Fast-recharge '3D' lithium-ion battery prototype could be perfect for electric cars

Mar 31, 2011

The next-generation battery, like next-generation TV, may be 3-D, scientists reported here today at the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). They described a new lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, already available in a prototype version, with a three-dimensional interior architecture that could be perfect for the electric cars now appearing in auto dealer showrooms.

The 3-D Li-ion recharges in minutes, rather than hours, and could bring closer the day in which can recharge as quickly as gas-powered vehicles "fill it up" at the pump. The 3-D format could be the basis for more powerful, longer-lasting batteries for scores of other rechargeable electronic devices, scientists said.

Study leader Amy Prieto, Ph.D., said the research team has a 3-D prototype, about the size of a cell phone battery, that takes about 12 minutes to recharge compared to two hours for a conventional . The battery also can be discharged over twice as many times as a conventional lithium ion battery at high discharge rates, she added.

"The time needed to recharge cell phones, laptops and other electronics products certainly can be an occasional nuisance," Prieto noted. "However, it certainly doesn't keep anyone from buying these products. Recharge time may be a much more important factor for electric cars. You make a rest stop on the turnpike, and you want to recharge quickly, just like you fill-it-up at the gas pump. It's going to take a new generation of batteries to do so, and we hope our 3-D battery is poised to be at the forefront. If our battery works to its potential, it could be the ideal battery for an electric car."

Prieto's research at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., is part of a larger scientific quest to improve Li-ion batteries, which already outperform their nickel-cadmium (NiCad) cousins in many ways. Li-ion batteries, for instance, pack twice as much energy per ounce as NiCads; their high cell voltage of 3.6 volts allows battery pack designs with only one cell, and there is no "memory effect" that limits a Li-ion's ability to fully recharge.

Their solution involves a fundamental change in the battery's interior. Conventional Li-ions are composed of graphite, a form of carbon that serves as the anode (negative electrode), a lithium compound that serves as the cathode (positive electrode), and an electrolyte that separates the electrodes. The electrodes are arranged in multiple, thin layers, like a stack of pancakes. Lithium ions (electrically charged particles of lithium) move from the carbon anode through the electrolyte to the lithium cathode during discharge and back when recharging. However, that configuration accounts for the Li-ion's major disadvantages: They tend to recharge slowly, have a limited life (about two years), and require special built-in circuits to prevent overheating.

Preito's team did some reconfiguring in an attempt solve these problems. They replaced the graphite anode with nanowires of copper antimonide, a metallic material composed of copper and antimony. The nanowires, each barely 1/50,000th the width of a single human hair, have an enormous surface area and can store twice as many lithium ions as the same amount of graphite per unit volume. The nanowires also are more chemically stable than graphite and also more heat resistant.

Their prototype 3-D battery is about the size of a cell phone battery. Inside the battery, they arranged the nanowires into a tightly-packed, three-dimensional structure resembling the bristles of a hair brush. For the final configuration, the nanowires will be coated with a thin layer of electrolyte — the material the separates the anode from the cathode — and surrounded with conventional cathode material made of lithium.

Laboratory tests showed that the first prototype (which is not interdigitated yet) could recharge in as little as 12 minutes compared to two hours for a standard lithium-ion phone battery. Prieto said the battery should have a life span over double that of existing lithium ion batteries. Commercial versions of the battery would be thinner and lighter than equivalent Li-ion batteries, because the 3-D version holds more lithium per unit volume.

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User comments : 18

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marksthomas
not rated yet Mar 31, 2011
This is great! Every day we get closer.
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Mar 31, 2011
Energy density?

Usually when they make the batteries faster, they hold less energy.
Lithia
not rated yet Mar 31, 2011
How about Toshiba's SCiB lithium ion battery?
recharge in 10 minutes
6,000 charge-discharge cycles
Moebius
3 / 5 (2) Mar 31, 2011
Wow, guess we can throw away those lousy 2-dimensional batteries we've been using.
xamien
5 / 5 (3) Mar 31, 2011
It's always nice to read about progress here on physorg, but it's gotten to the point where most of the 'good' out of the spectrum of "bad, neutral, good" is stuff that reads like an ad. This one doesn't, thank goodness, but it's a rarity.
Physorg, I want more 'good news' that reads similar to this one: straightforward, neutral presentation, with some data. If I want ads, I'll watch tv.
SteveL
2 / 5 (1) Mar 31, 2011
I can't tell you how many times I've read of phenominal progress in Lithium battery technology over the years and we've seen nothing of it since. I'm getting a bit jaded about such articles, but ever hopeful.

