Editorial Feature

Common Nanomaterials in Electrode Design

Nanomaterials are considered to outperform traditional batteries and energy storage materials in terms of charge storage and electronic properties. This article explores examples from research to describe popular nanomaterials utilized in electrode design and the advantages nanomaterials could provide to electrochemistry applications.

Common Nanomaterials in Electrode Design

Image Credit: Martin Capek/Shutterstock.com

Nanomaterial-based electrodes can withstand large currents as a result of these properties, making them a viable alternative for elevated high-power energy storage devices.

They also allow all charge transfer sites in the particle volume to be occupied, resulting in high specific capacities and rapid ion migration.

Role of Nanotechnology in Energy Storage Devices

From mobile phones to power grids, the need for high-density energy storage materials is growing. Nanomaterials with at least one nanometer-scale dimension can provide possibilities for improved energy storage.

Several factors contribute to a materials’ performance in energy storage applications. For example, techniques like nanostructuring contribute to the management of electrochemical performance using different charge storage properties, such as surface-based ionic absorption, passivation, and gradient intercalation.

The storage of decentrally generated energy will become infinitely more valuable in the near-future. Lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors, in particular, are seen as important future technologies.

The key objectives of using nanotechnology in energy storage are to reduce environmental damage, as well as construct energy-efficient systems. 

Utilization of Nanomaterials for Enhancing the Efficiency of Electrodes

Many power generation and storage technologies, as well as the efficiency of their individual components, rely on the development of high-performance electrode materials. Researchers intend to improve the physiological, electrochemical, and electrical characteristics of the electrodes used in photovoltaic and power generation using nanomaterials, allowing for lower-cost energy generation and storage while prolonging the lifespan of these devices.

Nanoparticles, organic monolayers, and hybrid surface modifications incorporating molecular monolayers are among those investigated by scientists for the improvement of electrode surfaces. In this regard, using nanomaterials to make electrodes may be seen as a way to regulate electrode design at the nanoscale.

Nanostructured electrodes having a large surface area minimize lithium-ion diffusion lengths and electron transport channels, allowing for the adoption of more cost-effective electrode materials including those with lower electronic conductivity and lithium-ion distribution coefficient.

Another benefit of the larger electrode/electrolyte contact surfaces is that substantially greater charge/discharge rates can be maintained. Furthermore, nanostructured anodes and cathodes can readily handle volume variations during charging and discharging operations, extending the battery's lifespan and ensuring its safety.

Common Nanomaterials Used in Electrode Design

Due to their large specific surface area and excellent physiological, electronic, and mechanical characteristics, nanomaterials have drawn a lot of interest in electrochemical devices. Some nanomaterials which are used in electrode design are as follow:

Carbon-Based Nanomaterials

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene, both carbon-based nanomaterials, are being studied intensively as electrode materials. CNTs and graphene both have large specific surface areas; owing to the high aspect ratio of CNTs and the thin single layer of the graphene sheets. The theoretical contact area of sealed CNTs and graphene is 1350 m2/g and 2630 m2/g, respectively. As increased surface area leads to improved electrochemical properties, both of these nanomaterials may be employed in electrode design.

Carbon nanomaterials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes, with their vast surface area, high porosity, and good electrical characteristics, have the potential to replace conventional carbon-based electrode materials in high-performance energy storage devices, supercapacitors, and rechargeable batteries.

CNTs can be employed as an electrode material owing to their remarkable mechanical durability, wide surface area, and superior electrical conductance generated by spatial bonding (sp2 type) among adjacent carbon atoms.  Carbon nanotubes are divided into two types: single-walled and multi-walled. Due to the larger specific surface area than nanotubes, graphene, a two-dimensional helical configuration of carbon molecules, can also be used as an electrode. 

Compared to others carbon-based nanomaterials are the most common type of nanomaterials used in electrode design. Mostly they are used as anodes in electrochemical cells.

