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Scientists capture lithium-ion batteries in nanoscale action

(Nanowerk News) The cherished portability of many popular electronics, from smart phones to laptops, mostly comes courtesy of lithium-ion batteries. Unfortunately, these dense and lightweight energy storage devices begin to degrade over time, steadily losing total capacity even when sitting idle on the shelf. Scaling up this promising technology to better power electric vehicles or facilitate grid-scale storage demands battery lifetimes longer than a decade—and fundamental advances in lithium-ion engineering. Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and collaborating institutions have developed methods of examining lithium-ion reactions in real-time with nanoscale (billionths of a meter) precision, offering unprecedented insights into these crucial materials. The technique uses a novel electrochemical cell and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to track lithium reactions and precisely expose subtle changes that occur in batteries’ electrodes over time. The results—published this November in Nature Communications—demonstrate the successful technique and reveal a surprisingly fast lithium conversion process that moves layer-by-layer through individual nanoparticles. charged lithium ions This diagram shows the spread of positively charged lithium ions across the custom-built FeF2 nanoparticle. The conversion reaction sweeps rapidly across the surface before proceeding more slowly in a layer-by-layer fashion through the bulk of the particle.



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