Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered exceptional properties in a garnet material that could enable development of higher-energy battery designs.
The ORNL-led team used scanning transmission electron microscopy to take an atomic-level look at a cubic garnet material called LLZO. The researchers found the material to be highly stable in a range of aqueous environments, making the compound a promising component in new battery configurations.
Researchers frequently seek to improve a battery’s energy density by using a pure lithium anode, which offers the highest known theoretical capacity, and an aqueous electrolyte that can speedily transport lithium. The ORNL scientists believe the LLZO would be an ideal separator material, which is crucial.
“Many novel batteries adopt these two features [lithium anode and aqueous electrolyte], but if you integrate both into a single battery, a problem arises because the water is very reactive when in direct contact with lithium metal,” said ORNL postdoctoral associate Cheng Ma, first author on the team’s study published in Angewandte Chemie. “The reaction is very violent, which is why you need a protective layer around the lithium.”
Battery designers can use a solid electrolyte separator to shield the lithium, but their options are limited. Even the primary separator of choice, known as LAPT or LISICON, tends to break down under normal battery operating conditions.
“Researchers have searched for a suitable solid electrolyte separator material for years,” said ORNL’s Miaofang Chi, the study’s lead author. “The requirements for this type of material are very strict. It must be compatible with the lithium anode because lithium is reactive, and it also has to be stable over a wide pH range, because you can have an alkaline environment -- especially with lithium air batteries.”
The researchers used atomic resolution imaging to monitor structural changes in LLZO after the samples’ immersion in a range of aqueous solutions. The team’s observations showed that the compound remained structurally stable over time across neutral and extremely alkaline environments.
“This solid electrolyte separator remains stable even for a pH value higher than 14,” Ma said. “It gives battery designers more options for the selection of aqueous solutions and the catholyte.” Catholyte is the portion of the electrolyte close to the cathode.
In lithium-air batteries, for instance, researchers have previously tried to avoid the degradation of the separator by diluting the aqueous solutions, which only makes the battery heavier and bulkier. With this new type of solid electrolyte separator, there is no need to dilute the aqueous electrolyte, so it indirectly increases the battery’s energy density.
Higher-energy batteries are in demand for electrified transportation and electric grid energy storage applications, leading researchers to explore battery designs beyond the limits of lithium-ion technologies.
The researchers intend to continue their research by evaluating the LLZO garnet’s performance in an operating battery. Coauthors are ORNL’s Chengdu Liang, Karren More, Ezhiylmurugan Rangasamy, and Michigan State University’s Jeffrey Sakamoto. The study is published as “Excellent Stability of a Li-Ion-Conducting Solid Electrolyte upon Reversible Li+/H+ Exchange in Aqueous Solutions.”
This research was conducted in part at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, a DOE Office of Science User Facility. The research was supported by DOE’s Office of Science.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov/.
Morgan McCorkle | Eurek Alert!
Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics
23.03.2017 | North Carolina State University
TU Graz researchers show that enzyme function inhibits battery ageing
21.03.2017 | Technische Universität Graz
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy