New battery technology

By Reginald, 26 December, 2021
New battery technology

The year 2021 marked a significant milestone in the evolution of battery technology, a field that is increasingly becoming the cornerstone of our digital and environmentally conscious society. From powering our smartphones and laptops to driving the revolution in electric vehicles and renewable energy storage, the importance of efficient, reliable, and fast-charging batteries cannot be overstated. This year, we witnessed a series of groundbreaking advancements that promise to reshape our approach to energy storage and management.

One of the most notable developments came from the University of Twente, where researchers engineered an anode from nickel niobate. This material, characterized by its open and regular crystal structure, facilitates rapid ion transport, enabling batteries to charge up to ten times faster than the current lithium-ion variants. This innovation not only speeds up charging times but also opens the door to more compact and lightweight batteries, a crucial factor for both consumer electronics and electric vehicles.

In a remarkable feat of scientific ingenuity, a team at Stanford University tackled the issue of 'dead' lithium in batteries. During the charging and discharging cycles, some lithium ions fail to make the return journey, leading to reduced efficiency and potential safety hazards. The Stanford team's solution involves reactivating this inactive lithium, thereby extending the battery's lifespan by an impressive 30%. This breakthrough is particularly significant for the development of batteries that charge faster and last longer, a critical consideration for the future of electric vehicles and portable electronics.

Harvard material scientists introduced a novel concept in battery design, drawing inspiration from the structure of a BLT sandwich. This lithium-metal battery uses solid electrolytes instead of liquid ones, effectively managing the growth of dendrites, which are known to degrade battery performance and safety. The sandwich-style battery not only demonstrates remarkable durability, retaining 82% of its capacity after 10,000 cycles, but also shows potential for rapid charging, potentially enabling electric vehicles to recharge in a mere 20 minutes.

Nature often holds the key to technological innovation, as evidenced by another breakthrough involving cellulose nanofibrils derived from wood. These natural polymer tubes, combined with copper, create a solid ion conductor that significantly enhances ion transport efficiency. This development addresses some of the key stability challenges in lithium-metal batteries and paves the way for more robust and efficient battery designs.

Stanford University researchers also revisited an old battery design, the alkali metal-chlorine battery, known for its high energy density but limited by its single-use nature. By developing a novel electrode material made of porous carbon, they successfully stabilized the reactive chlorine, enabling these batteries to be recharged, potentially up to 200 times. This innovation could significantly increase the energy density of rechargeable batteries, a crucial factor for both consumer electronics and larger-scale energy storage applications.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory focused on enhancing the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) of lithium-metal batteries. By employing ultra-thin lithium strips as anodes, they achieved a battery that maintains 76% of its capacity over 600 cycles, with an energy density of 350 Wh/kg. This advancement is a significant step forward in improving the longevity and efficiency of batteries.

Lastly, a unique semi-solid electrode made of sodium-potassium alloys was developed, resembling the material used by dentists for fillings. This flexible material prevents the formation of cracks and dendrites, allowing for higher current densities and faster charging rates. This innovation could be a game-changer in the development of solid-state batteries, known for their safety and efficiency.

The advancements made in 2021 in battery technology are not just incremental improvements but represent transformative steps that could redefine how we store and use energy. These breakthroughs promise faster charging times, longer battery life, and improved safety and stability, impacting everything from our daily use of electronics to the broader adoption of renewable energy sources. As research and innovation continue in this field, the future of battery technology appears more promising than ever, poised to play a pivotal role in our transition to a more sustainable and technologically advanced society.