A controlling share of the worldwide battery market consists of lithium batteries. Their popularity can be credited to lithium’s status as an outstanding anodic material, boasting the highest theoretical capacity and lowest electrochemical potential of all recognized candidate elements.
When considering that, in addition to its excellent behaviour, elemental lithium also has a high natural abundance and can be acquired at low cost, it is clear to see why such a high proportion of our devices, including portable electronics, electric vehicles and drones are powered by lithium batteries.
Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Metal Batteries
The two leading varieties of lithium batteries are lithium-ion and lithium-metal. Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are a type of rechargeable battery in which lithium ions travel between electrodes during charging and discharging. LIBs use an intercalated lithium compound to form the electrodes. In contrast to this, lithium-metal batteries (LMBs) use metallic lithium electrodes.
Despite their market-leading battery life, LMBs have been held back from wide-spread use in consumer electronic devices for two key reasons. Firstly, due to deterioration or dendrite formation on the electrodes, it is not possible to recharge these batteries. In addition to this, elemental lithium’s explosive reactivity to moisture of any kind, even that from air, has been a cause for apprehension.
Using Graphene Oxide to Improve Battery Technology
In order to circumvent these concerns, recent technological developments are now being applied, allowing LMBs to compete in electric vehicle and other energy-demanding markets. Phosphorus-sulfur chemical compounds are the basis of one novel solution which creates a light coating over the lithium electrode, protecting it from inadvertent exposure to moisture.
In a further solution, a fine layer of graphene oxide (GO) is utilized as the protective element.
In addition to its protection from exposure to air and water, the GO coating is able to inhibit the development of dendrites. These form on lithium-metal electrodes when lithium re-deposits on the electrode in an irregular fashion. Over time, the dendrites can spread through the electrolyte, leading the two electrodes to meet, which can provoke the battery to explode.
When the journey of lithium ions moving through the battery is sufficiently slowed through the application of a light GO layer, spray-coated on a standard fiberglass separator, the formation of dendrites is prevented. In a paper recently featured in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, theoretical modeling and computation were used to determine the relationship between the speed of movement of lithium ions and the manner in which they amass on the counter-electrode.
Graphene’s capacity to improve battery technology and facilitate the new development of powerful and durable solutions is well known. Its key position in future energy storage solutions is further backed by a constant stream of scientific research backing the significance of its role. In a new direction, these recent findings bring lithium-metal batteries closer to meeting their potential for broad-scale use.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Graphenea.
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