Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Extending a Battery's Lifetime with Heat

05.10.2015

Researchers from California Institute of Technology find that heat can break down the damaging branch-like structures that grow inside batteries, which may possibly be used to extend battery lifetimes

Don't go sticking your electronic devices in a toaster oven just yet, but for a longer-lasting battery, you might someday heat them up when not in use. Over time, the electrodes inside a rechargeable battery cell can grow tiny, branch-like filaments called dendrites, causing short circuits that kill the battery or even ignite it in flames.


Asghar Aryanfar

Naked-eye observation of amorphous/fractal lithium dendrites.

But thanks to new experiments and computer simulations, researchers from the California Institute of Technology have explored in detail how higher temperatures can break down these dendrites — and possibly extend battery lifetimes.

A battery cell consists of a positive and negative electrode, called the cathode and anode. As the battery produces electrical current, electrons flow from the anode through a circuit outside the battery and back into the cathode. Having lost the electrons that are generating the current, some of the atoms in the anode — an electrically conductive metal like lithium — become ions that then travel to the cathode, moving through a conductive liquid medium called an electrolyte.

Recharging the battery reverses the process, and the ions travel back and stick onto the anode. But when they do, the ions don't attach evenly. Instead, they form microscopic bumps that eventually grow into long branches after multiple recharging cycles. When these dendrites reach and contact the cathode, they form a short circuit. Electrical current now flows across the dendrites instead of the external circuit, rendering the battery useless and dead.

The current also heats up the dendrites, and because the electrolyte tends to be flammable, the dendrites can ignite. Even if the dendrites don't short circuit the battery, they can break off from the anode entirely and float around in the electrolyte. In this way, the anode loses material, and the battery can't store as much energy.

"Dendrites are hazardous and reduce the capacity of rechargeable batteries," said Asghar Aryanfar, a scientist at Caltech, who led the new study that's published this week on the cover of The Journal of Chemical Physics, from AIP Publishing. Although the researchers looked at lithium batteries, which are among the most efficient kind, their results can be applied broadly. "The dendrite problem is general to all rechargeable batteries," he said.

The researchers grew lithium dendrites on a test battery and heated them over a couple days. They found that temperatures up to 55 degrees Celsius shortened the dendrites by as much as 36 percent. To figure out what exactly caused this shrinkage, the researchers used a computer to simulate the effect of heat on the individual lithium atoms that comprise a dendrite, which was modeled with the simple, idealized geometry of a pyramid.

The simulations showed that increased temperatures triggered the atoms to move around in two ways. The atom at the tip of the pyramid can drop to lower levels. Or, an atom at a lower level can move and leave behind a vacant spot, which is then filled by another atom. The atoms shuffle around, generating enough motion to topple the dendrite.

By quantifying how much energy is needed to change the structure of the dendrite, Aryanfar said, researchers can better understand its structural characteristics. And while many factors affect a battery's longevity at high temperatures — such as its tendency to discharge on its own or the occurrence of other chemical reactions on the side — this new work shows that to revitalize a battery, all you might need is some extra heat.

The article, "Annealing kinetics of electrodeposited lithium dendrites," is authored by Asghar Aryanfar, Tao Cheng, Agustin J. Colussi, Boris V. Merinov, William A. Goddard III and Michael R. Hoffmann. It will be published in The Journal of Chemical Physics on October 1, 2015 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4930014). After that date, it can be accessed at: http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/jcp/143/13/10.1063/1.4930014

The authors of this study are affiliated with the California Institute of Technology.

ABOUT THE JOURNAL

The Journal of Chemical Physics publishes concise and definitive reports of significant research in the methods and applications of chemical physics. See: http://jcp.aip.org

Jason Socrates Bardi | newswise

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air
26.04.2017 | University of Central Florida

nachricht Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics
25.04.2017 | University of Delaware

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>