New material promises quick-charge EV batteries

Sensemaking / New material promises quick-charge EV batteries

26 May 2011

A new electrode material could increase battery charge speed by up to 60 times

The charge speed of lithium ion batteries used in EVs could be increased by up to 60 times, thanks to a new electrode material developed by a team at New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, potentially opening the door to a new generation of electric cars.

The new material, dubbed ‘nanoscoops’ because its microscopic structural composition resembles a series of ice cream cones, can endure extremely high rates of charge and discharge that would cause the electrodes used in today’s lithium ion batteries to weaken and break.

As a battery charges and discharges, the electrodes grow and shrink accordingly. Over time, these volume changes build up stress which can cause the battery to fail. Our mobile phones and laptops are designed to charge slowly to protect their batteries from failure. The carbon, aluminium and silicon structure of the nanoscoops electrode allows it to accept and discharge lithium ions at increased speeds, without sustaining lasting damage.

The Rensselaer research team, led by Professor Nikhil Koratkar, charged and discharged a nanoscoops electrode at a rate 40 to 60 times faster than conventional batteries over 100 continuous cycles, while maintaining a comparable energy density. Today’s EVs depend on supercapacitors in conjunction with conventional batteries to perform high-energy functions, such as starting the vehicle. Koratkar believes the invention of nanoscoops could enable the two separate systems to be combined in a single, efficient unit.

- Sam Jones

Image credit: Unalozmen / istock

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