Saturday, June 15, 2024

Safer, Powerful Lithium-Metal Batteries

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The discovery by scientists from the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA has the potential to revolutionize lithium-metal batteries, making them safer and more powerful.

Mobile phone catches fire while charging. (© VisualProduction - stock.adobe.com)
Mobile phone catches fire while charging. (© VisualProduction – stock.adobe.com)

Scientists from the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA have discovered that might lead to safer and more powerful lithium-metal batteries, which have twice the energy capacity of the lithium-ion batteries commonly used in smartphones and electric vehicles. Although lithium-metal batteries, the predecessors of lithium-ion ones, have yet to be widely adopted due to a higher risk of combustion, this new development could mitigate that risk and make them more viable.

In contrast to a typical lithium-ion battery that stores charged lithium atoms in a carbon-coated electrode, a lithium-metal battery employs an electrode coated with metallic lithium, capable of storing up to 10 times more lithium for improved performance but also carrying higher risks. During the lithium coating process in batteries, microscopic filaments with protruding spikes often form, posing a threat of dangerous short circuits if these spikes intersect within the battery.

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The team have observed that when corrosion during lithium application is prevented, the lithium forms a 12-sided shape called a rhombic dodecahedron, similar to dice used in games like Dungeons and Dragons.

Establishing the organized lithium accumulation pattern could reduce the risk of intersections and potential explosions, providing a safer option than current lithium-metal battery designs. The researchers are now exploring the implications of their findings for future battery technology advancements.

To attain their outcomes, the researchers have devised an innovative approach to accelerate lithium deposition, surpassing the usual corrosion rate. This accomplishment was made possible by employing a smaller electrode to expedite the flow of electricity.

The team successfully examined lithium morphology using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). This high-resolution imaging technique captures intricate atomic-level images by passing electrons through frozen specimens. This breakthrough can potentially revolutionize the battery industry, offering the prospect of safer and more efficient batteries in the coming years.

Nidhi Agarwal
Nidhi Agarwal
Nidhi Agarwal is a journalist at EFY. She is an Electronics and Communication Engineer with over five years of academic experience. Her expertise lies in working with development boards and IoT cloud. She enjoys writing as it enables her to share her knowledge and insights related to electronics, with like-minded techies.

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