I would also like to have seen more test data in the article.
stealthc
1 / 5 (1) Mar 31, 2011
the nanowire lithium ion battery=what they are talking about here, which co-incidentally was touted as having higher capacity in an article I saw here months ago on the same sort of beast -- using silicon nano-wires. The explanation at the time was that it helped preserve the structure of the cathode.
Sjwolf
2 / 5 (1) Mar 31, 2011
What will be the impact on home solar?
TabulaMentis
2.5 / 5 (2) Mar 31, 2011
Quotes from article:
However, that configuration accounts for the Li-ion's major disadvantages: They tend to recharge slowly, have a limited life (about two years), and require special built-in circuits to prevent overheating.
Prieto said the battery should have a life span over double that of existing lithium ion batteries. Commercial versions of the battery would be thinner and lighter than equivalent Li-ion batteries, because the 3-D version holds more lithium per unit volume.
The improvements are better. However, the batteries will still remain expensive and even more because lithium is not an abundant resource.
NickFun
1 / 5 (3) Mar 31, 2011
PhysOrg devotes a lot of bandwidth to these incredible new energy technologies yet we rarely ever hear more about them. Could the oil companies be involved?
blazingspark
5 / 5 (1) Mar 31, 2011
The improvements are better. However, the batteries will still remain expensive and even more because lithium is not an abundant resource.
Lithium is available in many places. As one of the lighter elements there is lots in the earths crust and our seawater. Acquiring it isn't a problem. It's more that it's energy intensive and difficult to refine and get it back to a pure metal.
techieatwork
3.5 / 5 (2) Mar 31, 2011
"Could the oil companies be involved?" NickFun: You're so naive.

Some of those investors tho, and GE for example, now own large Lithium mines in Chile and other places. They just want to be in the place where they can flick a ticket for every resource extracted / stolen from our common earth (earth is owned by all of us, but expropriated by means of paperwork and laws, for the benefit of a few).
Decimatus
5 / 5 (2) Mar 31, 2011
Everytime you read a story on this site about some great new advancement, add 5-10 years to account for industrialization.

If it doesn't happen in that timeframe, then it did not work out commercially.
dan42day
1 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2011
There was an article a week or two ago about someone else that had gone all "3d" on lithium batteries. They made the same claims of fast recharging, increased capacity and longer life. Their method involved using micro-spheres to cast a metallic structure for the anode.
that_guy
not rated yet Apr 02, 2011
I can't tell you how many times I've read of phenominal progress in Lithium battery technology over the years and we've seen nothing of it since. I'm getting a bit jaded about such articles, but ever hopeful.

I would also like to have seen more test data in the article


Check your smart phone battery. You'll probably see the next greatest thing from 5 years ago that you never heard of again. The breakthroughs make more spash than the implementation for some reason.

Example: My crappy cliq has a lithium polymer battery. That was the next big thing a few years ago. It's already here.
that_guy
not rated yet Apr 02, 2011
What will be the impact on home solar?


Nothing. Using this kind of batter would be a really expensive solution for something that is not a problem for most people. Hook up to the grid, or use regular batteries which are cheaper than li-ion. You don't need a fast charge/discharge ratio for a home battery system, compared with the energy that you needs stored in the first place.
Burnerjack
not rated yet Apr 03, 2011
And, ah, just how will you charge these batteries? The typical residential house at maximum can handle 200 or 100 amp current draw. Charging a battery that fast will draw A LOT OF POWER. To add to this, say there were 4 of these cars on one street... Basement Nukes?
SteveL
not rated yet Apr 05, 2011
@that guy:

Smart phone? If you mean my cell phone, it's 9 years old and barely holds a charge. I could care less about texting, music, video or internet on a phone.

I am the nightmare of consumerism. I need just what I need, and could care less what someone tells me I need.