Long battery life– the single most valuable asset you could possess in case of emergency, need, boredom, desperation, etc., etc. Every one of us, who has a laptop, or a smartphone, or any type of an electric vehicle or a simple electronic gadget, knows the painful fact that as time passes, not having to charge your phone for full two days becomes a thing from the past in no time, and you slowly start making a habit out of carrying an extra charger with you.
All this is because of the degradation of the lithium-ion battery that powers your device. A research team from four world-leading scientific institutes, however, might be on the right way to solving this rather painful topic once and for all. Funded by the Department of Energy, the scientists were able to identify the reasons behind the battery degradation, and consequently start looking for solutions.
The team comprised of researchers from Lawrence Berkeley, Brookhaven, SLAC and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and their work was published in Nature Communications -both ingredients that guarantee an incredible discovery. Firstly, the guys focused on finding the reasons for gradual reduction in battery capacity over time. They identified patterns of degradation during charging and discharging of the materials used in both the cathode and the anode.
To be more precise, as the lithium ions move through the cathode, it becomes a subject of the known rock-salt effect, which results in the formation of a capacity reducing electrically-insulating crust along the lithium-ion reaction channels. At the same time, the movement of these same ions through the nickel oxide anode makes tiny breaks in the material, which reduces the capacity further. In addition to this, they found that the materials are eroded in a non-uniform manner, making the entire atomic structure vulnerable to damage.
These findings made the scientists feel extremely encouraged about their upcoming research. Based on their discovery, the team can now safely and confidently proceed to developing coating for cathodes that can resist crystallization. If their research really materializes, it will be a real breakthrough on the market. Imagine if you could only get rid of that bulky charger in your bag, priceless.
Image (c) Brookhaven National Lab