From smartphones to e-bikes, the number of mobile electronic devices is steadily growing around the world. As a result, there is an increased need for batteries that are small and light, yet powerful. As the potential for the further improvement of lithium-ion batteries is nearly exhausted, experts are now turning to a new and promising power storage device: lithium-sulfur batteries.
In an important step toward the further development of this type of battery, a team led by Professor Thomas Bein of LMU Munich and Linda Nazar of Waterloo University in Canada has developed porous carbon nanoparticles that utilize sulfur molecules to achieve the greatest possible efficiency. (Angewandte Chemie, April 2012)
In prototypes of the lithium-sulfur battery, lithium ions are exchanged between lithium- and sulfur-carbon electrodes. The sulfur plays a special role in this system: Under optimal circumstances, it can absorb two lithium ions per sulfur atom. It is therefore an excellent energy storage material due to its low weight. At the same time, sulfur is a poor conductor, meaning that electrons can only be transported with great difficulty during charging and discharging. To improve this battery's design the scientists at Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM) strive to generate sulfur phases with the greatest possible interface area for electron transfer by coupling them with a nanostructured conductive material.
To this end, Thomas Bein and his team at NIM first developed a network of porous carbon nanoparticles. The nanoparticles have 3- to 6-nanometer wide pores, allowing the sulfur to be evenly distributed. In this way, almost all of the sulfur atoms are available to accept lithium ions. At the same time they are also located close to the conductive carbon.
"The sulfur is very accessible electrically in these novel and highly porous carbon nanoparticles and is stabilized so that we can achieve a high initial capacity of 1200 mAh/g and good cycle stability," explains Thomas Bein. "Our results underscore the significance of nano-morphology for the performance of new energy storage concepts."
The carbon structure also reduces the so-called polysulfide problem. Polysulfides form as intermediate products of the electrochemical processes and can have a negative impact on the charging and discharging of the battery. The carbon network binds the polysulfides, however, until their conversion to the desired dilithium sulfide is achieved. The scientists were also able to coat the carbon material with a thin layer of silicon oxide which protects against polysulfides without reducing conductivity.
Incidentally, the scientists have also set a record with their new material: According to the latest data, their material has the largest internal pore volume (2.32 cm3/g) of all mesoporous carbon nanoparticles, and an extremely large surface area of 2445 m2/g. This corresponds roughly to an object with the volume of a sugar cube and the surface of ten tennis courts. Large surface areas like this might soon be hidden inside our batteries.Publication:
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy