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24 Jan 2013: Solid Electrolyte Could Lead
To Larger, Safer Lithium Ion Batteries

U.S. researchers have developed a high-performance, solid electrolyte for use in energy-dense lithium ion batteries that they say is safer than existing liquid electrolytes and could lead to batteries that are five to 10 times more powerful than existing batteries. While lithium-ion batteries typically utilize liquid electrolytes to conduct the lithium ions between the positively charged cathode and the negatively charged anode, the liquid materials pose flammability risks — especially as engineers attempt to make more powerful lightweight batteries. Utilizing a chemical process known as nanostructuring — which involves altering the structure of the crystals that make up materials — scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) say they were able to create a nanoporous solid electrolyte that conducts ions 1,000 times faster than in its natural bulk form, enabling more energy-dense batteries. According to the researchers, this innovation could allow engineers to develop pure lithium anodes, which could yield batteries that are far more powerful than those using carbon-based anodes. “A solid electrolyte enables the lithium metal to cycle well, with highly enhanced safety,” said Chengdu Liang, a ORNL researcher and lead author of the study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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