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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

DOE awarding $19.4M to 22 advanced vehicle technologies projects; Mercedes-Benz, GM Li-S battery projects

July 12, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $19.4 million to 22 new cost-shared projects to accelerate the research of advanced battery, lightweight materials, engine emission control technologies, and energy efficient mobility systems (EEMS). Among the awardees are Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America and GM, with separate projects on Li-sulfur batteries, as two of the fifteen Phase 1 “Battery Seedling” Projects.

The Battery Seedling projects are aimed at innovative battery materials and approaches that complement the Vehicle Technologies Office Battery500 Consortium’s research to more than double the specific energy (to 500 watt-hours per kilogram) of lithium battery technologies. These projects enable smaller, safer, lighter weight, and less expensive battery packs that ultimately will make electric vehicles more affordable. Promising phase 1 awardees will be competitively down-selected at the end of 18 months for a second phase of research.

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Ricardo develops new model-based EV battery control technology; evaluating new cell chemistries

Ricardo has developed a new Battery Management System (BMS) for EVs that is scalable to a wide range of applications. The new BMS enhances the use of advanced model-based control methods to optimize the performance of both existing and next-generation cell chemistries.

One of the most significant impediments to an increased market share for plug-in vehicles is the high cost of rechargeable energy storage. This can represent a very significant cost element of a typical battery electric vehicle (BEV); manufacturers need to strike a balance between product affordability and available range between recharges. For BEVs to break out of this paradigm it is likely to require the development and refinement of battery technologies based on entirely new, more affordable, and lighter weight cell chemistries than those used in today’s lithium-ion based battery packs.

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Tsinghua team develops bio-inspired self-healing sulfur electrodes; almost no capacity decay after 2000 cycles

June 16, 2017

By mimicking fibrinolysis, a biological self-healing process, researchers at China’s Tsinghua University have developed a self-healing sulfur microparticle (SMiP) cathode. In a paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers report that the SMiP cathode attained an optimized capacity (∼3.7 mAh cm−2), with almost no decay after 2,000 cycles at a high sulfur loading of 5.6 mg(S) cm−2.

The researchers suggest that a comprehensive understanding of this healing process could further guide the design of novel healing agents toward high-performance rechargeable batteries.

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HZB team devises new Ti4O7 cathode material for Lithium-sulfur batteries

May 22, 2017

Researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB), with colleagues from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and University of Potsdam, have fabricated a nanomaterial made from nanoparticles of a titanium oxide compound (Ti4O7) for use as a cathode material in lithium-sulfur batteries. The highly porous nanomaterial features high storage capacity that remains nearly constant over many charging cycles.

The well-defined porous Ti4O7 particles exhibit interconnected pores in the interior and have a high-surface area of 592 m2 g−1. To improve the conductivity of the electrode, the team coated a thin layer of carbon is coated on the Ti4O7 surface without destroying its porous structure. The porous Ti4O7 and carbon-coated Ti4O7 particles show significantly improved electrochemical performances as cathode materials for Li–S batteries as compared with those of TiO2 particles. A paper on the work is published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

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Rice team devises Li metal anode that completely suppresses Li dendrite formation

May 19, 2017

Rice University scientists have used a seamless graphene-carbon nanotube (GCNT) electrode to store lithium metal reversibly and with complete suppression of dendrite formation. The GCNT-Li capacity of 3351 mAh g-1GCNT-Li approaches that of bare Li metal (3861 mAh g-1Li)—indicating the low contributing mass of GCNT—while yielding a practical areal capacity up to 4 mAh cm-2 and cycle stability.

In a paper published in the journal ACS Nano, the team led by Dr. James Tour reports that a full battery based on GCNT-Li/sulfurized carbon (SC) exhibits high energy density (752 Wh kg-1total electrodes, where total electrodes = GCNT-Li + SC + binder), high areal capacity (2 mAh cm-2), cyclability (80% retention at > 500 cycles) and is free of Li polysulfides and dendrites that would cause severe capacity fade.

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Researchers show simple addition of quartz powder to Li-S electrolyte slows capacity loss

May 09, 2017

Materials researchers of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI in Switzerland have, in collaboration with the Université Grenoble Alpes (France), developed a simple method that can improve the performance of lithium-sulfur batteries by 25-30%. In a study published in the journal Nature Energy, the team reported that the additional of silicon dioxide (SiO2, quartz) powder to the liquid electrolyte slows the rapid capacity loss that can plague lithium-sulfur batteries.

