Research paves way for larger, safer Li-ion batteries

Researchers in the US have made an advance towards safer, larger lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries that are five to 10 times more powerful than current versions.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory team developed a solid electrolyte by manipulating a material called lithium thiophosphate, so that it could conduct ions 1,000 times faster than its natural bulk form. They then used a chemical process called nanostructuring to alter the structure of the crystals that make up the material. "Think about it in terms of a big crystal of quartz vs. very fine beach sand," said researcher Adam Rondinone. "You can have the same total volume of material, but it's broken up into very small particles that are packed together. "It's made of the same atoms in roughly the same proportions, but at the nanoscale the structure is different. And now this solid material conducts lithium ions at a much greater rate than the original large crystal." The researchers are continuing to test lab scale battery cells and have filed a patent on their invention.