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Rice University team finds asphalt-lithium metal anode enables faster charging, resistance to dendrite formation; Li-S test cell

2 October 2017

Rice University team finds asphalt-lithium metal anode enables faster charging, resistance to dendrite formation; Li-S test cell

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour has developed anodes comprising porous carbon made from asphalt that showed exceptional stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles. A high-current density of 20 milliamps per square centimeter demonstrated the material’s promise for use in rapid charge and discharge devices that require high-power density. The finding is reported in the journal ACS Nano.

In addition, the researchers found that the new anode prevented the formation of lithium dendrites. These mossy deposits invade a battery’s electrolyte. If they extend far enough, they short-circuit the anode and cathode and can cause the battery to fail, catch fire or explode.

The Tour lab previously used a derivative of asphalt—specifically, untreated gilsonite, the same type used for the battery—to capture greenhouse gases from natural gas. This time, the researchers mixed asphalt (Asp) with conductive graphene nanoribbons and coated the composite with lithium metal through electrochemical deposition.

The ultrahigh surface area of >3000 m2/g (by BET, N2) of the porous carbon ensures that Li was deposited on the surface of the Asp particles, as determined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), to form Asp-Li. Graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) were added to enhance the conductivity of the host material at high current densities, to produce Asp-GNR-Li. Asp-GNR-Li has demonstrated remarkable rate performance from 5 A/gLi (1.3C) to 40 A/gLi (10.4C) with coulombic efficiencies >96%. Stable cycling was achieved for more than 500 cycles at 5 A/gLi, and the areal capacity reached up to 9.4 mAh/cm2 at a highest discharging/charging rate of 20 mA/cm2 that was 10× faster than typical LIBs, suggesting use in ultrafast charging systems.

—Wang et al.

The lab combined the anode with a sulfurized-carbon cathode to make full batteries for testing. The batteries showed a high-power density of 1,322 W/kg and high-energy density of 943 Wh/kg.

The capacity of these batteries is enormous, but what is equally remarkable is that we can bring them from zero charge to full charge in five minutes, rather than the typical two hours or more needed with other batteries.

—James Tour

An earlier project by the lab found that an anode of graphene and carbon nanotubes also prevented the formation of dendrites. Tour said the new composite is simpler.

Schematic illustration of the typical lithium dendrites (left) vs the lithium-coated high surface area porous carbon from asphalt (right). The team found that when Asp-GNR is present, its conductivity and high surface area allows Li to be coated on its surface resulting in a smooth surface of Li metal that gives a lower overpotential for both lithiation and .Credit: ACS, Wang et al. Click to enlarge.

While the capacity between the former and this new battery is similar, approaching the theoretical limit of lithium metal, the new asphalt-derived carbon can take up more lithium metal per unit area, and it is much simpler and cheaper to make. There is no chemical vapor deposition step, no e-beam deposition step and no need to grow nanotubes from graphene, so manufacturing is greatly simplified.

—James Tour

Rice graduate student Tuo Wang is lead author of the paper. Co-authors are Rice postdoctoral researcher Rodrigo Villegas Salvatierra, former postdoctoral researcher Almaz Jalilov, now an assistant professor at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and former Rice research scientist Jian Tian, now a professor at Wuhan University, China. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, EMD-Merck and Prince Energy supported the research.


  • Tuo Wang, Rodrigo Villegas Salvatierra, Almaz S. Jalilov, Jian Tian, and James M. Tour (2017) “Ultrafast Charging High Capacity Asphalt-Lithium Metal Batteries” ACS Nano doi: 10.1021/acsnano.7b05874

October 2, 2017 in Batteries, Li-Sulfur | Permalink | Comments (17)


Is this the vastly superior battery that Harvey keeps mentioning?

This may have the potential to become the first very high capacity (5X +) very quick charge (5 minutes), lower cost affordable batteries for extended range BEVs and fixed applications to store excess/surplus REs and regulate grids etc.

Let's mass produce ASAP.

I would buy a 2nd/3rd generation extended range (500/miles) BEV with a 150+ kWh battery pack as soon as ultra quick (5 minutes) charging public utilities are available!

If this one were to pan out (moving from the lab to practical real world considering cost/manufacturing, safety, yada, yada, yada) then it would truly be a game changer.

I believe that once you get over ~250miles of range, the ability to quickly charge becomes more important than trying to further improve the range.

Obviously, both are good, but if you can top it off in 5 minutes...then problem solved: You buy however much capacity YOU need and nothing more.

Harvey can buy his 500 miles and I'll be happy with my 200

Just to reiterate the most incredible fact in the article, the whole battery demonstrated 943 Wh/kg.

That's more than 3x what the 2170s currently coming out of Tesla's Gigafactory can manage. Proof that if we can crack the LiS problems, we're looking at one third the weight of current equivalent batteries or three times the range for much the same cost.

Lo veo demasiado maravilloso para ser cierto una batería de estas daría una autonomía equiparable a un buen diesel y encima con altas tasas de carga y descarga. Este no es un articulo cualquiera tenemos aquí al santo grial de las baterías ni mas ni menos pero.......Veo la ausencia de un gran detalle no hablan de tiempos ni de si tan siquiera tiene alguna posibilidad de ser comercializado aunque sea a alto precio.

Interesting, so an EV running off a battery containing asphalt would be running on petroleum?

A BEV, limited to 200 miles range, is a no go in our adversed weather area.