The lithium-sulfur battery is considered a promising candidate for future high-energy storage devices. The materials required are inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and readily available, and the battery theoretically can deliver around three times as much energy as today’s widely used lithium-ion battery. In practice, however, there are still several hurdles. For example, the lithium-sulfur battery rapidly loses capacity with repeated charging. Present-day prototypes manage far fewer charging cycles than conventional lithium-ion batteries – and besides that, they deliver only a fraction of the theoretically possible energy.

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Saft team develops first metal hydride - sulfur Li-ion battery

May 05, 2017

Researchers at France-based battery major Saft, along with colleagues at Université Paris Est, have, for the first time, used a nanocomposite metal hydride as the anode in a complete solid-state battery with a sulfur cathode and LiBH4 electrolyte.

The cell shows a high reversible capacity of 910 mAh g−1 with discharge plateaus at 1.8 V and 1.4 V. Capacity remains at 85% of the initial value over the 25 first charge/discharge cycles. A paper on their development is published in the Journal of Power Sources.

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DOE JCESR team significantly improves Li-S performance under lean electrolyte with soft swellable gel

May 02, 2017

Researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Sandia National Laboratories, all members of the DOE’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), have significantly improved the performance of Li-sulfur batteries under lean electrolyte conditions by using a soft PEO10LiTFSI polymer swellable gel as a nanoscale reservoir to trap the polysulfides. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

Li-sulfur batteries are looked to as a likely next-generation higher energy density energy storage system due to the high theoretical capacity, low cost and high earth abundance of sulfur. The system faces barriers to commercialization, however, including degradation of the Li-metal anode, polysulfide dissolution and electrolyte decomposition.

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UC Riverside team develops new coating strategy for Li-metal anodes to prevent dendrite formation

April 18, 2017

A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside has developed an approach to addressing the vexing problem of dendrite formation that hobbles the use of high energy density lithium-metal anodes in advanced recyclable batteries.

The new universal strategy, described in a paper in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials, uses in situ formation of an interfacial coating with methyl viologen to achieve stable cycling of lithium metal anode. After treating the lithium metal layer with 0.5 wt % methyl viologen in the ether electrolyte, a highly uniform, stable, and ionically conductive interfacial coating can be formed on the surface because of the electrochemical reduction. The coating layer can generate better control of the lithium ion flow and suppress the lithium dendrite growth and therefore form a uniform and stable solid electrolyte interphase.

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Yale team develops dendrimer-graphene oxide composite film for improved cycling of Li-sulfur batteries

March 23, 2017

Researchers at Yale University developed an ultrathin functionalized dendrimer–graphene oxide composite film that can be applied to virtually any sulfur cathode in a Li-sulfur (Li-S) battery system to alleviate capacity fading over battery cycling without compromising the energy or power density of the entire battery.

Sulfur electrodes coated with the composite film exhibit very good cycling stability, together with high sulfur content, large areal capacity, and improved power rate. The film design provides a new strategy for confining lithium polysulfides. A paper on their work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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PNNL team finds electrolyte additive enables fast charging, stable cycling Li-metal batteries

March 01, 2017

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have found that adding a small, optimal amount (0.05M) of LiPF6 (lithium hexafluorophosphate) as an additive in LiTFSI–LiBOB dual-salt/carbonate-solvent-based electrolytes significantly enhances the charging capability and cycling stability of Li metal batteries. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Energy.

In the paper, they report that using the additive in a Li metal battery with a 4-V Li-ion cathode at a moderately high loading of 1.75 mAh cm−2 resulted in 97.1% capacity retention after 500 cycles along with very limited increase in electrode overpotential at a charge/discharge current density up to 1.75 mA cm−2. The researchers attributed the fast charging and stable cycling performances to the generation of a robust and conductive solid electrolyte interphase at the Li metal surface and stabilization of the Al cathode current collector.

