Better chemistry – better batteries

Finding better battery technology for use in both vehicles and for home storage is an important area of research in the quest for more sustainable energy use.

The next generation of rechargeable lithium batteries set to disrupt the electric vehicle industry may soon be here, thanks to the humble salt bath.

CSIRO scientists, in collaboration with RMIT University and Queensland University of Technology (QUT), have demonstrated that pre-treating a battery’s lithium metal electrodes with an electrolyte salt solution extends the battery life and increases performance and safety.

The simple method is set to accelerate the development of next-gen energy storage solutions and overcome the issue of ‘battery range anxiety’ that is currently a barrier in the electric car industry. The technology is claimed to have the potential to improve electric vehicle drive range and battery charge to a point where electric vehicles will soon be competitive with traditional petrol vehicles.

CSIRO battery researcher Dr Adam Best said the pre-treated lithium metal electrodes could potentially outperform other batteries currently on the market.

“Our research has shown by pre-treating lithium metal electrodes, we can create batteries with charge efficiency that greatly exceeds standard lithium batteries,” Dr Best said.

The pre-treatment process involves the immersion of lithium metal electrodes in an electrolyte bath containing a mixture of ionic liquids and lithium salts, prior to a battery being assembled.

Ionic liquids, or room temperature molten salts, are a unique class of materials that are clear, colourless, odourless solutions and are non-flammable. When used in batteries, these materials can prevent the risk of fire and explosion, a known rechargeable battery issue.

The salt bath pre-treatment adds a protective film onto the surface of the electrode that helps stabilise the battery when in operation.

“The pre-treatment reduces the breakdown of electrolytes during operation, which is what determines the battery’s increased performance and lifetime,” Dr Best said.

You can read the original article at Nature Communications.

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