By Kristen Mally Dean
Recharging batteries in electronic devices – as large as electric vehicles or as small as mobile phones – has become as daily an activity as filling the dishwasher. The lithium-ion batteries that primarily power these devices are lightweight and cost-effective to produce. However, they are inherently flammable, which raises concerns about their safety and reliability as power and mains conservation requirements continue to grow.
Applied research by the US Department of Energy (DIE) The Argonne National Laboratory suggests that replacement of lithium-ion batteries with better technology may be possible faster than expected.
Lithium-ion batteries still require a liquid or gel to allow the battery to charge and discharge; therefore, older batteries sometimes leak with age. A new, safer generation of batteries is not dependent on liquids or gels. Instead, these solid-state batteries use a very thin, solid film to keep charge-generating parts (cathodes and anodes) separate and enable charging and discharging of the battery.
Chemists from across the lab have been making discoveries in the basic science behind solid-state batteries for years. Then researchers at Argonnes Materials Engineering Research Facility (MERF) scale these discoveries and bring them closer to the market.
“Solid-state batteries can store more energy, are safer and take up less space, ”says Jessica Durham, from Argonne’s Applied Materials division, who works with materials researcher Albert Lipson to produce innovative solids for replacing liquid materials in batteries.“Manufacturing processes and technologies we develop MERF has specific advantages — faster processing, pressure-free sintering, large-scale uniformity, and higher density — compared to those currently in use. ”
“Solid-state batteries can store more energy, are safer and take up less space. ”- Jessica Durham, materials researcher
The value of speed and uniformity for battery production is straightforward, and higher density improves how long a battery can be used. Improving the sintering process is the key to unlocking all of these benefits.
Sintering can be the bridge to better batteries
Sintering involves heating a powder material until it slowly forms into a solid material without holes or pores. This process is important in solid-state batteries because the thin material separating the cathode and anode must be strong enough and dense enough to withstand handling during manufacture, assembly, and operation. It must also deliver high performance; that is, the battery must enable fast charging, conduct electricity well and last a long time.
By improving the sintering process, Argonne’s researchers can also allow the replacement of the graphite material normally used today with lithium metal. This replacement doubles the energy density of the battery, which means that a battery of the same size can store twice as much energy.
Argonne puts science to work
Testing and improving processes and technologies that create these solid battery materials on a meaningful industrial scale and at lower cost are MERFis a specialty. Currently, it does not produce solid-state batteries that are competitive with traditional lithium-ion batteries.
“In order for new materials to be adopted by industry, the processes for their production must be cost-competitive compared to what is currently being done, and the materials must have significant advantages over material in the current market, ”Durham explained.“By MERF, we develop cost-effective processes for the production of new materials by replacing expensive components, lowering energy consumption, reducing waste and improving treatment conditions without compromising the performance of the material. Do this research on MERF allows Argonne researchers to leverage risk technologies and give the industry a clear, scaled process. ”
Argonne is one of the US national laboratories working on scaling solid state electrolyte materials to batteries. It does so as part of its ongoing push to scale complex materials and chemical processes that are critical to U.S. competitiveness in industrial manufacturing. That 28,000-square foot MERF has been instrumental in helping Argonne advance this effort with a proven track record of using the latest technologies to help companies create new, advanced materials for advanced applications.
“Argonne is an important partner for the industry because we can help them risk new technologies or materials, ”said Durham.“Risking these for the industry will allow them to commercialize products faster, which will save them valuable time and money. This is how scientists from Argonne put science to work. ”
Battery research in Argonne is often partly funded by DIEOffice for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Vehicle Technologies Office. For more information, contact Jessica Durham.
EERE‘s mission is to accelerate research, development, demonstration and implementation of technologies and solutions to reasonably transfer America to zero-zero greenhouse gas emissions on financial coverage by. 2050, and ensure that the clean energy economy benefits all Americans, creating well-paying jobs for the American people – especially workers and communities affected by the energy transition and those historically subordinated to the energy system and polluted.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne, conducts groundbreaking basic and applied scientific research in virtually all scientific disciplines. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state, and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership, and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is led by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
US Department of Energy Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to solve some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information visit https: // ener gy .gov / sc ience.
Article courtesy of US Department of Energy (DIE) Argonne National Laboratory.
Image courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.
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