A ‘breakthrough’ in rechargeable batteries for electronic devices and electric vehicles

February 26, 2015

A micrograph that shows the porous structure of the nanoboxes used in the new battery cathode material (credit: Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology)

Researchers from Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of A*STAR and Quebec’s IREQ (Hydro-Québec’s research institute) have synthesized a new material that they say could more than double the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries, allowing for longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and mobile devices.

The new material for battery cathodes (the + battery pole) in based on a “lithium orthosilicate-related” compound,  Li2MnSiO4, combining lithium, manganese, silicon and oxygen, which the researchers found superior to conventional phosphate-based cathodes. They report an high initial charging capacity of 335 mAh/g (milliAmpere-hours per gram) in the journal Nano Energy.

“IBN researchers have successfully achieved simultaneous control of the phase purity and nanostructure of Li2MnSiO4 for the first time,” said Professor Jackie Y. Ying, IBN Executive Director. “This novel synthetic approach would allow us to move closer to attaining the ultrahigh theoretical capacity of silicate-based cathodes for battery applications.”

The researchers plan to further enhance their new cathode materials to create high-capacity lithium-ion batteries for commercialization.

Meanwhile, there’s Tesla Motors, which plans to develop the “Tesla home battery, or consumer battery, that will be for use in people’s houses or businesses” — apparently to store excess energy generated by solar cells — Elon Musk revealed in a March 11 investors conference call. “We have the design done and it should start going into production probably in about six months or so.”

Tesla Motors is currently constructing the “Tesla Gigafactory,” the first massive lithium-ion battery manufacturing and reprocessing facility, in Nevada. It could churn out a total of 35 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery packs per year, Transport Evolved reports.

Abstract of Synthesis of phase-pure Li2MnSiO4@C porous nanoboxes for high-capacity Li-ion battery cathodes

Li2MnSiO4@C porous nanoboxes have been synthesized via a wet-chemistry associated solid-state reaction method. The uniqueness of this material is the hollow nanostructure with a well-crystalline porous shell composed of phase-pure Li2MnSiO4 nanocrystals, which has not been reported previously. As evidenced by powder X-ray diffraction patterns and transmission electron microscopy images, the high phase purity and porous nanobox architecture were achieved via monodispersed MnCO3@SiO2 core–shell nanocubes with controlled shell thickness. Nanocomposite of Li2MnSiO4@C and reduced graphene oxide nanosheets demonstrated excellent performance as high-capacity cathode materials for Li-ion batteries.