A team of researchers working with the U.S. Department of Energy has just devised a method for substantially improving the performance of lithium ion batteries.
Researchers working with three different U.S. Department of energy laboratories have made a huge breakthrough. According to a report from Phys.org, a method using lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide, or NMC, could lead to staggering improvements to battery efficiencies, especially in the context of electric vehicles.
According to Marca Doeff, a battery scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the new method outlined in the study has resulted in substantial improvements to today’s batteries. “We made some regular material using this technique, and lo and behold, it performed better than expected,” said Doeff.
The researchers outlined a technique called spray pyrolysis, which substantially reduces surface reactivity, which results in degradation of the battery’s materials.
“We are at a loss to explain this, and none of our conventional material characterization techniques told us what was going on, so we went to SLAC and Brookhaven to use more advanced imaging techniques and found that there was less nickel on the particle surfaces, which is what led to the improvement. High nickel content is associated with greater surface reactivity,” said Doeff.
The study’s results were published in the journal Nature Energy. Surface reactivity has plagued battery researchers for years, posing a problem for the high-voltage cycling needed to meet the energy demand for high-powered devices. Other attempted solutions included using partial titanium as a substitution for cobalt, which only slightly suppresses surface reactivity.
Researchers Dennis Nordlund and Yijin Liu employed x-ray transmission microscopy and spectroscopy to view the new material at a range of tens of nanometers to just 10 microns.
The study could lead to serious improvements in battery performance in the near future. Doeff and colleagues may have rewritten the book on creating high-performance batteries, and spray pyrolysis could prove to be an invaluable manufacturing technique. By decreasing the amount of nickel on the surface of a battery, it can last longer and provide more energy over a greater period of time.
A press release from the DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory regarding the recent breakthrough can be found here.