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Improving the Performance of Lithium Metal Batteries

UNIST

Researchers from UNIST have designed a new technology that should dramatically improve the performance of lithium metal batteries. Scientists believe this technology could help usher in the next generation of rechargeable batteries. Their study confirms enhanced battery performance through real-time in situ observation of cycling between charge and discharge.

Lithium metal batteries rely on lithium as an anode. Lithium has proven to have the lowest driving voltage out of various different cathode materials. It also has the lowest driving voltage and can claim roughly 10 times more capacity than traditional graphite anodes. As such, lithium has become a top contender as the potential anode material in the next generation of electric vehicles and large scale energy storage systems.

Unfortunately, lithium metal anode has struggled to be successfully integrated in commercial cells. Lithium metal has a habit of growing into dendritic structures as it charges and discharges. This can negatively impact the performance of the battery, as the dendritic structure can pierce the battery separator and trigger internal short circuits.

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Researchers have determined that there is a way to suppress these dendritic structures. Scientists coated the lithium foil with a lithium silicide layer. The results displayed superior electrochemical performances regarding rate capability and cycle stability.

An additional in situ optical microscopic study was carried out during the course of the research as well. Scientists monitored the electrochemical deposition of lithium in the lithium silicide modified electrodes, as well the bare lithium electrode. It was determined that a far more uniform lithium dissolution/deposition could be achieved with the modified lithium anode as opposed to the traditional bare model.

“Our study provides the direct observation on the electrochemical behavior, volume expansion, as well as the lithium dendrite growth of lithium metal anodes. Applying this in real battery will also help contribute to the commercialization of lithium metal batteries.”

Professor Hyun-Wook Lee in the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST in collaboration with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) in Singapore

Further research into this technology will allow scientists to streamline and improve upon the design of lithium metal batteries. Researchers believe that this work will help to provide consumers with more powerful, durable, and effective batteries that are also safe and rechargeable.

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