Crystal clues to better batteries

Feb 19, 2007
Crystal clues to better batteries
Crystals of sodium cobaltate grown at the Clarendon Laboratory. Credit: Stuart Bebb, Oxford University’s Department of Physics.

Longer-lasting laptop and mobile phone batteries could be a step closer thanks to research by scientists at the University of Oxford.

Researchers from Oxford’s Department of Physics are part of an international team investigating sodium cobaltate: a material similar in structure to the lithium cobaltate used in rechargeable batteries for many electronic devices.

In a recent Nature paper the team describe the patterning of ions in sodium cobaltate– observations that are helping to unlock the secrets of how ions move around inside the electrodes of lithium-based batteries. Their findings could lead to improvements in battery design.

Vital to their success were the very high quality single crystals of sodium cobaltate grown by Dr D Prabhakaran in the Clarendon Laboratory. ‘The hardest part was learning how to control the concentration of sodium in the crystals,’ Dr Prabhakaran said. ‘I achieved this by using a special type of floating-zone furnace that allows the growth of crystals in a high-pressure atmosphere and reduces the evaporation of sodium.’ These samples were then bombarded with neutrons to reveal how the sodium ions were arranged.

Professor Andrew Boothroyd, a member of the Oxford team, said: ‘If you want to engineer new materials with improved properties you need to know how they work. Knowing the forces which drive the sodium ion ordering we can start to understand how the ions move through the structure and explain many of the observed electrical and magnetic properties of this fascinating material – such as a superconducting phase that only develops after you immerse it in water.’

Source: Oxford University

Explore further: Organic photovoltaic cells of the future: Charge formation efficiency used to screen materials

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The ABC's of animal speech: Not so random after all

55 minutes ago

The calls of many animals, from whales to wolves, might contain more language-like structure than previously thought, according to study that raises new questions about the evolutionary origins of human language.

New type of solar concentrator desn't block the view

10 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a new type of solar concentrator that when placed over a window creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through ...

Cities, states face off on municipal broadband

10 hours ago

Wilson, N.C., determined nearly a decade ago that high-speed Internet access would be essential to the community's social and economic health in the 21st century, just as electricity, water and sewers were in the previous ...

Recommended for you

Water window imaging opportunity

4 hours ago

Ever heard of the water window? It consists of radiations in the 3.3 to 4.4 nanometre range, which are not absorbed by the water in biological tissues. New theoretical findings show that it is possible to ...

User comments : 0