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: Researchers develop scalable methods for manufacturing metamaterials

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sunlight generates hydrogen in new porous silicon

Apr 10, 2014

Porous silicon manufactured in a bottom up procedure using solar energy can be used to generate hydrogen from water, according to a team of Penn State mechanical engineers, who also see applications for batteries, ...

The promise and peril of nanotechnology

Mar 26, 2014

Scientists at Northwestern University have found a way to detect metastatic breast cancer by arranging strands of DNA into spherical shapes and using them to cover a tiny particle of gold, creating a "nano-flare" ...

Lifting the lid on silicon batteries

Feb 04, 2014

(Phys.org) —Resolving the mystery of what happens inside batteries when silicon comes into contact with lithium could accelerate the commercialisation of next-generation high capacity batteries, for use ...

Research and applications of iron oxide nanoparticles

Feb 26, 2014

From the mysteries of producing red colors in traditional Japanese Bizen stoneware to iron-oxidizing bacteria for lithium ion batteries, Professor Jun Takada is at the forefront of research on innovative ...

Recommended for you

Novel technique opens door to better solar cells

Apr 14, 2014

A team of scientists, led by Assistant Professor Andrivo Rusydi from the Department of Physics at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Faculty of Science, has successfully developed a technique to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Could 'Jedi Putter' be the force golfers need?

Putting is arguably the most important skill in golf; in fact, it's been described as a game within a game. Now a team of Rice engineering students has devised a training putter that offers golfers audio, ...

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...