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July 30, 2014

Researchers claim lithium anode breakthrough can triple battery life of gadgets

The breakthrough has been detailed in the Nature Nanotechnology journal.

By CBR Staff Writer

Researchers from Stanford University have achieved a breakthrough in the development of a lithium anode battery, which is said to triple the battery life of gadgets.

In a paper published in the Nature Nanotechnology journal, the researchers claimed that an anode of pure lithium could be used to boost to battery efficiency.

According to the scientists the recent discovery focused on high-capacity electrode materials such as lithium metal, silicon and tin as anodes, and sulphur and oxygen as cathodes.

Though it could be a better choice as an anode material for its highest specific capacity, it is considered to have potential as an anode material.

Lithium anode is also said to form dendritic and mossy metal deposits, which raises safety concerns.

Stanford professor of materials science and engineering and leader of the research team, Yi Cui, said: "Of all the materials that one might use in an anode, lithium has the greatest potential. Some call it the Holy Grail.

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"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."

But engineers have long tried and failed to reach this Holy Grail, Cui added.

Doctoral researcher in Cui’s lab and first author of the paper, Guangyuan Zheng said: "Lithium has major challenges that have made its use in anodes difficult.

"Many engineers had given up the search, but we found a way to protect the lithium from the problems that have plagued it for so long."

Stanford professor and research team member, Steven Chu, said: "In practical terms, if we can triple the energy density and simultaneously decrease the cost four-fold, that would be very exciting."

"We would have a cell phone with triple the battery life and an electric vehicle with a 300-mile range that cost $25,000 – and with better performance than an internal combustion engine car getting 40 mpg."

In order to address the formation of hair-like or mossy growths, called dendrites and overheating, scientists created a protective layer of interconnected carbon domes on top of their lithium anode which is called as nanospheres.

The protective layers resemble like honeycomb, which offers a flexible, uniform and non-reactive film that protects the unstable lithium.

Carbon nanosphere wall is just 20 nanometers thick and would require 5,000 layers stacked one atop another to match the width of human hair.

"The ideal protective layer for a lithium metal anode needs to be chemically stable to protect against the chemical reactions with the electrolyte and mechanically strong to withstand the expansion of the lithium during charge," said Cui.

The breakthrough is claimed to be useful for handheld gadgets, phones and electric cars.

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