A research paper published in Sunday's online edition of Nature Nanotechnology could signal the beginning of a revolution in battery technology. The paper, "Interconnected Hollow Carbon Nanospheres for Stable Lithium Metal Anodes," was published by a team of researchers from Stanford University that have been working on developing an anode made of pure lithium.
A pure lithium anode has been referred to as the "holy grail of battery science." The discovery could lead to longer-lasting cell phones and electric cars capable of traveling longer distances.
The Lithium Standard
All batteries have three basic components: an electrolyte, which sits between a negatively charged anode and a positively charged cathode. Current battery technology works by allowing positively charged ions to collect on an anode made of materials such as silicon or graphite. In existing lithium-ion batteries, lithium is present in the electrolyte as the source of electrons, which are discharged by the anode and received by the cathode.
An anode of pure lithium would be the ideal design and result in an enormous boost in efficiency.
"Of all the materials that one might use in an anode, lithium has the greatest potential. Some call it the Holy Grail," said Yi Cui, a Stanford University professor of Material Science and Engineering and leader of the research team. "It is very lightweight and it has the highest energy density. You get more power per volume and weight, leading to lighter, smaller batteries with more power."
However, a pure lithium anode has so far been impossible to build due to challenges presented by lithium's physical properties. Like all anode materials, lithium ions expand as they gather during charging. But lithium's expansion is "virtually infinite" compared with the expansion experienced by other materials. That expansion causes cracks and pits to form on its outer surface, allowing the lithium ions to escape and form structures known as dendrites on the surface of the anode. The dendrites then short circuit the battery and shorten its life.
To overcome those limitations, researchers built a protective layer of interconnected carbon domes that sits on top of the lithium anode surface, dubbed "nanospheres" by the researchers. The coating resembles a honeycomb that is flexible, uniform and chemically unreactive, protecting the anode from chemical reactions with the electrolyte.
Cheaper, Longer, Better
The development represents an enormous step forward toward commercialization, according to the researchers. In practical terms, the discovery could yield enormous cost savings for electronics devices in which the battery usually represents the majority of the cost and weight. (continued...)
Posted: 2014-07-30 @ 10:39am PT
Amazing. This could and probably will change everything.
Posted: 2014-07-29 @ 6:48pm PT
One can be pretty sure that the Stanford office in research and patents already knows about this, before the article got released. I'd guess the paperwork is already in existence. Musk's people probably know already.
Posted: 2014-07-28 @ 10:24pm PT
How are the rights to build these new batteries going to be handled. Who will be the licencees?
Posted: 2014-07-28 @ 9:23pm PT
How can I invest some federal reserve notes into this technology or should I go ahead and purchase BITCOINS?