November 21 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2018 Rating: 2
It’s very hard to build a better battery. The chemistry is just bad. Pulling together the right combination of elements is either expensive, toxic or the ideal performance is short lived. The long view favorite for portable power systems remains micro fuel cells, but until that day arrives it is likely to be lithium ion batteries that dominate the market share for micropower.
Rechargeable lithium ion batteries power everything from cell phones and laptops to digital cameras. But they have failed to keep up with the pace of development in high performance, power hungry consumer electronics. iPhone owners struggle to get through a full day of use without running out of juice. And laptop carrying road warriors scramble inside airports, and geek freelancers position themselves in cafes just to find a plug. But hope for lithium ion batteries may be on the horizon!
Li-ion batteries charge by transporting lithium ions from a positive cathode to a negative anode usually made of carbon (graphite). The energy charge is stored on the anode side of the unit, until needed by the device. Researchers try to expand performance by increasing the amount of energy that can be stored. Switching from carbon to silicon based materials is one path towards better performance.
Materials scientists have been exploring silicon as an anode material but, until now, have been unable to overcome its main barrier: maintaining its structural integrating after repeated charging and discharging.
A solution? Cho’s team of researchers have created a 3D porous silicon material that appears to hold its own and avoids collapsing on itself.
Why is this important to the future of energy?
The demand for clean, affordable micro power will only continue to grow as global demand for portable and off grid devices expands in the years and decades ahead.
Beyond charging our iPhones, micro power systems are a truly disruptive technology and could help bring billions of people online and into the age of electric power long before we can build utility lines that connect massive power plants to wall sockets.
But to arrive at this future we will need to go far beyond mere incremental gains in performance. Cho’s team’s demonstrates the potential for disruptive advances in materials science to change even our most stagnant energy systems (e.g. batteries, coal).
We are more likely to leap into a world of better energy systems, than we are to crawl towards better solutions!
Results published in the Journal Angewandte Chemie