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Novel material enables simpler, more efficient batteries

Posted: 06 May 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:University of Maryland  solid state  battery  electrode  electrolyte 

The novel material consists of a mix of sulphur, germanium, phosphorus and lithium. This compound is used as the ion-moving electrolyte. At each end, the scientists added carbon to this electrolyte to form electrodes that push the ions back and forth through the electrolyte as the battery charges and discharges. Like a little bit more sugar added at each end of a cookie-cream mixture, the carbon merely helps draw the electricity from side to side through the material.

Novel battery from UMD

UMD engineers made a battery using only one material by sprinkling carbon (red) into each side of a new material (blue) that forms the electrolyte and both electrodes at the ends of the battery.

Though the battery is extremely easy to make, a powder compressed in a plastic and steel cylinder, it is still at the proof-of-concept stage, Han said. "We are still testing how many times it can change and discharge electricity to see if it is a real candidate for manufacturing."

The reason the new battery is revolutionary is because it solves the problem of what happens at the interface between the electrolyte and the electrode. A prolonged interaction between the two can result in a wall of useless material that keeps the batteries from working well. That wall increases the resistance at this solid-electrolyte interface. This in turn increases the heat in the battery, rendering the battery even less useful.

Because Han and Wang's battery is all one material, energy can flow through without a lot of resistance. This means that the battery easily charges up and discharges smoothly.

Sulphide-based compounds are not particularly environmentally friendly materials, Han said. "So next we will try to use oxides, which do not degrade into a poisonous gas," instead. The battery's solid powder is, however, safer than the liquid-based batteries.

The research was done as part of the Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage (NEES) project from the Department of Energy, and is also funded by the National Science Foundation.

The work was published on April 29, 2015 in the journal Advanced Materials.

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