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Lithium-ion Battery Problems Solved Using Pomegranate Inspired Design

Image Caption: A novel battery electrode features silicon nanoparticles clustered like pomegranate seeds in a tough carbon rind. (This is an artistic concept, not representative of the actual battery.) Credit: Illustration by Greg Stewart/SLAC

DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

An electrode designed like a pomegranate – with silicon nanoparticles clustered like seeds in a tough carbon rind – overcomes several remaining obstacles to using silicon for a new generation of lithium-ion batteries, say its inventors at Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

“While a couple of challenges remain, this design brings us closer to using silicon anodes in smaller, lighter and more powerful batteries for products like cell phones, tablets and electric cars,” said Yi Cui, an associate professor at Stanford and SLAC who led the research, reported today in Nature Nanotechnology.

“Experiments showed our pomegranate-inspired anode operates at 97 percent capacity even after 1,000 cycles of charging and discharging, which puts it well within the desired range for commercial operation.”

The anode, or negative electrode, is where energy is stored when a battery charges. Silicon anodes could store 10 times more charge than the graphite anodes in today’s rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, but they also have major drawbacks: The brittle silicon swells and falls apart during battery charging, and it reacts with the battery’s electrolyte to form gunk that coats the anode and degrades its performance.

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