Carbon nanotubes breakthrough doubles energy density of batteries

June 21, 2019 //By Nick Flaherty
Researchers in Ireland use carbon nanotubes for battery breakthrough
Researchers in Ireland have developed a new material that can more than double the energy density of lithium batteries.

For the battery breakthrough, the team at the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) Centre, hosted by Trinity College Dublin, and Nokia Bell Labs, used a composite of carbon nanotubes with a range of lithium storage materials such as silicon, graphite and metal oxide particles. This strengthened the composite, allowing high-performance electrodes with thicknesses of up to 800 μm.

These composite electrodes were then used to build cells with an energy density of 480 Wh/kg and 1,600 Wh/litre, over twice that of current cells. This will provide twice the battery life for the same size for 5G phones, grid storage and electric cars say the researchers.

"By packing more energy into a smaller space, this new battery technology will have a profound impact on 5G and the entire networked world," said Paul King, one of the lead investigators on the project and Member of the Technical Staff at Nokia Bell Labs.  "The combination of Nokia Bell Labs industry and device knowledge and AMBER's materials science expertise allowed us to tackle an extremely difficult problem involving multiple disciplines.”

"The significant advancement in battery technology outlined in this research is a testament to the strong collaboration between AMBER and Nokia Bell Labs. Bringing scientists together from industry and academia with a common research goal has resulted in a substantial scientific breakthrough," said Dr. Lorraine Byrne, AMBER Executive Director (above right).

The work, published in Nature Energy, showed composite electrodes with conductivities up to 1 × 104 S/m and low charge-transfer resistances, allowing fast charge-delivery and enabling near-theoretical specific capacities, even for thick electrodes. The combination of high thickness and specific capacity provides areal capacities of up to 45mAh/cm2 for anodes and 30mAh/cm2 for cathodes, and combining optimized composite anodes and cathodes yields full cells with an areal capacity of 29 mAh/cm2 to acheive the breakthrough power density.

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