Team from Stanford University reports major find in lithium battery research

July 31, 2014

A team of researchers from the University if Stanford believes that it has discovered what it is calling the “holy grail” of lithium battery design, a discovery that boost the range and power of lithium batteries.

In a report published in the journal of Nature Nanotechnology  the team that includes former Energy Secretary Steven Chu, said it has developed an anode of lithium that could change the face of batteries by replacing the current protective layers that are made of graphite or silicon.

“Here we show that coating the lithium metal anode with a monolayer of interconnected amorphous hollow carbon nanospheres helps isolate the lithium metal depositions and facilitates the formation of a stable solid electrolyte interphase,” the Standford team writes in its abstract.

The lithium in a lithium-ion battery today is found in the electrolyte. The electrons in the electrolyte flow to the anode during recharging, and if the anode were also made of lithium, the battery would be able to generate much more power and weigh much less.

Until now, however, lithium anodes have been unusable. The material expands during charging, opening fissures on the surface that release lithium ions and form messy, hairlike growths called dendrites that reach out and short-circuit the battery. Lithium anodes are also highly chemically reactive with the lithium electrolyte and can overheat to the point of fire or even explosion.

The Stanford team thinks it has solved these problems with a protective layer of tiny carbon domes, called nanospheres, that form a flexible honeycomb-styled shield over the anode. The nanosphere wall, just 20 nanometers thick, is strong and flexible enough to move up and down as the anode expands and contracts during the battery's charge-discharge cycle.


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