Hybrid Nanomaterials

Hybrid nanomaterials, which combine carbon nanomaterials with functional polymer layers or nanoparticles, are of particular significance in electrode design. One study investigated a crack-free graphene transfer procedure in which a polymeric transport layer supports the graphene material, enabling the fabrication of substantial graphene electrodes with a resistance value of around 220 Ohm/square and 96.5 percent light transmission.

The use of nanomaterials in hybrid designs, such as carbon-silicon and carbon-sulfur, as well as the development of adaptable nanostructuring technologies, help to solve the problems associated with substantial volume changes, which are common in alloying and conversion materials. These examples show how nanostructured materials and nanoarchitecture electrodes may help researchers and manufacturers generate large high-power, and long-lasting energy storage systems.

Gold nanoparticles have lately been investigated in combination with other materials such as silicon dioxide (SiO2), carbon nanotubes, and calcite to increase synergistic action on electrochemical performance. For inactive oxide substrates, such as silicon dioxide, well-dispersed gold catalysts are needed. The usage of AuNP–CNT nanocomposites has a number of advantages, including easy surface modification, excellent electrical conductivity, and high sensitivity due to their capacity to distinguish the oxidation potential of particular analytes.

Transition Metal Carbides

In one study, researchers produced oxidative transition metal carbides (MXenes) as an electrode nanomaterial. MXenes exhibit conductivity that is at least an order of magnitude higher than carbons and other traditional electrode materials. The development of conductive and high-power upcoming energy storage devices is now possible thanks to this novel nanomaterial.

Transition metal carbide nanomaterials have been developed as potentially useful materials as low-cost electrodes. In contrast to carbon-based nanomaterials, transition metal carbides are mostly employed as cathodes.

Limitations and Future Outlook of Use of Nanomaterials in Electrode Design

The large surface area of nanomaterials in energy storage devices produces a type of interaction with the electrolyte, particularly during the first cycle, which is known as first cycle irreversibility, as well as their agglomeration. As a result, future initiatives will focus on developing smart nanomaterial assembly into structures with controlled geometry.

Furthermore, it is important to combine nanomaterials with complementary capabilities, such as graphene's high electrical conductivity or MXenes' high operating voltage and strong redox activity of oxides. Embossing, weaving, spray deposition, and other new manufacturing techniques are used to create complicated electrode topologies.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the utilization of nanostructured materials can enhance electrode fabrication. At the same time, it can solve challenges associated with material structure changes during electrochemical operations, boosting the devices' electrochemical efficiency and allowing them to be used in more stupendous energy storage applications.

Engineering Efficient Electrodes with Nanomaterials: Advancements and Future Outlooks

Referencing and Further Reading

Liu, N., Li, W., Pasta, M., & Cui, Y. (2014). Nanomaterials for electrochemical energy storage. Frontiers of Physics9(3), 323-350. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-820055-1.00012-5

Ni, J., & Li, Y. (2016). Carbon nanomaterials in different dimensions for electrochemical energy storage. Advanced Energy Materials6(17), 1600278. https://doi.org/10.1002/aenm.201600278

Pomerantseva, E., Bonaccorso, F., Feng, X., Cui, Y., & Gogotsi, Y. (2019). Energy storage: The future enabled by nanomaterials. Science366(6468), eaan8285. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aan8285

Vasilev, C., (2022) Engineering Efficient Electrodes with Nanomaterials: Advancements and Future Outlooks. [online] AZoNano.com. Available at:https://www.azonano.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=5995

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Usman Ahmed

Written by

Usman Ahmed

Usman holds a master's degree in Material Science and Engineering from Xian Jiaotong University, China. He worked on various research projects involving Aerospace Materials, Nanocomposite coatings, Solar Cells, and Nano-technology during his studies. He has been working as a freelance Material Engineering consultant since graduating. He has also published high-quality research papers in international journals with a high impact factor. He enjoys reading books, watching movies, and playing football in his spare time.

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