Aluminium tin anodes double battery capacity

Aluminium tin anodes double battery capacity

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

The team at the Cockrell School of Engineering have created a foil material from aluminium and tin that is a quarter of the thickness and half of the weight of the graphite and copper anodes used in virtually all lithium-ion batteries today. The eutectic metal alloys are mechanically rolled into nanostructured metal foils, allowing smaller, lighter rechargeable batteries to be made more cost effectively.

The new family of anode materials, which the researchers call the Interdigitated Eutectic Alloy (IdEA), is also simpler to produce, using only two simple steps and making the battery production process cheaper. However, thi sis just one of many different types of anode material combinations currently being explored and commercialised (see below).

“It is exciting to have developed an inexpensive, scalable process for making electrode nanomaterials,” said Arumugam Manthiram, a professor and the director of the Texas Materials Institute, who led the team. “Our results show that the material succeeds very well on the performance metrics needed to make a commercially viable advance in lithium-ion batteries.”Since the 1990s, the primary anode for mass-produced rechargeable lithium-ion batteries has been a graphite powder coated on a copper foil. The copper adds bulk to an electrode without improving the battery’s power and the anode requires a laborious, fastidious manufacturing process. By omitting the complicated slurry coating process, the manufacturing of the IdEA anode is drastically simplified.

“The eutectic microstructure forms naturally because of thermodynamics,” said fellow researcher Karl Kreder. “Then, you can reduce the microstructure by rolling it, which is an extraordinarily cheap step to convert a microstructure into a nanostructure.” 

The anodes are also significantly smaller for the same energy density, allowing for higher capacity cells. The initial test cells have an energy density of 250 mAh/g for more than 150 cycles, a significant improvement upon the graphite/copper composite anode, and can be used for a range of different ions such as sodium or magnesium as well as lithium.

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