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Nanotechnology based batteries for improved energy and power density, cyclability and safety

A battery is an electrochemical device that stores electrical energy as chemical energy in its anode and cathode during the charging process, and when needed, releases the energy as electrical output during the discharge. An ideal battery is expected to have high specific energy, high power density, long cycle life, excellent abuse tolerance and low cost.


Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries have been workhorse of the consumer electronics market including portable electronics, implantable devices, power tools, and hybrid/full electric vehicles (EVs) due to their ability to store large amounts of energy per unit weight and per unit volume, low self-discharge rate, long cycle life. They are also relatively maintenance-free and contain fewer toxic chemicals than other batteries.


“Nanotechnology-enabled batteries are fabricated batteries that employ technology at the nanoscale. Owing to the nanotechnology, the batteries provide additional power from the battery and require minimum time to charge the batteries. In these batteries, the electrode is coated with nanoparticles.”


Batteries are also critical for military missions since mission success and soldiers’ lives often depend directly on a military battery’s performance. The expected improvements in energy density may enable advances in directed energy weapons, increase the loiter time of unmanned vehicles, lead to more effective sensors, and reduce the size and weight of manportable systems.


We’re on the verge of a power revolution with plethora of battery discoveries coming into commercial domain soon. Tech companies and car manufacturers are pumping money into battery development.  Nanotechnology is also being employed for many promising batteries including Gold nanowire batteries, Silicon nanoparticles, Silicon and Germanium Nanowire, and Graphene batteries. When it comes to designing and fabricating electrode materials, nanotechnology-based approaches have demonstrated numerous benefits for improved energy and power density, cyclability and safety.


International security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin will be working with Elcora Advanced Materials to develop graphene-enhanced lithium-ion batteries. The Companies stated that Elcora’s graphene can “help the Li-ion batteries increase their storage of power without adding further cost”. Lockheed Martin mentioned that these batteries are being sought after for prolonging the lifespan of power charged in a wide range of devices, from the ubiquitous smartphones to electric cars. Lockheed will also be using them in the military vehicles that will be guided by their Autonomous Mobility Applique Systems (AMAS), or the ‘driverless military convoy’. Lockheed Martin is looking forward to completing the tests and fast-forwarding to deploying them for actual use in military campaigns


However, Nanoparticles can prove difficult to pack tightly together, limiting the amount of energy they can store per unit volume. They can also result in more unwanted chemical reactions with electrolytes compared with regular electrode materials, so such batteries do not last as long. Moreover, nanoparticles can also prove complex and expensive to make. Therefore there is need to develop efficient manufacturing processes, enhance durability and safety and reduce the costs before consumers start using these non-traditional batteries. Research firm IDTechEx estimates that advanced and post-lithium-ion battery technologies will achieve a market value of $14bn in 2026, comprising about 10 per cent of the entire battery market.

Nanotechnology based batteries

Nanotechnology can increase the size and surface of batteries electrodes, the rods inside the batteries that absorb the energy. It does so by effectively making the electrodes sponge-like, so that they can absorb more energy during charging and ultimately increasing the energy storage capacity. Prague-based company HE3DA has developed such a technology by using the nanotechnology to move from the current flat electrodes to make them three dimensional. With prototypes undergoing successful testing, it hopes to have the battery on the market at the end of this year.


“In the future, this will be the mainstream,” said Jan Prochazka, the president. He said it would be targeted at high-intensity industries like automobiles and the energy sector, rather than mobile phones, because that is where it can make the biggest difference through its use of his bigger electrodes. In combination with an internal cooling system the batteries, which are being tested now, should be safe from overheating or exploding, a major concern with existing technologies. Researchers at the University of Michigan and MIT have likewise focused on nanotechnology to improve the existing lithium-ion technology.

Graphene car batteries

Inefficient charging and a limited battery life has been the main problems which have restricted the development of e-bikes as well as other e-vehicles. The Wuxi-based battery developer Jiangsu NESC Science and Technology Company claims to have developed  Graphene-Polymer technology based battery for electric vehicles is able to handle fast charging in less than 15 minutes (800 seconds).


