Charging portable electronics in 10 minutes

June 10, 2014 by Sean Nealon, University of California - Riverside
Mihri and Cengiz Ozkan are both professors in the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside. Credit: UC Riverside

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have developed a three-dimensional, silicon-decorated, cone-shaped carbon-nanotube cluster architecture for lithium ion battery anodes that could enable charging of portable electronics in 10 minutes, instead of hours.

Lithium ion batteries are the of choice for and . But, they present problems. Batteries in electric vehicles are responsible for a significant portion of the vehicle mass. And the size of batteries in limits the trend of down-sizing.

Silicon is a type of anode material that is receiving a lot of attention because its total charge capacity is 10 times higher than commercial graphite based anodes. Consider a packaged battery full-cell. Replacing the commonly used graphite anode with silicon anodes will potentially result in a 63 percent increase of total cell capacity and a battery that is 40 percent lighter and smaller.

In a paper, Silicon Decorated Cone Shaped Carbon Nanotube Clusters for Lithium Ion Battery Anode, recently published in the journal Small, UC Riverside researchers developed a novel structure of three-dimensional silicon decorated cone-shaped carbon nanotube clusters architecture via chemical vapor deposition and inductively coupled plasma treatment.

Lithium ion batteries based on this novel architecture demonstrate a high reversible capacity and excellent cycling stability. The architecture demonstrates excellent electrochemical stability and irreversibility even at high charge and discharge rates, nearly 16 times faster than conventionally used graphite based anodes.

The researchers believe the ultrafast rate of charge and discharge can be attributed to two reasons, said Wei Wang, lead author of the paper.

One, the seamless connection between graphene covered copper foil and carbon nanotubes enhances the active material-current collector contact integrity which facilitates charge and thermal transfer in the electrode system.

Two, the cone-shaped offers small interpenetrating channels for faster electrolyte access into the electrode which may enhance the rate performance.

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5 / 5 (4) Jun 10, 2014
Can they be mass produced?
3.8 / 5 (5) Jun 10, 2014
Sounds really interesting. But "ten times higher" and "16 times faster" and " 63 percent increase..... 40 percent lighter and smaller"....OK...better, faster, higher, lighter...than WHAT???

Those are all wonderful words. So is "pretty" and "beautiful" and "fast". But frankly they don't mean much in the real world
Give us a real baseline number. How many cycles did you go through? How many mAh/g? What voltage range? Can it be mass produced?

I'm glad to see neat things going on, but we have no context for this other than...."neat things are happening".
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 11, 2014
It's pretty simple to understand. Whatever voltage and mA you need, the battery made by their method will be smaller and lighter, than a Lithium Ion battery of the same voltage and mA rating. No figures are necessary, beyond the stated 63% increase in charge capacity and 40% smaller. Do your own math, starting with whatever Lithium Ion battery you have lying around.
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2014
@pntaylor, no, it's not simple at all. You're making a wrong assumption. There is nothing magic about shaping an anode that gets rid of all issues. Every single lithium chemistry has wildly different characteristics and this technique won't even work on all of them. And for the ones where it does help, it could cause other side effects that are not desirable.

As I said, if they have a real solution, then pick one and give us the real numbers. It's not hard to do. Every time I've seen these announcements over the last 15 years, if they don't give numbers then they're either too early to really know, or else they don't have anything and they're trying to impress investors to fund their company (or in this case their research).

Believing a hyped up announcement about battery tech is a fool's errand. I'm a fanatical supporter of electric vehicles and have spent a great deal of time in that industry and working with battery makers. You learn the hard way.

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