Scientists from the US have developed a lithium-ion anode that could offer a ‘new revenue stream’ for lead battery makers and recyclers.
The team from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory developed an anode, using lead nanoparticles embedded in a carbon matrix and enclosed by a thin lead oxide shell.
Laboratory tests showed the new lead-based, nanocomposite anode attained twice the energy storage capacity of current graphite anodes (normalised for the same weight), over more than 100 charge-discharge cycles.
The team’s paper was published in a special issue of Advanced Functional Materials honouring the 98th birthday of John B. Goodenough.
Eungje Lee, principal author and materials scientist in Argonne’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering division, said: “Our research has exciting implications for designing low-cost, high-performance, sustainable lithium-ion batteries that can power hybrid and all-electric vehicles.
“The new anode could offer a new revenue stream for the large industry currently engaged in lead-acid battery manufacturing and recycling.”
The method involved shaking large lead oxide particles mixed with carbon powder until they formed microscopic particles with the desired core-shell structure.
Stable performance during cycling was possible because the small particle size alleviated stresses, while the carbon matrix provided needed electrical conductivity and acted as a buffer against damaging volume expansion during cycling.
The team also found that adding a small amount of fluoroethylene carbonate to the standard electrolyte significantly improved performance.
Contributors to the discovery include scientists from Northwestern University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST).
The researchers investigated the charge-discharge mechanism of their anode using synchrotron X-ray diffraction to track the changes in phases of the anode material while it was being charged and discharged.
These characterisation results, combined with those collected at the Northwestern University Atomic and Nanoscale Characterization Center and the National Synchrotron Light Source II— a DOE User Facility at Brookhaven, revealed a previously unknown electrochemical reaction between lead and lithium ions that occurs upon charge and discharge.
Image: a lithium-ion battery, a lead-based core-shell particle developed for the anode, the element lead in the periodic table, and a lead-acid battery for an automobile. (Image by Scapiens Inc., Argonne National Laboratory and Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology.)