Removing 'range anxiety' from using electric vehicles

The next generation of electric vehicles could have far greater range thanks to researchers at Rice University who have refined silicon-based lithium-ion technology
 Research could lead to a 9 times more effective battery

Led by Sibani Lisa Biswal and Madhuri Thakur, the Texas-based team has created a high capacity, low cost anode material with the potential for substantial commercial applications for rechargeable lithium batteries.

An assistant professor of chemical and bio-molecular engineering, Biswal stated:

“We previously reported on making porous silicon films. We have been looking to move away from the film geometry to something that can be easily transferred into the current battery manufacturing process. Madhuri crushed the porous silicon film to form porous silicon particulates, a powder that can be easily adopted by battery manufacturers.”

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Thakur, a research scientist at Rice University continued:

“By crushing the spores into porous grains, the material gains far more surface area to soak up lithium ions.”

Biswal picked up:

“Our particles have more than 50 times the surface area, which gives us a larger surface area for lithiation, with plenty of void space to accommodate expansion.

Thakur added:

“As a powder, they can be used in large-scale roll-to-roll processing by industry. The material is very simple to synthesize, cost-effective and gives high energy capacity over a large number of cycles.

“This work shows just how important and useful it is to be able to control the internal pores and the external size of the silicon particles.”

In a recent test, the team designed a half-cell battery with a fixed capacity of 1,000mAh/g; only a third of its theoretical capacity, but three times more than current batteries.

Fellow American advanced technology company, Lockheed Martin helped to fund the research, with company fellow, Steven Sinsabaugh, and researcher, Mark Isaacson co-authoring the report; Sinsabaugh said:

“We’re truly excited about this breakthrough and are looking forward to transitioning this technology to the commercial marketplace.”

Biswal concluded:

“The next step will to test this porous silicon powder as an anode in a full battery. Our preliminary results with cobalt oxide as the cathode appear very promising, and there are new cathode materials that we’d like to investigate.”

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