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New lithium battery charge faster and safer, handling 5 times the current


Lithium-ion battery has widely used in todays battery-powered devices, although lithium-ion battery provides long-lasting power for the devices, safety problem is still what people concern. Scientists have struggled in the development of advanced lithium batteries that could charge faster and reduce safety failure.

In recent research, researchers at Texas A&M University have developed a promising material that can be used in lithium batteries-- Carbon nanotubes. By incorporating these materials for the battery’s conductive plate, named the anode, the batteries not only enable the safe storage of a large quantity of lithium ions and lower the safety risk, but also has a potential faster charging time. The research is published in the March issue of the journal Nano Letters.

"We have designed the next generation of anodes for lithium batteries that are efficient at producing large and sustained currents needed to quickly charge devices."

"Also, this new architecture prevents lithium from accumulating outside the anode, which over time can cause unintended contact between the contents of the battery's two compartments, which is one of the major causes of device explosions."

-- Juran Noh, a material sciences graduate student in Dr. Choongho Yu's laboratory in the J. Mike Walker '66 Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The property of the anode, which houses lithium ions within the battery, plays an important role in the battery's properties. A commonly used anode material is graphite. In these anodes, lithium ions are inserted between layers of graphite. However, Noh said this design limits the amount of lithium ions that can be stored within the anode and even requires more energy to pull the ions out of the graphite during charging.

When lithium ions do not evenly deposit on the anode, they will build up on the surface of the anode, called dendrites which is tree-like structures. As they grow, they will eventually pierce the material separating the two compartments of battery, and result in the short circuit or catch fire. Also, they will affect the battery’s performance by hindering the generation of current.

To solve the problem of dendrite formation,the Texas A&M team has designed anodes using lightweight and highly conductive carbon nanotubes. 

 "When the binding molecular groups are abundant, lithium metal clusters made from lithium ions end up just clogging the pores on the scaffolds, but when we had just the right amount of these binding molecules, we could 'unzip' the carbon nanotube scaffolds at just certain places, allowing lithium ions to come through and bind on to the entire surface of the scaffolds rather than accumulate on the outer surface of the anode and form dendrites."

-- Juran Noh, study author

It took some experimentation, but the carbon nanotube anodes with an optimum quantity of the binding molecules prevented the formation of dendrites. In addition, a vast quantity of lithium ions could bind and spread along the scaffold's surface, thereby boosting the battery's ability to produce large, sustained currents. Noh said that their top-performing anodes handle currents five times more than commercially-available lithium batteries.  

"Building lithium metal anodes that are safe and have long lifetimes has been a scientific challenge for many decades," said Noh. "The anodes we have developed overcome these hurdles and are an important, initial step toward commercial applications of lithium metal batteries."

Source: Texas A&M

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