By Jurica Dujmovic
In 2021, the battery industry was booming . Advancements in technology enabled more powerful and longer-lasting batteries, leading to a surge in their adoption in areas from utilities to consumer electronics, medical applications and the automotive industry.
Today I want to talk about these advances and shed some light on what we can expect this year.
Engineers at the University of Texas have developed a sodium-sulfur battery that overcomes one of the biggest obstacles to the technology’s commercial viability: dendrite growth on the anode, which can cause degradation and even explosions.
Their electrolyte prevents sulfur dissolution and solves shuttling and dendrite problems, enabling a longer battery life cycle. Researchers are testing the model on larger batteries. If they succeed, these new batteries could be used in cars, or for storing energy from renewable sources. Unlike lithium, sodium is cheaper, easier to procure and eco-friendly.
I mproved anode structure
Lithium-ion diffusion rates are the speeds at which lithium ions move through a material. They are important for battery performance, as the faster the ions can move, the faster the battery can charge and discharge. Different materials have different diffusion rates, and choosing the right material is critical for optimizing battery performance.
Lithium-ion diffusion rates of typical electrode materials are limited, making fast charging a key requirement for the next generation of lithium-ion batteries. One way to overcome this limitation is to use nano-sized active electrode material, but this approach also has shortcomings: It reduces the battery’s density and stability.
Scientists at the University of Twente in the Netherlands have found a way to improve the conventional Li-ion battery by replacing graphite in anodes with a new material , nickel niobate.
This complex oxide has a high diffusion coefficient, which means the new iterations can charge and discharge 10 times faster than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, the material is stable and doesn’t change volume a lot when it is lithiated , which leads to 81% of battery capacity retention after 20,000 cycles.
Finally, due to nickel niobate’s high density and capacity, batteries that contain it are lighter and more compact than their traditional counterparts. Scientists predict that this kind of battery could be used to power electric machinery, heavy electric vehicles or other devices that require fast charging capabilities. However, there are a few hurdles that need to be overcome before nickel niobate batteries see commercial application in electric cars.
Solid-state batter ies
A solid-state battery uses solid materials to store and conduct electricity. It is often seen as a potential replacement for traditional lithium-ion battery because it’s safer and longer-lasting.
In 2021, a team of engineers at the University of California, San Diego, created a battery using a silicone anode and a sulfide-based solid electrolyte . Silicone is superior to traditionally used graphite because it offers 10 times the storage capacity.
The reason it wasn’t implemented before is due to the degradation of silicone anodes that occurs when liquid electrolytes are used. Replacing them with solid sulfur-based electrolyte eliminated this issue and created exciting opportunities to make a commercially viable product with higher energy capacity, lower production costs and a better safety rating.
Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +0.48% and Volkswagen Group /zigman2/quotes/200781593/composite VLKAF +1.88% have shown interest in this kind of battery. However, several major problems need to be solved first. One such issue is dendrites, growths that form on solid-state batteries. They shorten the lifespan of a battery, reduce its efficacy, and can even cause it to short-circuit and catch fire.