Asphalt helps lithium batteries charge faster

October 2, 2017 by Mike Williams
Asphalt helps lithium batteries charge faster
Scanning electron microscope images show an anode of asphalt, graphene nanoribbons and lithium at left and the same material without lithium at right. The material was developed at Rice University and shows promise for high-capacity lithium batteries that charge 20 times faster than commercial lithium-ion batteries. Credit: Tour Group

A touch of asphalt may be the secret to high-capacity lithium metal batteries that charge 10 to 20 times faster than commercial lithium-ion batteries, according to Rice University scientists.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour developed anodes comprising porous made from that showed exceptional stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles. A high-current of 20 milliamps per square centimeter demonstrated the material's promise for use in rapid charge and discharge devices that require high-power density. The finding is reported in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.

"The capacity of these batteries is enormous, but what is equally remarkable is that we can bring them from zero charge to full charge in five minutes, rather than the typical two hours or more needed with other batteries," Tour said.

The Tour lab previously used a derivative of asphalt—specifically, untreated gilsonite, the same type used for the battery—to capture greenhouse gases from natural gas. This time, the researchers mixed asphalt with conductive graphene nanoribbons and coated the composite with through electrochemical deposition.

The lab combined the anode with a sulfurized-carbon cathode to make full batteries for testing. The batteries showed a high-power density of 1,322 watts per kilogram and high-energy density of 943 watt-hours per kilogram.

Testing revealed another significant benefit: The carbon mitigated the formation of dendrites. These mossy deposits invade a battery's electrolyte. If they extend far enough, they short-circuit the anode and cathode and can cause the battery to fail, catch fire or explode. But the asphalt-derived carbon prevents any dendrite formation.

An earlier project by the lab found that an of graphene and carbon nanotubes also prevented the formation of dendrites. Tour said the new composite is simpler.

"While the capacity between the former and this new battery is similar, approaching the theoretical limit of lithium metal, the new asphalt-derived carbon can take up more lithium metal per unit area, and it is much simpler and cheaper to make," he said. "There is no step, no e-beam deposition step and no need to grow nanotubes from graphene, so manufacturing is greatly simplified."

Explore further: Graphene-nanotube hybrid boosts lithium metal batteries

More information: Tuo Wang et al. Ultrafast Charging High Capacity Asphalt-Lithium Metal Batteries, ACS Nano (2017). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b05874

Related Stories

Graphene-nanotube hybrid boosts lithium metal batteries

May 18, 2017

Rice University scientists have created a rechargeable lithium metal battery with three times the capacity of commercial lithium-ion batteries by resolving something that has long stumped researchers: the dendrite problem.

Recommended for you

Borophene shines alone as 2-D plasmonic material

November 20, 2017

An atom-thick film of boron could be the first pure two-dimensional material able to emit visible and near-infrared light by activating its plasmons, according to Rice University scientists.

14 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

EyeNStein
not rated yet Oct 02, 2017
Sounds like someone will get rich licencing this patent!
An excellent piece of work: With the specific energy of lithium metal but with a huge charging surface area and no dendrites.
Great for hover taxis (if they carry a anti-lithium metal fire extinguisher)
skystare
not rated yet Oct 02, 2017
946 watt hrs/ kg implies a battery weight 3 to 4 times the weight of a full gasoline tank for the same energy at the wheels (piston engine @ 25% and electric @ 90% efficiency), for same range as a gasoline car. 500 charge cycles offers around a 10 year life (equivalent to a tank per week), and 5 minutes to recharge is what it takes to fill a car now.
All very promising.
Eikka
not rated yet Oct 02, 2017
946 watt hrs/ kg implies a battery weight 3 to 4 times the weight of a full gasoline tank for the same energy


It's significantly better than today's 20 times the weight.

5 minutes to recharge is what it takes to fill a car now.


The technical limitation to recharging an electric car is not first and foremost in the batteries, but in the delivery grid - 5 minutes to recharge a battery so large is such a massive amount of power that it's both unfeasible and unsafe where feasible.
david_king
not rated yet Oct 02, 2017
I don't see why we couldn't come up with a system to hot-swap batteries in cars and trucks. After all when your gas grill runs out of fuel you don't have to buy a new cylinder or wait for the gas delivery truck to pump up the old one, you just exchange it for a full one. Battery maintenance could be calculated into the cost and car manufacturers could standardize the capacities according to your actual daily needs. No point carrying around an extra 500 pounds of batteries if you only have a short commute every day but handy to have that extra range on a long trip. As batteries become better over time we'd all benefit regardless of how old our cars were. The older, lower capacity batteries could retire gracefully as fixed grid workhorses until they need to be recycled.
24volts
not rated yet Oct 02, 2017
Skystare, 500 charge cycles is not a 10 year life but less than 2 years. Most people will charge it back up every day because they won't want to have to worry about running out of juice if some emergency, etc...happened and each of those times counts as a cycle. If they can get 3-5000 cycles then they will have something reasonable useful for the average consumer. Nobody is going to want to buy an expensive new car battery every couple of years except possibly the government or military. Otherwise it sounds very promising to me too.

