One of the greatest limitations of lithium-ion, or for that matter any other metal-based battery, regardless of how perfectly it is made, is the inevitable formation of dendrites. Scientists from Cornell University, however, claim that in a space of no longer than three years, the world can have batteries that last 25 times longer, and the secret is hidden in a pinch of added salt.
Dendrites are small crystals that form on the surface of the anodes as the battery goes through its charge-recharge cycles. These formations increase the chances of short circuits and cause a rapid drop in charging. To date, scientists have tried different means to prevent dendrites from forming, however the success has been very minimal.
Fortunately, a study that recently made its way to the pages of Nature Materials, reveals a method that can boost battery life incredibly by preventing dendrites from forming. You know how adding salt to meat, fish and dairy products makes them last longer? Well, the team of scientists behind the discovery shows that salt can do the same to any type of metal-based batteries too.
The team led by Prof Lynden Archer looked for a special type of coating for anodes that can correct for the small imperfections caused during the deposition of the anode material, in order to eliminate the conditions that cause dendrite formation. The guys opted for halide salt, which when added to the electrolyte resulted in the formation of a nanostructured coating on the anode, boosting the life cycle of the battery.
The results were incredible. If a normal lithium-ion battery gives in to dendrites after around 65 hours of continuous charging and discharging, with the new coating, this same energy storage device could easily go on for about 1,800 hours. The team also believes that if a nanoporous separator is used, then it is likely that the battery can go indefinitely.
Prof. Archer sees great potential in their invention, simply because there is no need of modification of the existing technology. It can be applied directly as a reinforcement onto any metal-based battery, therefore making the technology viable in a space of about a year. If not as an additive, then the team could be ready with a perfectly usable new product within three years.
The team is currently looking for funding in order to be able to optimize the use of sulfur and oxygen conversion cathodes, and bring up the development to a full large-scale manufacturing.
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