Researchers make discovery that could reduce explosions of lithium-metal batteries
by Adam Schrader
Washington DC (UPI) Aug 2, 2023
Researchers have made a discovery that could lead to better lithium-metal batteries, as opposed to lithium-ion batteries, while reducing their risk of explosion.
Currently, lithium-ion batteries dominate the market for everything from smartphones to electrical vehicles and solar and wind energy technologies.
Lithium-ion batteries store positively charged lithium atoms in a cage-like structure of carbon that coats an electrode. With lithium-metal batteries, the metal instead directly coats the electrode, allowing for much more lithium to be used and double the performance of the battery.
However, that increased performance comes with danger. Lithium reacts easily with chemicals and can corrode as quickly as the metal is added to the electrode, leading to an increased risk of fire and explosions.
Researchers with the California NanoSystems Institute at University of California Los Angeles have developed a method for laying down the lithium metal faster than it can corrode — allowing them to see the shape the metal’s atoms organize into for the first time.
The research was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
“There are thousands of papers on lithium metal, and most descriptions of the structure is qualitative, such as ‘chunky’ or ‘column-like,'” said Yuzhang Li, the study’s corresponding author, in a news release.
“It was surprising for us to discover that when we prevented surface corrosion, instead of these ill-defined shapes, we saw a singular polyhedron that matches theoretical predictions based on the metal’s crystal structure. Ultimately, this study allows us to revise how we understand lithium-metal batteries.”
The researchers said that scientists armed with the understanding of the true shape of lithium, described as “a 12-sided figure similar to the dice used in role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons,” can lower the risk of explosion by laying down the atoms in an orderly form.