Changing the size of silicon electrodes during charging and discharging of lithium-ion batteries has been identified as the main reason for decrease in battery performance over time, especially when it comes to high-capacity energy storage, like the one used in electric cars. Scientists from Stanford University, however, developed a polymer material, which has an incredible self-healing property, making batteries last much longer.
Extending the life of lithium-ion batteries and improving their storage capacity has been the main challenge scientists around the world have faced over the past decade. Although innovations in the field emerge almost every day, some of them a bit more far-fetched than others, the ultimate solution to the problem has not been discovered, or at least not until now. Yi Cui, an associate professor at Stanford, and his team, claim to have found the technology, which could change the way batteries work.
The breakthrough finding came to the scientists after series of experiments and tests on the chemical bonds within polymers. By weakening these bonds, the team was able to create a material that breaks easily but also reassembles itself via a naturally occurring chemical reaction. When applied as a coating onto the electrodes, the lifespan of the battery was increased 10 times.
The new technology is still to be improved further. Currently, a coated electrode works perfectly for 100 charge-discharge cycles before there is a significant depletion in storage capacity. As the scientists state, although the capacity of the “improved” battery is within the practical range, they are not stopping here. The ultimate goal is to achieve perfect 500 cycles, characteristic for cell phones, or better, 3,000 cycles for electric vehicles.
Once this is mastered, the team is planning to move on to different electrode materials, however for now they believe there is a lot more work to be done on improving the capacity and lifespan of lithium-ion batteries coated with the current invention.