Recently, bike-eu.com reported that “Graphene-lithium is highly needed technology which is to revolutionize batteries including the ones for e-bikes. The addition of Graphene nano-technology to Lithium batteries brings unprecedented properties as the carbon atoms in Graphene are superconductive.”


Fisker has betrothed his new electric automobile will have a range surpassing 400 miles — that would be huge, deliberation the longest operation now belongs to a high-end chronicle of the Model S, that gets 315 miles on a singular charge. Rather than operative with required lithium-ion batteries, Fisker is turning to graphene supercapacitors. Graphene is a thinnest element on Earth and strongest material famous to man.


Graphene batteries are the future. “Graphene shows a higher electron mobility, meaning that electrons can move faster through it. This will, e.g. charge a battery much faster,” Lucia Gauchia, an assistant professor of energy storage system at Michigan Technological University, told Business Insider. “Graphene is also lighter and it can present a higher active surface, so that more charge can be stored.


“The reason we are not using it yet, even though the material is not a new one, is that there is no mass production for it yet that can show reasonable cost and scalability,” Gauchia explained. But Fisker told Business Insider that his battery division, Fisker Nanotech, is patenting a appurtenance that he claims can produce as many as 1,000 kilograms of graphene during a cost of usually 10 cents a gram.


“The plea with regulating graphene in a supercapacitor in the past has been that we don’t have a same firmness and ability to store as many energy,” Jack Kavanaugh, a conduct of Fisker Nanotech, said. “Well we have solved that emanate with record we are operative on.” Kavanaugh pronounced altering a structure of a graphene has allowed them to urge a supercapacitor’s appetite density, though didn’t elaborate serve since a record is “unique and proprietary.” He combined a obvious for a appurtenance is pending.


Graphenano company has developed a new battery, called Grabat, that could offer electric cars a driving range of up to 500 miles on a charge. The batteries can be charged to full in just a few minutes; it charges and discharges 33 times faster than lithium ion. The capacity of the 2.3V Grabat is huge with around 1000 Wh/kg which compares to lithium ion’s current 180 Wh/kg.


Indian startup Log 9 uses graphene to make metal-air batteries commercially affordable for electric vehicles as well as for stationary applications such as power backup products like inverters. According to Log 9, the car runs on electricity produced by an electrochemical reaction. The addition of a graphene rod along the metal plate generates electricity with water as it is a base for the chemical reaction. The electricity produced is then channelled into the electric motor. In terms of performance, Log 9 claims its metal-air battery provides a mileage of 1,000 km on a single charge and costs half as much as a lithium-ion battery.


Samsung hails ‘graphene ball’ battery success

In 2016, South Korean giant Samsung  called for complete re haul of its latest flagship device- Galaxy Note 7 after consumers around the globe reported their handsets exploding and causing damages.One of the main causes of catching fire appears to continuous increase in energy density of Lithium-ion battery units driven by increased user requirements including full HD, large processing requirements of multi-core CPUs and increasing desire to produce sleeker design.


Recently, a team of researchers at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) developed a “graphene* ball,” a unique battery material that enables a 45% increase in capacity, and five times faster charging speeds than standard lithium-ion batteries. The breakthrough provides promise for the next generation secondary battery market, particularly related to mobile devices and electric vehicles.


In its research, SAIT sought for an approach to apply graphene, a material with high strength and conductivity to batteries, and discovered a mechanism to mass synthesize graphene into a 3D form like popcorn using affordable silica (SiO2). This “graphene ball” was utilized for both the anode protective layer and cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries. This ensured an increase of charging capacity, decrease of charging time as well as stable temperatures. In theory, a battery based on the “graphene ball” material requires only 12 minutes to fully charge. Additionally, the battery can maintain a highly stable 60 degree Celsius temperature, with stable battery temperatures particularly key for electric vehicles.


Gold nanowire batteries, the batteries that last a LIFETIME

A standard lithium-ion battery used in most smartphones is expected to have between 300 to 500 charge cycles in it before it starts to lose a sizeable chunk of capacity.The system designed by doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai can be cycled hundreds of thousands of times without wearing out, which could lead to a battery that never needs to be replaced.

