Researchers from Penn State Universities have discovered new ways to make lithium metal batteries to last longer and charge faster, using a 3D cross-linked polymer sponge.
The polymer sponge, when attached to the metal plating of battery anode can improve the safety and life of next generation of lithium metal batteries, according to the researchers. Findings of the project were detailed in a paper and published in the recent issue of Nature Energy.
In a statement, Donghai Wang, lead investigator and professor of mechanical engineering said that the new study aims to create the next generation of metal batteries. Although lithium metal has been integrated in batteries for many years, there are several issues that limit its advancement, he added.
Fast charging methods used in electric vehicles and handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets caused additional strain to the lithium metal batteries, leading them to dendritic growth. It is needle-like formations capable of reducing the life cycle of a battery and potentially cause safety issues like explosions and fires.
In order to combat the dendritic growth, researchers created a new polymer that behaves like a porous sponge to prevent deterioration while promoting ion transfer. The researchers explained that using a polymer on the interface of lithium metal allowed the plating to eliminate the formation of dendrites, even at fast-charging scenarios and low temperature.
It was also proven that electro-osmosis and electrokinetic surface condition within the high-zeta potential sponge alter the power density profiles as well as the concentration. This enables plating or stripping of lithium free of dendrites with greater efficiency and at high current densities and deposition capacities, even at low temperature conditions.
Employing the lithium-hosting sponge resulted into remarkably improved cycling stability of lithium metal batteries with decreased amount of lithium at the commercial-level capacity, the researchers reported. Further, they observed dendrite-free structure of zinc and sodium anodes, indicating a promising future of the approach. Apart from giving handheld devices a longer battery life, the approach could help improve range of drive of an electric vehicle prior to needing a charge by hundreds of miles.
The researchers are now planning to continue working on such batteries to uncover potential applications in large-format battery cells and ultimately demonstrate its feasibility and other advantages.