Breakthrough for Lithium-Ion Batteries: Researchers develop a New Material with the ability to Replace Liquid Electrolyte with Solid Materials making Batteries more Efficient and Safer to Use

  • Analysis
  • 26-October-2021

Lithium-ion batteries are widely popular in today’s world and have a wide range of applications, from smartphones to cars. They generally consist of electrolytes made from lithium salt mixed with a liquid organic solvent. Liquid electrolytes are a good option; however, they involve a setback. At high current, dendrites (tiny filaments of lithium metal) can be formed within electrolytes, often leading to short circuits. Furthermore, liquid electrolytes comprise toxic and flammable chemicals that may catch fire in certain situations. Researchers believe that if liquid used within lithium-ion batteries is exchanged with solid materials, it will make for better and safer batteries. But not much breakthrough has been made in this regard within the research world.
A research team might have finally resolved the problem. The team has developed a material applicable to solid-state batteries. The team revealed that the material was from a rather unlikely source that is wood. A new study demonstrates that a solid ion conductor would have the ability to combine copper and cellulose nanofibrils (polymer tubes obtained from wood). The innovation could advance the Lithium-Ion Battery Market as the paper-thin material has 10 to 100 times better ion conductivity than other polymer ion conductors. Further, it potentially has two incredible uses, either as an ion-conducting binder or a solid battery electrolyte for the all-solid-state battery’s cathode.
The team integrated copper with 1D (One Dimensional) cellulose nanofibrils and showcased that the usual ion-insulating cellulose provides a quicker lithium-ion transport inside the polymer chains. Further, they even realized that the new ion conductor had the best ionic conductivity amongst all solid polymer electrolytes available.
Solid electrolytes are capable of preventing dendrite penetration – a significant problem with liquid electrolytes. In addition, they can also be made from non-flammable materials. Till now, research has been done on solid electrolytes made up from ceramic materials. Although they have great conducting ions ability, they are also thick, brittle and rigid. They cannot sustain stresses during manufacturing or charging and discharging, leading to breaks and cracks.
Thus, the new material is a substantial breakthrough when it comes to solid electrolytes. Moreover, the material also acts as a cathode binder for a solid-state battery. If cathodes want to match the capacity of anodes, they necessarily have to be much thicker. However, the thickness could be a hurdle for ion conduction leading to reduced efficiency. Thicker cathodes can only work if they are encased within an ion-conducting binder. This is where the new material comes in, as it can work as a binder for even the thickest cathodes.
The team is highly optimistic that their discovered material could be a huge step towards integrating solid-state battery technology within the mass market.
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