Magnetically stirred electrolyte puts high-density batteries in the mix

Next-generation batteries could take many forms, but one design that scientists have high hopes for involves the use of lithium metal. The excellent energy density of this material could allow batteries to power smartphones for days, and by designing a new electrolyte that can be controlled by an external magnetic field, a South Korean scientist has brought them one step closer to reality. .

A lithium-metal battery is one that would see this material deployed in place of the graphite and copper used in the anode of today’s lithium-ion batteries. This could result in smaller, lighter anodes with much greater energy density, which could see smartphones needing far fewer charges each week or an electric vehicle traveling much farther on each charge.

But one problem researchers continue to encounter is the growth of tentacle-like protrusions on the anode called dendrites, which quickly cause the battery to fail. There’s no shortage of potential solutions to this problem, and now a team from the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology has thrown another brilliant idea into the mix.

Scientists tackled the problem by reinventing the electrolyte solution that transports ions between the anode and the cathode, the other electrode of a battery. They approached this by improving the way ions are transported in this medium, aiming to make the process faster and more homogeneous in order to pinch off any potential dendrites in the bud.

The team added magnetic nanoparticles to the electrolyte solution, which makes it sensitive to a magnetic field and allows it to be agitated to transform the static electrolyte into a dynamic electrolyte. This results in rapid and uniform seeding of lithium nuclei which prevents the formation of dendrites. In a conceptual battery system, the team was able to demonstrate this at high charge rates with a stable cycle.

The illustration depicts a magnetically stirred electrolyte in a conceptual battery system
The illustration depicts a magnetically stirred electrolyte in a conceptual battery system

Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology

Based on these early results, the team believe their technology could be used to dramatically improve the reliability and lifespan of lithium-metal batteries, and note that it may also have the same effect when applied to other electrolytes.

“This is a new concept of electrolyte system that can create a dynamic electrolyte that has never been attempted before and change the paradigm of electrolyte research through magnetic nanoparticles,” said the author. of the study, Professor Lee Hong-kyung. “It can be immediately applied to various electrochemical systems using liquid electrolytes.”

The research was published in the journal Advanced functional materials.

Source: Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology via Techxplore

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