin battery,” says Donghai Wang, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State. “But, I think it could eventually become big enough for cell phones, drones, and even bigger for electric vehicles.”

Lithium sulfur batteries should be a promising candidate for the next generation of rechargeable batteries, but they are not without problems. For lithium, the efficiency in which charge transfers is low, and, lithium batteries tend to grow dendrites—thin branching crystals—when charging that do not disappear when discharged.

The researchers examined a self-formed, flexible hybrid solid-electrolyte interphase layer that is deposited by both organosulfides and organopolysulfides with inorganic lithium salts. The researchers report that the organic sulfur compounds act as plasticizers in the interphase layer and improve the mechanical flexibility and toughness of the layer. The interphase layer allows the lithium to deposit without growing dendrites. The Coulombic efficiency is about 99 percent over 400 recharging discharging cycles.

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BatteryA new sodium-based battery can store the same amount of energy as a state-of-the-art lithium ion at a substantially lower cost.

As a warming world moves from fossil fuels toward renewable solar and wind energy, industrial forecasts predict an insatiable need for battery farms to store power and provide electricity.

Chemical engineer Zhenan Bao and materials scientists Yi Cui and William Chueh of Stanford University aren’t the first researchers to design a sodium ion battery. But they believe their approach has the price and performance characteristics to create a sodium ion battery that costs less than 80 percent of a lithium ion battery with the same storage capacity.

$150 a ton

“Nothing may ever surpass lithium in performance,” Bao says. “But lithium is so rare and costly that we need to develop high-performance but low-cost batteries based on abundant elements like sodium.”

With materials constituting about one-quarter of a battery’s price, the cost of lithium—about $15,000 a ton to mine and refine—looms large. Researchers say that’s why they are basing the new battery on widely available sodium-based electrode material that costs just $150 a ton.

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BatteryLithium batteries made with asphalt could charge 10 to 20 times faster than the commercial lithium-ion batteries currently available.

The researchers developed anodes comprising porous carbon made from asphalt that show exceptional stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles.

A high-current density of 20 milliamps per square centimeter demonstrates the material’s promise for use in rapid charge and discharge devices that require high-power density.

“The capacity of these batteries is enormous, but what is equally remarkable is that we can bring them from zero charge to full charge in five minutes, rather than the typical two hours or more needed with other batteries,” says James Tour, the chair in chemistry and a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University.

The Tour lab previously used a derivative of asphalt—specifically, untreated gilsonite, the same type used for the battery—to capture greenhouse gases from natural gas. This time, the researchers mixed asphalt with conductive graphene nanoribbons and coated the composite with lithium metal through electrochemical deposition.

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