Researchers Discover New Fast-conducting Li-ion Material

The material consists of non-toxic, earth-abundant elements

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Researchers at the University of Liverpool have discovered a solid material that rapidly conducts lithium ions, which are essential components in the rechargeable batteries that power electric vehicles and many electronic devices.

Consisting of non-toxic earth-abundant elements, the new material has high Li-ion conductivity to replace the liquid electrolytes in current Li-ion battery technology, improving safety and energy capacity.

The high power-to-weight ratio of Li-ion batteries, coupled with high energy efficiency and longer shelf life, have made these batteries popular.

The study, which was recently published in the journal Science, focused on the alternative material, which is one of a very small number of solid materials that achieve Li-ion conductivity high enough to replace liquid electrolytes and operate in a new way because of its structure.

The research team synthesized the material in the laboratory, determined its structure, and demonstrated it in a battery cell.

“This research demonstrates the design and discovery of a material that is both new and functional. The structure of this material changes previous understanding of what a high-performance solid-state electrolyte looks like,” said Matt Rosseinsky, a professor at the University of Liverpool’s Department of Chemistry.

The team used a transformative scientific approach to design the material. This discovery also harbors the potential to optimize chemistry to enhance the properties of the material itself further and to identify other materials based on this new understanding.

Last December, the price of Li-ion battery packs decreased to a record low of $139/kWh due to falling raw material and component prices, even as production capacity rose across all parts of the battery value chain.

In September 2023, a consortium of scientists was working on expediting the development of DRX (disordered rock salt) battery cathodes to enhance energy density in batteries. They aimed to develop these cathodes to match or surpass the performance of Li-ion battery cathodes.

The research for bettering the energy efficiency of Li-ion batteries is an ongoing trend. In 2021, a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discovered a novel electrolyte to store about 420 watt-hours per kilogram, as opposed to the earlier 260 watt-hours.

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