Novel Anode Materials and Performance Enhancers Drive Battery Material Developments

Feb 04,2020

Battery life extension is still a major area of focus in the technology sector as people have started to use larger numbers of electronic devices as governments increase efforts to bolster adoption of electric automobiles.

Conventional lithium ion battery electrolytes have become dominant in the industry. However, these technologies tend to lose out on power following multiple charging processes, potentially damaging the environment. Such issues have pushed manufacturers and developers to develop novel battery materials, which not only cuts down on the environmental footprint, but also helps in improving battery life and performance parameters to meet the requirements of future applications.

Research on Anode Materials Drives Improvements in Energy Density

Since 2007, researchers have noted a substantial decrease in terms of energy densities of new batteries, following reduced returns from developments involving the performance of battery cathode components. Consequently, research has now turned towards material innovations for battery materials. In recent years, manufacturers have made use of novel materials including lithium and silicon as materials to manufacture anode, as these materials are theoretically capable of holding up to 10 times the number of electrons in comparison to graphite, leading to lithium ion batteries with 20 to 40 per cent higher levels of energy density.

However, materials such as silicon and lithium develop issues of swelling upon prolonged exposure to electricity. The problem is further compounded in the development process of such technologies, owing to intellectual property rights issues. Further, material developers for anodes are aware of the growing potential of the battery materials market, which is expected to reach a value of USD 10 billion by 2025.

One of the more widely used solutions to the swelling problem has been to replace around 10 per cent of anode graphite with silicon oxide or metal, which significantly reduces the risk of swellings. Other manufacturers have taken to developing nanocomposites of nanostructures made from proprietary non-graphite materials and silicon. Such composite materials are developed to be porous, while being sealed in a separate outer layer to eliminate the penetration into composite materials and minimizing potential damage during discharge and charging processes.

Novel Battery Material Combinations Capitalize on Sustainability Trends

According to researchers from the University of Illinois, they have become the first to design batteries with lithium carbon-dioxide materials for operations in a rechargeable manner. The project has managed to develop a prototype, with new materials such as molybdenum disulfide, which will bolster the recycling of carbon and lithium carbonate materials.

This novel battery material combination allows the lithium carbon dioxide battery to be carbon neutral, which enables increased scope of usage with advanced systems of energy storage.

IBM has contributed to the field with the development of a battery which operates on novel components extracted from sea water, while getting rid of conventional heavy metal components. Such a development is expected to have wide spread ramifications owing to an easier solution for sourcing concerns.

The new IBM design makes use of a cathode battery material, which is free of nickel and cobalt, which will support a liquid electrolyte with a higher flashpoint to comply with superior safety standards. The design also reduces the production of lithium metal dendrites during charging to minimize flammability, which is one of the major limitations of conventional lithium anode materials, consequently playing a larger role in the batteries used in electric automobiles.

Carbon Dioxide, Zinc and Manganese Battery Materials

Startups have developed a new battery material, which excludes dangerous materials such as cobalt, and nickel, while generating double the energy density of conventional batteries and weighing up to 60 per cent lesser. The battery has proven itself to be ideal for electric, hydrogen powered trucks, which works in a free standing manner.

Meanwhile, researchers from MIT have claimed the creation of a novel battery material, which is capable of absorbing carbon dioxide from the surrounding air during the charging process, while releasing the gas during the process of getting discharged.

With its capabilities, such technologies and materials are being viewed as a tool to combat climate change, which is expected to become a major factor in driving up the demand in the years ahead. Such battery materials also get rid of the need for thermal energy, while needing only small electrochemical changes to propel such separation in the release cycles of the battery.

Another development in the battery materials industry has come from the University of Adelaide, which made use of an aqueous, incombustible electrolyte in combination with non-toxic versions of manganese and zinc. This type of battery materials are expected to gain traction in the electric automotive sector and also in energy storage applications to meet the demands coming out of the wind and solar power industries. In addition,           the costs associated with such new batteries will be around 30 times lesser than most conventional lithium batteries, which will sustain demand for the foreseeable future.

Advances in Lithium Battery Materials to Remain Lucrative

With the newer materials and designs, lithium ion technologies are expected to reach an energy limit in the next few years. However, the discovery of disruptive active materials will allow additional storage of negative and positive electrodes, which will help in dealing with the scarcity of raw materials for battery production.

Lithium sulfur has rapidly been gaining interest in the battery materials industry. The material makes use of host structures, which results in the consumption of the lithium anode, while the sulfur is changed into different compounds. Such batteries make use of light weight active materials, which generates substantial increases in energy density, which makes it ideal for applications in the space and aviation industries.

Further, batteries which make use of solid state lithium electrolytes are also gaining traction owing to superior safety levels from the lack of flammability which is associated to liquid counterparts, in addition solid electrolytes are also characterized by better shelf life and simple mechanical functioning.

At present lithium ion battery tech allows a very high level of energy density, which enables the operations of fast charging, wider operational temperature range, with superior performance in terms of charging and discharging cycles.