Researchers replaced traditional lithium by gold nanowires which are thousands of times thinner than a human hair, have extremely high conductivity and surface area, making them ideal for the transfer and storage of electrons.

Nanowires, pose a great possibility for future batteries, but they become brittle after multiple charge cycles, resulting in tiny cracks that spread inside the battery. The team at UCI avoided that problem by coating gold nanowires in manganese dioxide, with a total thickness of just 300 nm. These were then encased in a gel called polymethyl-methacrylate (PMMA). The performance of these batteries declined only 5% after recharging over 200,000 times in three months. This could be ideal for future electric cars, spacecraft and phones that will never need new batteries


Silicon nanoparticles could power lithium-ion batteries with 10 times more capacity

Silicon shows promise for building much higher-capacity batteries because it’s abundant and can absorb much more lithium than the graphite used in current lithium ion batteries. The problem is that silicon is prone to fracturing and breaking after numerous charge-and-discharge cycles, because it expands and contracts as it absorbs and releases lithium ions. Existing research shows that shaping silicon into nano-scale particles, wires or tubes helps prevent it from breaking. What Buriak, fellow U of A chemist Jonathan Veinot and their team wanted to know was what size these structures needed to be to maximize the benefits of silicon while minimizing the drawbacks.


University of Alberta chemists have taken a critical step toward creating a new generation of silicon-based lithium ion batteries with 10 times the charge capacity of current cells (Chemistry of Materials, “Size and Surface Effects of Silicon Nanocrystals in Graphene Aerogel Composite Anodes for Lithium Ion Batteries”).


The researchers examined silicon nanoparticles of four different sizes, evenly dispersed within highly conductive graphene aerogels, made of carbon with nanoscopic pores, to compensate for silicon’s low conductivity. They found that the smallest particles—just three billionths of a metre in diameter—showed the best long-term stability after many charging and discharging cycles.


“As the particles get smaller, we found they are better able to manage the strain that occurs as the silicon ‘breathes’ upon alloying and dealloying with lithium, upon cycling,” explained Buriak. The research has potential applications in “anything that relies upon energy storage using a battery,” said Veinot, who is the director of the ATUMS graduate student training program that partially supported the research. “Imagine a car having the same size battery as a Tesla that could travel 10 times farther or you charge 10 times less frequently, or the battery is 10 times lighter.” Veinot said the next steps are to develop a faster, less expensive way to create silicon.


Silicon and Germanium Nanowire

Researchers have turned to using silicon nanowire and germanium nanowire anodes due to their advantages like efficient electron transport and larger surface area that further increases the battery’s power density, allowing for fast charging and current delivery.


Researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have developed a silicon anode for lithium-ion batteries that outperforms current materials and gets around previous issues. A research team led by professors Mihri and Cengiz Ozkan now developed an electrode consisting of sponge-like silicon nanofibers having several structural advancements at the nanometer scale that help with the minimization of undesired large volume expansion as observed in other standard Si materials,”


Research at University of California, Los Angeles, has shown that growing a SiO2 layer on silicon nanowires (SiNW) can improve cycle life to 400 cycles at a capacity of 2400 mAh/g. Canonical announced on July 22, 2013, that its Ubuntu Edge smartphone would contain a silicon-anode lithium-ion battery. Amprius currently makes silicon nanowires in a small-scale batch process using chemical vapor deposition (CVD), a process borrowed from the semiconductor industry.


A research team at the University of Limerick, Ireland, restructured germanium using nanowires to create a porous material that remains stable during charging. The anodes were claimed to retain capacities of 900 mAh/g after 1100 cycles, even at discharge rates of 20–100C. This performance was attributed to a restructuring of the nanowires that occurs within the first 100 cycles to form a mechanically robust, continuously porous network.


In 2014, researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology developed a simple way to produce nanowires of germanium from an aqueous solution. They modified the electrochemical liquid-liquid-solid process (ec-LLS), an electrodeposition process designed by a group of researchers at the University of Michigan, in order to grow nanowires of germanium using liquid metal electrodes at room temperature. Their one-step approach could lead to a simpler, less expensive way to grow germanium nanowires.







About Rajesh Uppal

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