Lithium-related discovery could extend battery life and improve safety

Lithium-related discovery could extend battery life and improve safety
Dendrite mitigation for lithium batteries. Credit: Arizona State Unviersity

Lithium-metal batteries are among the most promising candidates for high-density energy storage technology in an expanding range of digital "smart" devices and electrical vehicles, but uncontrolled lithium dendrite growth, which results in poor recharging capability and safety hazards, currently tempers their potential.

Dendrites are needle-like growths that appear on the surface of , which is used as the anode, or negative electrode, of a battery. They induce unwanted side reactions that reduce energy density, and at worst, cause shorting of the electrodes that can lead to fires or explosions.

New research from Arizona State University that involves using a 3-dimensional layer of Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), or silicone, as the substrate of has been found to mitigate and stands to both dramatically extend battery life and diminish safety risks.

According to Hanqing Jiang, a professor in Arizona State University's School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy and a lead researcher on a paper published in Nature Energy, the findings have relevance for both -ion and lithium-air batteries, as well as implications for other metal-anode-based batteries.

"Almost all metals used as battery anodes tend to develop dendrites," explained Jiang. "For example, these findings have implications for zinc, sodium and aluminum batteries as well."

Jiang said he and the research team, rather than approaching the problem from a materials or electrochemical perspective, looked for solutions as mechanical engineers. "We already know that tiny tin needles or whiskers can protrude out of tin surfaces under stress, so by analogy we looked at the possibility of stress as a factor in lithium growth."

The first round of research involved adding a layer of PDMS to the bottom of battery anode. "There were remarkable reductions in dendrite growth," said Jiang. The researchers discovered that this is directly related to the fact that stress accumulated inside the lithium metal is relieved by the deformation of the PDMS substrate in the form of "wrinkles."

"This is the first time convincing evidence shows that residual stress plays a key role in the initiation of lithium dendrites," said Jiang.

In addition to obtaining a fundamental understanding of the lithium dendrite growth mechanism, Jiang's group also came up with a smart way to utilize the phenomenon to extend the life of lithium-metal batteries while maintaining their high energy density. The solution is to give PDMS substrate a three-dimensional form with a lot of surface. "Envision sugar cubes that contain a lot of small internal pores," explained Jiang. "Inside these cubes, the PDMS forms a continuous network as the substrate, covered by a thin copper layer to conduct electrons. Finally, lithium fills the pores. The PDMS, which serves as a porous, sponge-like layer, relieves the stress and effectively inhibits dendrite growth."

"By synergistically combing with other lithium dendrite suppression methods such as new electrolyte additives, the finding has broad implications for making lithium-metal batteries a safe, high-density, long-term energy storage solution," said Professor Ming Tang, a research team member at Rice University. "Potential applications range from personal electronic devices to powering electric cars for exceptionally longer periods to being the back-up electric supply for solar power grids."


Explore further

Testing lithium battery limitations may improve safety and lifetimes

More information: Xu Wang et al. Stress-driven lithium dendrite growth mechanism and dendrite mitigation by electroplating on soft substrates, Nature Energy (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41560-018-0104-5
Provided by Arizona State University
Citation: Lithium-related discovery could extend battery life and improve safety (2018, March 6) retrieved 10 December 2018 from https://techxplore.com/news/2018-03-lithium-related-discovery-battery-life-safety.html
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Mar 06, 2018
Unfortunately the low abundance of lithium in concentrated easily accessible bodies of ore have serious issues for lithium battery costs in the long term. On the other hand, applications of the this research on other much more earth abundant ion batteries( sodium and manganese being good examples) to prevent dendrite growth will certainly benefit from this important result.

Mar 06, 2018
There is plenty of lithium in the world. https://www.bloom...-future/

We probably wont need to be thinking in terms of hundreds of years - as there are many alternatives currently being researched - hard to imagine one of them won't replace lithium within a hundred years...

Mar 06, 2018
Lithium is also a reusable. I don't really get what the problem is. Once market saturation has been reached only losses during recycling have to be covered.
...and as noted by green: lithium ion batteies are far from the only player around.

Mar 07, 2018
riight if i had a dollar for every battery advancement announced to no avail over the decades i'd be a millionare today.

Mar 07, 2018
"Lithium-metal batteries are among the most promising candidates for high-density energy storage technology in an expanding range of digital "smart" devices and electrical vehicles,..."

Among? What else is in production? But, Alt-Batts are a good subject to get research money.

Mar 07, 2018
"There is plenty of lithium in the world."


The question is about accessibility and cost. There's plenty of fish in the sea, but you still need to build the boat.

"Once market saturation has been reached only losses during recycling have to be covered."


We're a long long way from market saturation. Current global lithium producing capacities are on the order of 1/1,000 and worse compared to the potential demand.

Mar 07, 2018
Current global lithium producing capacities are on the order of 1/1,000 and worse compared to the potential demand
And as demand increases - prices will increase - and new supplies will be brought on line. If we are unable to meet the demand - price will spike - and we will continue with gassers, or look to fuel cells, or develop other battery chemistry. You are making up problems again...

Mar 08, 2018
"And as demand increases - prices will increase - and new supplies will be brought on line."


Yeah, but you also hit on the major issue: prices will increase and demand will drop. You can't just assume that demand increases, unless we make a law about it that everyone must buy lithium batteries no matter the price.

" You are making up problems again..."


It's not a made up problem to point out that lithium availability is hampering the adoption of lithium batteries for broad number of uses like electric cars and grid energy storage. Consider that today the price of batteries is the main reason why we aren't driving around in electric cars all over the place. Then consider that rapidly increasing supply would put the prices up from today's levels.

Chicken and egg, demand and supply, which comes first if neither exists?

The point is to point out that simply saying "There's plenty of lithium in the world" doesn't mean anything.

Mar 08, 2018
It's a slow and tedious process to kick up an entire new type of economy based around new materials and new supply chains.

For example, the modern petroleum industry started around 1847 when someone discovered how to distill lamp oil from it. The volume of oil production increased very rapidly at first because it was starting literally from nothing, but then hit a plateau such that between 1860 and 1900 it only grew by a factor of 100x over 40 years, even as the extraction technology and techniques were getting cheaper and the demand was going up, and everybody could sell just as much as they could produce.

Then, with the development of deep drilling and the discovery of the major oil fields, the cost of oil crashed and production and demand went up like a rocket.

But is there a similiar future for lithium? As far as we know, all the cheap sources are already being exploited and increasing production would put the production costs up, not down as was the case with oil.

Mar 08, 2018
Eikka
The point is to point out that simply saying "There's plenty of lithium in the world" doesn't mean anything.
Which is why I supported my assertion with a link. Unlike you Eikka - I don't just make up numbers.

But is there a similiar future for lithium?
We shall see. You are like Will Ward - always howling at the moon - always saying why it can't happen. Let's wait and see. The experts like Musk seem pretty comfortable that there is sufficient Lithium in the world to get us to the next technology - what ever that may be. One of the beauties of getting off fossil fuels is that we lose our dependence on one massive energy source - and competition kicks in as we are able to diversify.

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