Rahul Panat, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carneige, worked with Missouri University of Science and Technology to 3D print this microlattice structure.
"In the case of lithium-ion batteries, the electrodes with porous architectures can lead to higher charge capacities," said Panat. "This is because such architectures allow the lithium to penetrate through the electrode volume leading to very high electrode utilization, and thereby higher energy storage capacity. In normal batteries, 30-50% of the total electrode volume is unused. Our method overcomes this issue by using 3D printing where we create a microlattice electrode architecture that allows the efficient transport of lithium through the entire electrode, which also increases the battery charging rates."
The researchers estimate that this technology will be ready to translate to industrial applications in two to three years.
The microlattice structure (Ag) used as lithium-ion batteries' electrodes was shown to improve battery performance in several ways such as a fourfold increase in specific capacity and a twofold increase in areal capacity when compared to a solid block (Ag) electrode. The electrodes retained their complex 3D lattice structures after forty electrochemical cycles, demonstrating their mechanical robustness and allowing a high capacity for the same weight or alternately, for the same capacity, a vastly reduced weight for transportation applications.
The researchers had to develop a new 3D printing method to create the porous microlattice architectures while using the existing capabilities of an Aerosol Jet 3D printing system. This also allows the researchers to print planar sensors and other electronics.