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New Breakthrough: Ceramic-based Flexible Electrolyte for Lithium Metal Batteries May Possibly Be Used in Electric Vehicles


Lithium battery has become an essential product in our daily life. Lithium-ion batteries are playing a growing important role, especially in electric vehicles. 

An article from SciTechDaily introduced the latest advances of Lithium-ion batteries. It is about the breakthrough of electrolyte from the researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University, reporting that a new method has been developed to make ceramic-based flexible electrolyte sheets for lithium metal batteries. The researchers combined a garnet-type ceramic, a polymer binder, and an ionic liquid to produce a quasi-solid-state sheet electrolyte. It is said that the synthesis is carried out at room temperature, requiring significantly less energy than existing high-temperature (> 1000°C) processes. Therefore, the electrolyte can work over a wide range of temperatures, which make it become a promising electrolyte for lithium batteries, especially for electric vehicles.

Fossil fuels have always been the main energy resource, which satisfy our needs of energy including the electricity. However, the fossil fuel is limited and will be run out one day, also, it brings air pollution such as carbon dioxide and toxic nitrogen oxides pollutants into the environment. Therefore, a shift from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy is imperative. Due to the natural limitations of the major renewable energy like wind and solar --the sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow, advanced energy storage systems are necessary to make the use of renewable resource efficiently. Lithium ion batteries have been put into commercial use since 1991. And the development of lithium-ion technology make the use of these batteries in electric vehicles become possible. In order to improve the capacity and safety of Li-ion batteries in electric vehicles, it still requires a substantial improvement of state-of-art Li-ion technology.

For this purpose, a team led by Professor Kiyoshi Kanamura at Tokyo Metropolitan University set out to develop a flexible composite LLZO sheet electrolyte which can be made at room temperature. They cast a LLZO ceramic slurry onto a thin polymer substrate, like spreading butter on toast. After drying in a vacuum oven, the 75-micron thick sheet electrolyte was soaked in an ionic liquid (IL) to improve its ionic conductivity. ILs are salts which are liquid at room temperature, known to be highly conductive while being almost non-flammable and non-volatile. Inside the sheets, the IL successfully filled the microscopic gaps in the structure and bridged the LLZO particles, forming an efficient pathway for Li-ions. They also effectively reduced interfacial resistance at the cathode. On further investigation, they found that Li-ions diffused through both the IL and the LLZO particles in the structure, highlighting the role played by both. The synthesis is simple and suitable for industrial production: the whole process is carried out at room temperature without any need for high-temperature sintering. (From SciTechDaily Article)

Credit: Tokyo Metropolitan University

The team believe that this ceramic-based flexible sheet electrolytes could be promising for Li-metal batteries because of the mechanical robustness and operability at a wide range of temperature. The new development of electrolyte signifies that the possibility of lithium metal batteries in high capacity to be used in electric vehicles.  The lithium-ion batteries for renewable energy storage is gradually becoming the mainstream, which will continue to thrive.

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