Gel allows EVs to travel 1,000 km on one charge

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Consumer Electronics Show (2024) was a tech extravaganza that featured futuristic advancements in AI, healthcare and other fields. Battery technology is at the core of these innovations and enables greater power efficiency. Electric vehicles are the most important area where this technology is being used. EVs today can travel up to 700km with a single battery charge. Researchers aim for a range of 1,000km. Researchers are fervently examining the use of silicon as the anode in lithium-ion EV batteries, known for having a high storage capacity. Researchers are still trying to solve the puzzle of how to put silicon into practical use, despite its high potential.

Professor Soojin Park and PhD candidate Minjun Je from the Department of Chemistry of Pohang University of Science and Technology are on board. They have cracked the codes, developing a pocket friendly and rock-solid next generation high-energy-density lithium-ion battery using micro silicon particles. This work has been published on the online pages Advanced Science17thJanuary is a month of celebration.

Silicon as a battery material is a challenge: It expands three times more during charging than it does when it is discharged, affecting battery efficiency. Utilizing nano-sized silicon (10-9m) partially solves the problem, but the complex production process and high cost make it a difficult budget proposition. By contrast, micro-sized silicon (10-6Cost and energy density are both excellent reasons to use m). The larger silicon particles expand more during battery operation. This poses a problem for its use as a material anode.

The team of researchers used gel polymer electrolytes in order to develop a silicon-based, stable and affordable battery system. The electrolyte is a key component of a lithium ion battery, as it facilitates the movement between the cathode anode. Gel electrolytes have a more stable polymer structure than liquid electrolytes.

The team used an electron beam to create covalent links between micro-silicon and gel electrolytes. These covalent links serve to disperse the internal stress caused during lithium-ion batteries operation by volume expansion, reducing changes in micro silicon volumes and improving structural stability.

The outcome was remarkable: The battery exhibited stable performance even with micro silicon particles (5μm), which were a hundred times larger than those used in traditional nano-silicon anodes. The research team’s silicon-gel electrolyte also showed ion conductivity that was similar to traditional batteries using liquid electrolytes. This system had a 40% increase in energy density. The team’s system is also valuable due to its simple manufacturing process, which is ready for immediate use.

Professor Soojin said, “We used a nano-silicon anode yet, we had a stable battery.” This research brings the lithium-ion batteries closer to real high-energy density.

This study was supported by the Independent Researcher Program of National Research Foundation of Korea.

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