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Addressing an Achilles heel in current lithium battery designs, where lithium ions move from the positive electrode (called the cathode) to the negative electrode (anode) as the battery cycles, but only at a certain rate, researchers at Boise State University and the University of California, San Diego An electrode material has been developed to speed up the charging of lithium-ion batteries.
It is reported that in the case of faster charging, lithium metal will accumulate on the surface of the graphite negative electrode, which will weaken the performance of the battery and may cause the battery to short circuit, overheat and even catch fire. The team removed that barrier with the help of a compound called niobium pentoxide to speed up charging.
The atoms in niobium pentoxide can be easily arranged into many stable configurations. When used as an anode for a coin cell battery, the atomic arrangement of niobium pentoxide is initially chaotic. But the scientists found that when the battery was charged and discharged multiple times, the atoms arranged themselves into an ordered crystal structure.
The researchers had never seen such nanostructures before. They describe it as a cubic rock salt framework that makes it easier to transport lithium ions to the anode while the battery is charging. Therefore, the battery will also have "excellent" cycling stability at higher charging speeds.
The researchers hope to use this approach to develop other innovative battery materials, even for use in areas such as semiconductors. The research was published in the journal Nature Materials.