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Scientists have improved the electrical performance of lithium-ion batteries in extreme cold with a new anode made with a bumpy carbon-based material.
If you have an electric car and drive in the cold, you’re likely well aware of the reduced performance and range when temperatures drop below freezing. Even if you live somewhere warm, you might have seen the same effect in your cell phone during a ski trip, finding your percentage charge quickly waning despite minimal usage.
Fortunately, scientists are hard at work improving battery technology, looking to increase capacity, speed up charging, enhance endurance, boost safety, and yes, upgrade the performance in very cold temperatures.
When temperatures fall below freezing, cell phones need to be recharged frequently, and electric cars have shorter driving ranges. This is because their lithium-ion batteries’ anodes get sluggish, holding less charge and draining energy quickly. To improve electrical performance in the extreme cold, researchers reporting in ACS Central Science have replaced the traditional graphite anode in a lithium-ion battery with a bumpy carbon-based material, which maintains its rechargeable storage capacity down to -31°F (-35°C).
To create the new material, the researchers heated a cobalt-containing zeolite imidazolate framework (known as ZIF-67) at high temperatures. The resulting 12-sided carbon nanospheres had bumpy surfaces that demonstrated excellent electrical charge transfer capabilities. Then the team tested the material’s electrical performance as the anode, with lithium metal as the cathode, inside a coin-shaped battery. The anode demonstrated stable charging and discharging at temperatures from 77°F to -4°F (25°C to -20°C) and maintained 85.9% of the room temperature energy storage capacity just below freezing.