A good condition 500 miles range could give about 350 miles in bad weather. The same reduction (about 33%) would apply to 200 range units.



Are you physically capable of recognizing that not everyone has the same requirements as you? Just for a minute, can you fake it?


I have the same requirements as Harvey ;)
Though I would be okay with 30 min charging, especially for something that would have that many kwh.

Hopefully this battery turns out... it seems capable so far, and not a bunch of exotic materials either.

so this gets me thinking... if EVs are the new norm lets say in 20-40 years... wouldn't it be prudent now to build out the infrastructure to handle fast charging to nearly every (new) home? I mean if you have a 150+kwh pack, it could take days on single phase.

a pickup might need 300kwh or more, so we better be planning for that future now, rather than making these half measures... I guess that's what frustrates me about this EV future. Its better to plan and overprovision, then to have to rip all of these current "fast chargers" from the ground to place ones that are 10-20x more powerful.

We are spending gobs of money on technology that might last for 5 years before its outdated. I use this example a lot, but a relevant comparison would be the short amount of time we went from SD to SDHC to SDXC... where as other formats didn't have these compatibility issues.

We as a global community need to come up with a solution for plugs on our EVs, we need to guess and say that we will charge at ex. (arbitrary numbers) 100amps at 480v or something like that, but allow up to 150 amps at 1200v or something like that, just build out for the near impossible, that way if its a EV semi, or an EV passenger car we can manage just the same... and we could modulate the power down or up based on the need/vehicle.

I get your exasperation, DaveD. Harvey loves to spec out cars just over the horizon, available someday, just not today. He needs 500 mile range with 5 minute recharge because after driving for 7 hours, he wants to get on the road and drive another 7 hours. That's his requirement, and he's stickin' to it. Until some automaker hits that spec for $30k and then by gum, he's gonna need 10 hours of driving and a two minute recharge time.

I'll grant that Harvey does have some special requirements to meet, like not freezing to death if you get stuck on the side of the road for 30 minutes. Or the charge coupler not freezing in the socket if you leave your car plugged in for longer than it takes a cup of steaming hot coffee to turn into iced coffee while you're still drinking it.

I once almost froze to death just crossing the street in Toronto in December. Those are hardy people up there I'll tell ya. My hosts laughed at my flimsy Southern California ski jacket and lent me a proper coat so I didn't take a place among the marble statuary.

I hear you Harvey. It gets cold up there in the great white north. You need some headroom on your batteries. Somebody will deliver it someday, and maybe the "About" page will come with credits (and royalties no doubt) to Rice University.

Current standard allows 800V (maybe more?), first stations are already build in Europe.

With cheaper and more powerful batteries every house will also get batteries as a buffer, so when you charge the car it will be quick and then the buffer battery will charge at a lot slower rate from the grid. You will also benefit a cheaper electricity when "unpredictable" renewable sources will take larger part of electricity mix.

Also take note that even you have 150 kWh you must charge over night only what you have used during that day and typical daily drives of average person are really very short. For longer trips we will have to rely on fast charging stations.

Well 150kWh charge taking days is a bit of an exaggeration. It is actually 22 hours at 7kW (single phase).

Most of the home storage solutions currently offered are in the range of 3-15kwh per module, and come with a steep premium.

The home uses a lot less electricity than a vehicle would in an instance, you wouldn't get much charge unless you had a closer parity between your car battery and your house battery.

Harvey and several others are looking for a vehicle that would be practical to replace their ICE before they jump into EV. I can't own both at the same time.

I drive a lot, cross country trips for work and leisure, a nice real 500mile range and 30-45min recharge would be acceptable to me. I also fill my gas up before it says zero miles till empty, i don't think i would like to deep discharge a car battery to get that range. 40-80% charge is where lithium likes to be. Lead acid likes 70-100% charge.

I'm in the market for a huge suv, to tow a trailer just over 5000lbs (also looking at one that weighs just under 3000). I'd like a pretty hardy battery, if i were to get an EV one. I think if i were to get an electric version it would have to be hybrid.

Harvey may seem irrational to you guys, but he represents a large demographic. He wants EVs to have parity with ICEs. A seemless replacement if you will. People spend a lot of money on gasoline vehicles right now just to have that freedom.
You basically have deliver a product that people want, or change thier minds to make them want it.

Went from anodes to towing in 6 posts, good focus.

Currently, TESLA is making first generation (300 miles) extended range BEVs with low performance, heavy, costly batteries. A Model S100 at $100K is a move towards the objective.

Second generation extended range BEVs, with near future 2X to 3X batteries, will weight less and go up to 500 miles with 150 kWh to 160 kWh.

At the current battery technology development rate, those BEVs should be available by 2025 or so.

Heavy weight tow e-trucks or large e-pick-ups used to tow 5000 lbs, may need up to 200 kWh or have to recharge more often, every 200/250 miles or so? No recommended for long trips? A small FC to extend range could be a good fix?

Ultra quick charging facilities will follow. Total capacity will surprise many posters.

Asia (mainly China-Japan and So-Korea) will drive the race to electrified vehicles and improved batteries/FC mass production early into the next decade.

Of course, ultra quick charge/refill facilities for BEVs and FCEVs will follow. The cost will be about the same as the total cost of Hurricanes and Tropical storms for a single year or two.

Some of the private residence e-energy requirements could be filled with near future higher performance/lower cost solar panels-batteries and/or FCs? Larger installations could supply enough energy to feed home BEVs/FCEVs?

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