Science 3 min read

New Coating Brings Scientists Closer to Creating Lithium Metal Batteries

A new research brings lightweight, safe, and long-lasting lithium metal batteries closer to reality, an innovation that could power next-gen electric cars.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Since they were introduced in the early 1990s, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries have enjoyed increasing popularity due to their relatively high energy density and low maintenance.

But long before this battery technology became a thing, research was first focussed on lithium metal batteries. However, because of lithium metal’s inherent instability, safety concerns led scientists to focus more on its non-metallic cousins that use lithium ions.

While research on lithium metal battery took a back seat, its advantages over lithium-ion are still undeniable.

Lithium metal storages can provide more energy density for weight, at least a third power per pound. They’re also lightweight because the anode is made from lithium, a much lighter metal than graphite.

Lithium Metal Batteries Get a New Coating

Li-ion batteries are known for their fragility because of dendrites, an issue that’s even more problematic with lithium metal batteries.

Dendrites are crystal-like material that forms over time and grow through the film separating the battery’s cathode and anode. This lithium metal build-up can pierce the protective film and create a short circuit between the battery’s two ends, potentially causing the battery to catch fire.

But now, a research team from Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory might have found the solution to that problem.

The team invented a protective coating that significantly increases Li metal batteries’ life and limits the growth of dendrite structures.

Using commercially available components, the researchers coated the anodes with their newly-developed film and created a fully operational battery.

Even after 160 recharge cycles, the battery still could hold 85% of the power it delivered in the first cycle. By comparison, most existing lithium-ion batteries only yield 30% of power under the same conditions.

“The capacity of conventional lithium-ion batteries has been developed almost as far as it can go,” said Stanford Ph.D. student David Mackanic, co-lead author of the study. “So, it’s crucial to develop new kinds of batteries to fulfill the aggressive energy density requirements of modern electronic devices.”

The Stanford and SLAC team think their new coating will enable lithium metal batteries to overcome some of their significant defects, promising more developments in the future. Next, the team will work more on the coating design to increase capacity retention and test batteries over more charge cycles.

Computers, phones, and other consumer electronics would benefit from lightweight, stable, and long-lasting lithium metal batteries. But that will be only the start for this technology.

Electric vehicles are on the lookout for such battery technology that would increase their range.

“While use in electric vehicles may be the ultimate goal. commercialization would likely start with consumer electronics to demonstrate the battery’s safety first,” said the researchers.

Read More: Energy Breakthrough: Researchers Develop Lithium Sulphur Batteries

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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