24volts
not rated yet Oct 02, 2017
Hot swaps sound like a good idea and is really but it would be very difficult to actually get the plan to work. Think about it
1 All car companies would have to design cars where the battery could be easily and quickly removed and replaced from the rear of the car because it will take a forklift to move one.
That 's about like herding cats.....

2 Any swap station would have to be on the main power lines and literally have it's own substation to be able to charge a small warehouse full of batteries Getting any electric company to install one would probably run close to $250 thousand or more.

3. Having to buy enough batteries to actually keep enough in stock fully charged is going to cost BIG bucks.
It would probably cost close to a million dollars to even open a charge shop with all the various expenses involved. Not too many small time business folks have that kind of money to invest. The only way it would happen is if some major RICH corporation was pushing it.
greenonions1
not rated yet Oct 03, 2017
The average U.S. commute is around 15 miles each way - https://www.rita....tire.pdf Europeans doing significantly less than we do - https://www.cityl.../406840/ That would give you 150 miles for commuting - and maybe another 50 miles for around town. That average fits very closely with my pattern, and also my wife's. A 250 mile battery - would mean that 500 charges would get us well over 10 years of use. The data is coming in currently on the Tesla's - and they are holding up well - looking at minimal degradation after 100,000 miles. If these batteries increase the energy density, and allow fast charging - I would have no problem charging on the weekend - knowing that if an emergency did come up - I could fast charge. Each improvement in batteries/charging - means the cars will work for more and more people.
rrrander
not rated yet Oct 04, 2017
Tar, huh? Now those lithium batteries will burn even better. Incendiaries AND napalm!!
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Oct 04, 2017
The average U.S. commute is around 15 miles each way - https://www.rita....tire.pdf Europeans doing significantly less than we do - https://www.cityl.../406840/ That would give you 150 miles for commuting - and maybe another 50 miles for around town.

For a similar discussion elsewhere I pulled some stats from the german ministry for statistics:

Average yearly distance travelled for a car: 14000km
Average trip length for daily commute (one way): 25km

At 220 workdays a year this comes out to 11000km for commute alone. Which leaves just 3000km (average) for other stuff. If you factor in trips for going out and shopping it's easy to see that the '1000km+' trip requirement some people tout is a pure fantasy for the overwhelming majority of drivers.

BTW.: The above article does not say that the asphalt based battery will only get you 500 charge/discharge cycles.
24volts
not rated yet Oct 04, 2017
"The Rice lab of chemist James Tour developed anodes comprising porous carbon made from asphalt that showed exceptional stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles."

A_P, Yea, that's about all they tested it too so far. When they say it can go for a few thousand I'll be interested.

Greenonion, Yea, the average is about 15 but many put more than that. My wife averages close to a hundred miles a day commuting and you can believe it would get charged every day.
I put over that on my electric assist bike and it also gets charged every day.
. MANY people in the US drive far more than 15 miles a day.
greenonions1
not rated yet Oct 04, 2017
MANY people in the US drive far more than 15 miles a day
And so for many - an electric car is not yet viable. But things are changing. Gen one cars had a range of around 80 miles. For many that was sufficient. Current cars are around 200 to 250 - which will catch a lot more people. Fast charging is another step forward. Developments are coming every day. Toshiba's recent announcement is particularly interesting -https://electrek....harging/
When they say it can go for a few thousand I'll be interested.
Toshiba is claiming to have a prototype - that kept 90% of it's power - after 5,000 cycles. 2019 is not far away - so we should know pretty quickly if this is really as good as it sounds.
24volts
not rated yet Oct 04, 2017
Sounds good. I hope they can get it to the market.
dustywells
1 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2017
Will it scale?
Eikka
not rated yet Oct 11, 2017
. MANY people in the US drive far more than 15 miles a day.


It's the averages fallacy. Everybody drives more than 15 miles a day - the question is simply how often. With electric cars and lack of quick charging options on the road, nearly every driver has to skip some of their journeys.

Even the short-driving Germans couldn't make a holiday road trip up to Lapland on a Tesla S because they'd get stuck at some fjord in the middle of nowhere with no charge, so they'd have to pay extra to rent a proper car for the trip, and that may cost them thousands of euros extra. More likely, they'd have to skip the trip.

The question then becomes, how much utility you are willing to lose and how much are you willing to pay for it. You can't reach 100% utility with batteries as compared to liquid fuels, so naturally you wouldn't want to pay 100% the price either. There's no real tipping point where a larger battery would push it over - it just doesn't work as well.

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.