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The process of developing better rechargeable batteries may be cloudy, but there's an alumina lining.
A slim layer of the metal oxide applied to common cathodes by engineers at Rice University's Brown School of Engineering revealed new phenomena that could lead to batteries that are better geared toward electric cars and more robust off-grid energy storage.
Study - Chemical - Society - ACS - Applied
The study in the American Chemical Society's ACS Applied Energy Materials describes a previously unknown mechanism by which lithium gets trapped in batteries, thus limiting the number of times it can be charged and discharged at full power.
But that characteristic does not dampen hopes that in some situations, such batteries could be just right.
Rice - Lab - Chemical - Engineer - Sibani
The Rice lab of chemical and biomolecular engineer Sibani Lisa Biswal found a sweet spot in the batteries that, by not maxing out their storage capacity, could provide steady and stable cycling for applications that need it.
Biswal said conventional lithium-ion batteries utilize graphite-based anodes that have a capacity of less than 400 milliamp hours per gram (mAh/g), but silicon anodes have potentially 10 times that capacity. That comes with a downside: Silicon expands as it alloys with lithium, stressing the anode. By making the silicon porous and limiting its capacity to 1,000 mAh/g, the team's test batteries provided stable cycling with still-excellent capacity.
Capacity - Lot - Stress - Material - Strategy
"Maximum capacity puts a lot of stress on the material, so this is a strategy to get capacity without the same degree of stress," Biswal said. "1,000 milliamp hours per gram is still a big...
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