Putting the squeeze on batteries (w/ video)

November 22, 2011 by Prachi Patel, Princeton University
Putting the squeeze on batteries (w/ video)
People rely on lithium-ion batteries for every day items, like cellphones and laptops. Engineering professor Craig Arnold is undertaking the task of making the batteries last longer and provide more energy. In a short video he discusses his work on this project. Video stills by Volker Steger

People depend on lithium-ion batteries every day to power cellphones, laptops and other electronic devices, and perhaps one day to run cars. This video shows how Craig Arnold, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University, is working to make those batteries last longer and provide more energy.

Lithium-ion batteries are made up of layers of different materials that are rolled up tightly together. There are three main layers: positive electrode material, negative and a "separator membrane," which keeps the from touching one another when snugly packed.

Professor Craig Arnold is working to make lithium-ion batteries last longer and provide more energy.

Arnold's lab simulates what happens to the separator membrane over years of use. When it is new, the separator membrane has holes much like a sponge. Those holes allow the lithium ions to flow easily, generating power. But as it ages, the sponge-like separator membrane becomes compressed and the holes begin to close, preventing the flow of lithium ions and keeping the current from flowing.

One way to fix this, as Arnold describes in the video, is to prevent the pores from closing by better managing the stress and creating separator materials that can resist these forces.

"Batteries are not just electrochemical devices," says Arnold. "Their can also affect their performance. By better understanding the science of batteries, we can begin to engineer ways to keep the current flowing longer."

Funding for Arnold's research is from the National Science Foundation, Princeton's Carbon Mitigation Initiative and the University's Grand Challenges initiative. Funding for this video is from the High Meadows Foundation Sustainability Fund.

Explore further: New electrodes may provide safer, more powerful lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Virtually modelling the human brain in a computer

April 19, 2018

Neurons that remain active even after the triggering stimulus has been silenced form the basis of short-term memory. The brain uses rhythmically active neurons to combine larger groups of neurons into functional units. Until ...

'Poker face' stripped away by new-age tech

April 14, 2018

Dolby Laboratories chief scientist Poppy Crum tells of a fast-coming time when technology will see right through people no matter how hard they try to hide their feelings.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SteveL
not rated yet Nov 22, 2011
As these seperators are made of polyethylene or polypropylene, I wonder if glass or ceramic cloths have been tried.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.