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We know that the lithium-ion batteries that power today's electric cars, smartphones and countless other devices have two electrodes, a cathode and an anode, and this new study focuses on the latter. Currently, these anodes are made of graphite, which works well in many ways, but it can't accommodate super-fast charging without failure.
For this, scientists are looking for new and improved anodes, and one place is materials with nanoscale porous structures. Anodes of this nature are expected to have a larger contact area with the liquid electrolyte that transports lithium ions, and at the same time allow for easier diffusion of the ions into the solid electrode material, ultimately allowing the device to charge much faster.
But the materials proposed so far also suffer from some drawbacks. The disorder and randomness of the channels in the porous nanostructures can cause these structures to collapse during charging, while also reducing the density and capacity of the battery and causing lithium to accumulate on the surface of the anode, reducing its performance with each cycle. Furthermore, the manufacture of these materials is very complex, involves harsh chemicals and generates large amounts of chemical waste.
The researchers integrated this nickel niobate anode into a complete battery cell and tested its performance, finding that it offered ultrafast charging rates nine times faster than today's lithium-ion batteries. They also noted that nickel niobate is more compact than graphite and therefore has a higher volumetric energy density, which could equate to a lighter and more compact commercial version of the battery.
According to the researchers, these results demonstrate the energy storage potential of nickel niobate anodes in practical battery devices. They see immediate potential in grid applications, powering electric machinery that requires fast charging, or in heavy-duty electric vehicle transportation. However, they also said that further research and problems are needed to see