Researchers show success in making higher capacity batteries safer

12/18/2019

UM-Dearborn researchers are making batteries safer

Schematic illustrations of Li deposition on Li foil and spaced Li nanotubes
Schematic illustrations of Li deposition on Li foil and spaced Li nanotubes
Schematic illustrations of Li deposition on Li foil and spaced Li nanotubes

Batteries and other electrical storage devices play a critical role in modern life, whether they are in advanced electronics or cars.  Lithium ion batteries are the most commonly used kind, but unfortunately not the most powerful.

Lithium metal batteries offer much higher specific capacity but are not as long lasting or safe as lithium ion batteries.  This is related to the fact that lithium metal batteries grow dendrites, which are basically growths of lithium.  These growths can interfere with the performance and safety of lithium metal batteries.

Researchers including Lei Chen, a professor of Mechanical Engineering, his PhD student Karnpiwat Tantratian, and a team of researchers led by Hongli Zhu at Northeastern University have proposed the effective solutions to suppress dendrite formation through uniform surface curvature and space confinement.

Their works have been published in an article titled “Stable Li Metal Anode Enabled by Space Confinement and Uniform Curvature through Lithiophilic Nanotube Arrays” in Advanced Energy Materials.

“Previous studies show Li dendrite growth starts with small perturbations on the metal’s surface, which primarily result from the surface roughness of the anode,” Karnpiwat said. “We tried to solve the root cause of Li dendrite formation by introducing spaced Li nanotube arrays with uniform surface curvature as an anode structure.”

The smooth surface encourages ions to deposit evenly across the surface, preventing dendrite growth.  Chen’s research has been very promising so far, with tests indicating this new structure showing reliable performance.

“We hope the concept of uniform curvature with space confinement will be applied in the future to develop a novel anode structure for Li metal batteries,” Karnpiwat said.

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