The University of Waterloo researchers breakthrough involves the use of negative electrodes (the anode) made of lithium metal, a material with the potential to dramatically increase battery storage capacity.
Quanquan Pang, who led the research while he was a PhD candidate at Waterloo said, “This will mean cheap, safe, long-lasting batteries that give people much more range in their electric vehicles.”
The increased storage capacity, or energy density, could boost the distance electric vehicles are able to travel on a single charge, from about 200 kilometers to 600 kilometers (360 miles).
(Click to enlarge)
A single ion conducting protective layer is created on the lithium surface. Image Credit: The University of Waterloo. Click image for the largest view.
The team’s research paper has been published in the journal Joule, which at this writing is open access. Related: Houthi Missile Targeting Riyadh Palace Intercepted
In creating the technology, Pang and fellow researchers, including supervisor Linda Nazar, a professor of chemistry and chemical engineering at Waterloo, had to overcome two challenges.
The first challenge involved the well-known risk of fires and explosions caused by microscopic structural changes to the lithium metal during repeated charge-discharge cycles.
The second involved a reaction that creates corrosion and limits both how well the electrodes work and how long they last.
Researchers solved both problems by adding a chemical compound made of phosphorus and sulfur elements to the electrolyte liquid that carries electrical charge within batteries.
The compound reacts with the lithium metal electrode in an already assembled battery to spontaneously coat it with an extremely thin protective layer. Related: Oil Market On Edge Following Outages
Pang, now a post-doctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, “We wanted a simple, scalable way to protect the lithium metal. With this solution, we just add the compound and it works by itself.”
The novel approach paves the way for electric vehicle batteries that enjoy the benefits of lithium metal electrodes – greater storage capacity and therefore greater driving range – without comprising safety or reducing lifespan.
The team’s work is truly a counter intuitive success. Its seems after a review of the paper that the technology may be incorporated into battery manufacturing without a complete retooling and massive investment. This may be the breakthrough that more intense use of battery power needs to expand the market for devices.
By New Energy and Fuel
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