Editorial Feature

Can Carbon Nanotubes Be Used in Batteries?

The potential of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in advancing battery technology has attracted significant attention in recent years. As researchers and engineers work to address energy storage challenges, CNTs have emerged as promising candidates due to their unique structural and electronic properties.1

Can Carbon Nanotubes Be Used in Batteries?

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Properties and Advantages of CNTs in Battery Technology

CNTs are cylindrical nanostructures composed of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. They exist in two main forms: single-walled (SWCNTs), consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms, and multi-walled (MWCNTs), comprising multiple concentric layers.

Depending on the arrangement of carbon atoms, CNTs can exhibit either metallic or semiconducting behavior, tailored through various synthesis techniques and structural modifications. This tunability makes CNTs versatile materials for applications, including electronics, composites, sensors, and energy storage devices.2

In the context of battery technology, CNTs' high electrical conductivity facilitates rapid electron transport, reducing internal resistance and enabling high-power performance. Their large surface area enhances electrode-electrolyte interactions, promoting efficient ion diffusion and storage.2

Integration and Applications of CNTs in Battery Technology

CNTs can be incorporated into battery electrodes through methods such as physical mixing, chemical vapor deposition, or electrodeposition. They serve as conductive additives, improving the electrical conductivity of electrode materials and enhancing overall battery performance.

Additionally, CNTs provide structural support, preventing the agglomeration of active materials and extending the cycling stability and lifespan of batteries.3

Flexible electrodes made from CNT fiber and CNT paper serve as active materials and current collectors, reducing contact resistance and electrode weight. This is particularly relevant for wearable electrode technology and thread-based energy storage materials.

The self-supporting nature of CNT paper offers inherent strength and stability without requiring adhesion, making it viable for flexible devices and enhancing electrode-specific capacity.4

Due to their unique properties and versatility, CNTs have found diverse applications in energy storage devices such as lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors.

In lithium-ion batteries, CNTs enhance electron transport and mechanical stability, and their high surface area promotes efficient lithium-ion adsorption and desorption, improving capacity, cycling stability, and rate capability.5

In supercapacitors, CNTs enable rapid charge/discharge rates and high energy storage capacities due to their high electrical conductivity and large specific surface area. Moreover, CNT-based electrodes exhibit enhanced durability and cycling stability, making them suitable for various high-power applications.6

CNTs are also being investigated for lithium-sulfur batteries, where they show promise in addressing specific challenges such as sulfur immobilization and electrode degradation.

Enhancing Electrochemical Performance

Integrating CNTs into battery electrodes enhances various metrics, including electrical conductivity, charge transfer kinetics, mechanical stability, ion diffusion, and compatibility with electrolytes.

These advancements contribute to the development of high-performance batteries with enhanced energy density, power capability, and cycling stability, enabling applications in portable electronics, electric vehicles, and grid storage.7

CNTs' highly ordered carbon structure provides pathways for rapid electron transport during charge and discharge cycles, reducing electrical resistance and improving battery efficiency.

Their high surface area and numerous active sites facilitate efficient charge transfer between the electrode material and electrolyte, minimizing polarization effects and enhancing battery rate capability.7

Challenges and Considerations

Despite their potential, the widespread adoption of CNTs in batteries faces challenges such as scalability in production, cost-effectiveness, and environmental sustainability.

Issues related to the uniform dispersion of CNTs within electrode materials and their long-term stability must be addressed to ensure reliable performance in commercial applications.1

Recent Advances and Research Trends

Recent advancements in CNT synthesis techniques and electrode fabrication methods have paved the way for further exploration of CNT-based battery systems. Researchers are exploring strategies such as hierarchical structures, 3D networks, and hybrid composites to maximize the benefits of CNTs in battery electrodes.8

Another research direction involves investigating the synergistic effects of combining CNTs with other nanomaterials, such as graphene, metal oxides, and polymers, to create composite electrode materials with enhanced electrochemical performance.

There is also growing interest in leveraging CNTs' high aspect ratio, flexibility, and tunability to develop innovative battery designs like flexible and stretchable batteries for wearable electronics and conformal batteries for complex shapes and structures.9

Advancements in characterization techniques and theoretical modeling provide valuable insights into the fundamental electrochemical mechanisms underlying the performance of CNT-based battery electrodes, guiding the rational design and optimization of next-generation energy storage devices.8

Future Outlook

The future of carbon nanotubes in batteries holds significant promise, with ongoing research aimed at overcoming existing challenges and unlocking their full potential.

As advancements continue, CNT-based batteries could offer higher energy densities, faster charging rates, and longer cycle life, leading to the development of more efficient and sustainable energy storage solutions.

Further collaboration between academia, industry, and policymakers is essential to accelerate the translation of research findings into practical applications and address the global demand for advanced battery technologies.8

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References and Further Reading

  1. Zhu, S., Sheng, J., Chen, Y., Ni, J., Li, Y. (2020). Carbon nanotubes for flexible batteries: Recent progress and future perspective. Natl. Sci. Rev. doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nwaa261
  2. Yoon, H., Kim, H., Matteini, P., Hwang, B. (2022). Research Trends on the Dispersibility of Carbon Nanotube Suspension with Surfactants in Their Application as Electrodes of Batteries: A Mini-Review. Batteries. doi.org/10.3390/batteries8120254
  3. Li, L., Yang, H., Zhou, D., Zhou, Y. (2014). Progress in application of CNTs in lithium-ion batteries. J. Nanomater. doi.org/10.1155/2014/187891
  4. Li, L., Chen, C., Xie, J., Shao, Z., Yang, F. (2013). The Preparation of Carbon Nanotube/MnO2 Composite Fiber and Its Application to Flexible Micro-Supercapacitor. J. Nanomater. doi.org/10.1155/2013/821071
  5. Xiong, Z., Yun, YS. Jin, HJ. (2013). Applications of carbon nanotubes for lithium-ion battery anodes. Materials (Basel). doi.org/10.3390/ma6031138
  6. Zhong, M., Zhang, M., Li, X. (2022). Carbon nanomaterials and their composites for supercapacitors. Carbon Energy. doi.org/10.1002/cey2.219
  7. Niu, Z., Zhang, Y., Zhang, Y., Lu, X., Liu, J. (2020). Enhanced electrochemical performance of three-dimensional graphene/carbon nanotube composite for supercapacitor application. J. Alloys Compd. doi.org/10.1016/j.jallcom.2019.153114
  8. Zhu, S., Sheng, J., Chen, Y., Ni, J., Li, Y. (2021). Carbon nanotubes for flexible batteries: recent progress and future perspective. Natl. Sci. Rev. doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nwaa261
  9. Costa, CM., Gonçalves, R., Lanceros-Méndez, S. (2020). Recent advances and future challenges in printed batteries. Energy Storage Mater. doi.org/10.1016/j.ensm.2020.03.012

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Atif Suhail

Written by

Atif Suhail

Atif is a Ph.D. scholar at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, India. He is currently working in the area of halide perovskite nanocrystals for optoelectronics devices, photovoltaics, and energy storage applications. Atif's interest is writing scientific research articles in the field of nanotechnology and material science and also reading journal papers, magazines related to perovskite materials and nanotechnology fields. His aim is to provide every reader with an understanding of perovskite nanomaterials for optoelectronics, photovoltaics, and energy storage applications.

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