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Pressure Cooker Technology Helps Make Better Lithium Ion Batteries


014-356x267With all the issues that come with current electric car batteries – long charge times, short-range, bulky batteries – evolution is vital for this clean energy to become cost-effective.

Fortunately, researchers at the University of California-Riverside have redesigned the component materials of the batteries themselves as a way to begin solving these major roadblocks.

By creating nonparticles with a controlled shape through solvothermal synthesis (i.e. a pressure cooker of sorts), it is their assertion that smaller, more powerful, and more energy-efficient batteries can be built. This modification of the size and shape of such components also has the potential to reduce charge times.

The findings have been published in the form of an academic paper titled, “Solvothermal Synthesis, Development and Performance of LiFePO4 Nanostructures.” This research was conducted in order to improve the efficiency of Lithium-ion batteries by targeting one of the essential material components of the battery: the cathode.

While Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) is a common type of cathode, its ability is limited by poor conductivity and mobility. What the team did was use synthetic methods (in this case, solvothermal synthetic method) to overcome the drawbacks by controlling particle growth.

They used a mixture of solvents to control the shape, size and crystallinity of the particles then monitored how the lithium iron phosphate was formed. This method allowed the researchers to determine the relationship between the nanostructures they formed and their overall performance in batteries.

The ability to control the size of these nanocrystals within the already “shape-controlled” particles of LiFePO4, was found to have a direct correlation with a larger generation of “power on demand.”

These size and shape modulated particles offer a higher fraction of insertion points and reduced path lengths for Lithium-ion transportation, thus improving battery rates. At this point, the team is looking to use their findings to refine the process, and in doing so, hopefully improving performance, reducing cost, and introducing realistic scalability.

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