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New Coating Improves Lithium Battery Electrodes

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 11:02AM

Everybody is likely familiar with lithium batteries because they are such a ubiquitous energy storage system. What fewer people may know though is that they are very hard to improve and that one method to do so presents serious issues. Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory however, have recently found out why a specific coating can improve that method's effectiveness.

Normally lithium batteries rely on graphite electrodes to absorb and release the lithium ions, thereby storing and releasing electricity. Silicon electrodes can potentially hold ten times as many lithium ions though, and could allow for batteries with many times the life we have today. The problem is that silicon is so fragile that the swelling it undergoes when taking in the lithium ions breaks the electrodes. Silicon nanoparticles can help, and also offer even better performance, but still suffer the fracturing problem. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and University of Colorado, Boulder have found that a rubber-like coating of aluminum glycerol protects can let the nanoparticle electrodes survive five times longer. Now, thanks to PNNL, we know why.

Uncoated silicon nanoparticles will have an oxide layer on their surface, which restricts their ability to swell, but the aluminum glycerol, or alucone, actually removes that oxide layer is allows for the swelling. The researchers also observed the alucone preventing the nanoparticles from merging, which was another issue that would damage the electrodes.

Source: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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