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Goodenough and UT team report new strategy for all-solid-state Na or Li battery suitable for EVs; plating cathodes

A team of engineers led by John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, has developed a new strategy for a safe, low-cost, all-solid-state rechargeable sodium or lithium battery cell that has the required energy density and cycle life for a battery that powers an all-electric road vehicle. An open-access paper on the work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

The cells use a solid glass electrolyte having a Li+ or Na+ conductivity >10-2 S cm-1 at 25 ˚C with a motional enthalpy ≈ 0.06 eV, which promises to offer acceptable operation at lower temperatures. Using the new glass, the cathode consists of plating the anode alkali-metal (e.g., (lithium, sodium or potassium) on a copper–carbon cathode current collector at a voltage of more than 3.0 V. Replacing a conventional host insertion compound as a cathode by a redox center for plating an alkali-metal cathode provides a safe, low-cost, all-solid-state cell with a large capacity resulting in high energy density and a long cycle life.

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USC team uses mixed conduction membranes to suppress polysulfide shuttle in Li-S batteries

February 17, 2017

One of the major issues hobbling the commercialization of high energy-density lithium-sulfur batteries is the “polysulfide shuttle”—the shuttling of polysulfide ions between the cathode and anode. The polysulfide shuttle is a major technical issue that limits the electrical performance and cycle life of this type of battery. Addressing this polysulfide shuttle—which causes self-discharge, low charging efficiencies, and irreversible capacity losses—has been a major focus of research and development.

Now, in an open-access paper published in the January issue of the Journal of the Electrochemical Society, Sri Narayan and Derek Moy of the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute report a novel approach to the problem. The USC team developed a “mixed conduction membrane” (MCM)—a thin non-porous lithium-ion conducting barrier that simply restricts the soluble polysulfides to the positive electrode.

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Researchers suggest approach for boosting Li-S performance; conversion of Li2S to sulfur without polysulfides

February 06, 2017

Lithium-sulfur batteries are one of the most promising alternatives for next-generation high-energy-density batteries; however, one of the main obstacles to widespread commercialization that still needs to be addressed is the polysulfide shuttle mechanism between the two electrodes. The polysulfide shuttle—the migration of lithium polysulfides formed during charge and discharge from cathode to anode—leads to serious self-discharge, poor efficiency and limited cycle life. (E.g., earlier post.)

Now, an international team of researchers in Europe is suggesting a possible approach to convert Li2S into sulfur without the detectible formation of polysulfides. A paper on their work is published in the Journal of Power Sources.

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Researchers develop robust biopolymer network binder enabling high sulfur loading in Li-S electrodes

December 24, 2016

Researchers from China and Australia have developed a mechanically robust biopolymer network binder that enabled the preparation of high-loading sulfur electrodes to improve the electrochemical performance of Li-sulfur batteries. The binder supported a high-sulfur-loading electrode of 19.8 mg cm-2 with an ultrahigh areal specific capacity of 26.4 mAh cm-2.

The network binder effectively prevented polysulfides within the electrode from shuttling and, consequently, improved electrochemical performance. This study, published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, identifies a new way to obtaining high-energy-density batteries by the simple application of robust network biopolymer binders that are inherently low-cost and environmentally friendly.

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Caltech, CMU researchers measure mechanical properties of Li at small scale; implications for Li metal anode development

December 21, 2016

Likely next-generation battery chemistries such as Li-sulfur or Li-air envision the use of a Li metal anode coupled with an advanced cathode. However, the use of lithium metal anodes in rechargeable batteries has been restricted due to dendrite growth that can cause short-circuits or explosions. Solid-state electrolytes appear to be a promising solution to suppress dendrite growth. However, a lack of knowledge of the mechanical properties of lithium at the very small scale (nano- and micro-) hampers the understanding of the mechanical interactions at the interface of the electrolyte with the Li electrode.

Now, a joint team of researchers from Caltech and Carnegie Mellon University has measured for the first time the strength of lithium metal at the nano- and micro-scale. In a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they report that that Li exhibits a strong size effect at room and elevated temperature. First-principle calculations show a high level of elastic anisotropy (variation of elastic properties with direction of measurement). Based on the results, they suggest rational guidelines for anode/electrolyte selection and operating conditions that will lead to better cycling performance.

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UT Austin team uses polypyrrole-MnO2 coaxial nanotubes as sulfur host to improve performance of Li−sulfur battery

December 05, 2016

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a novel electrode for lithium-sulfur batteries that improves cyclic stability and rate capability significantly. In a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they report using polypyrrole-MnO2 coaxial nanotubes to encapsulate sulfur. MnO2 restrains the shuttle effect of polysulfides greatly through chemisorption and the polypyrrole serves as conductive frameworks.

They report a stable Coulombic efficiency of ∼98.6% and a decay rate of 0.07% per cycle with 500 cycles at 1C-rate with the S/PPy-MnO2 ternary electrodes with 70 wt % sulfur and 5 wt % of MnO2. The ternary electrodes have an initial high rate of 1420 milliampere-hours per gram (mAh/g) at 0.2 C and deliver 985 mAh/g after 200 cycles.

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U-M team uses new technique to provide in-depth understanding of dendrite growth on Li metal anodes

October 19, 2016

A team at the University of Michigan (U-M) has used operando video microscopy to develop a comprehensive understanding of the voltage variations observed during Li metal cycling, which is directly correlated to dendrite growth. Specifically, they observed the evolution of the morphology of the Li electrode through operando high-resolution video capture, and directly correlated the morphology to time synchronized voltage traces.

They then developed a model to relate electrode morphology and competing electrochemical kinetics to cell voltage. This allowed for an in-depth understanding of the electrochemical processes occurring. This work, published in an open-access paper in ACS Central Science, provides a level of detailed understanding that can help researchers take the next steps toward bringing Li metal anodes to commercial reality.

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Sulfur-loaded carbon aerogel as cathode for Li-S battery offers improved cyclic stability

October 10, 2016

Researchers at South China Normal University in Guangzhou have developed a novel composite of sulfur loaded in micropore-rich carbon aerogel (CA-S) for use as a cathode in Li-sulfur batteries.

Compared to sulfur loaded in a common carbon material, acetylene black (AB-S), the CA-S exhibited significantly improved cyclic stability and rate capability. The CA is micropore-rich with micropore volume over 66% of total pore volume. In a paper in the Journal of Power Sources, and team attributed the improved performance of CA-S to the confinement of the micropores in CA to small sulfur allotropes and corresponding lithium sulfides.

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New high-performance foldable cathode for Li-S batteries based on 3D activated carbon fiber matrix

September 28, 2016

A team at Sun Yat-sen University in China has developed new high-performance, stable cathode for Li-S batteries consisting of a 3D activated carbon fiber matrix (ACFC) and sulfur.

The structured 3D foldable sulfur cathode (ACFC-S) delivers a reversible capacity of about 979 mAh g−1 at 0.2C; a capacity retention of 98% after 100 cycles; and 0.02% capacity attenuation per cycle. Even at an areal capacity of 6 mAh cm−2—2 times higher than the values of Li-ion batteries—it still maintains an excellent rate capability and cycling performance. An open access paper on their work is published in Scientific Reports.

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MIT team discovers two mechanisms at work in Li dendrite formation

September 02, 2016

Researchers at MIT have carried out the most detailed analysis yet of lithium dendrite formation from lithium anodes in batteries and have found that there are two entirely different mechanisms at work. While both forms of deposits are composed of lithium filaments, the way they grow depends on the applied current.

Clustered, “mossy” deposits, which form at low rates, turn out to grow from their roots and can be relatively easy to control. More sparse and rapidly advancing “dendritic” projections grow only at their tips. The dendritic type, the researchers say, are harder to deal with and are responsible for most of the problems dendrites cause: degraded performance and short-circuits that damage or disable the battery. Their findings are reported in an open-access paper in the RSC journal Energy and Environmental Science.

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DOE HPC4Mfg program funds 13 projects to advance US manufacturing; welding, Li-S batteries among projects

August 31, 2016

A US Department of Energy (DOE) program designed to spur the use of high performance supercomputers to advance US manufacturing has funded 13 new industry projects for a total of $3.8 million. Among the projects selected are one by GM and EPRI of California to improve welding techniques for automobile manufacturing and power plant builds in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Another one of the 13 projects is led by Sepion Technologies, which will partner with LBNL to make new membranes to increase the lifetime of Li-S batteries for hybrid airplanes.

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Berkeley Lab researchers devise ant-nest-like structure for promising Li-S electrodes

August 11, 2016

Inspired by the structure of ant nests, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have devised a novel Li–S electrode featuring increased sulfur loading and sulfur/inactive-materials ratio to improve life and capacity.

In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the team reports that the efficient capabilities of the ant-nest structure facilitate fast ion transportation, sustain polysulfide dissolution, and assist efficient precipitation. High cycling stability in the Li–S batteries, for practical applications, has been achieved with up to 3 mg·cm–2 sulfur loading. They also achieved Li–S electrodes with up to a 85% sulfur ratio.

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