Researchers in the US have developed a fast charging battery with an indium anode.
The team at Cornell Engineering created the lithium battery with an LiIn indium anode that does not create the dendrites that can cause short circuits and fires when fast charging to full capacity in five minutes.
This used a chemical engineering concept termed the “Damköhler number.” This is essentially a measure of the rate at which chemical reactions occur, relative to the rate at which material is transported to the reaction site.
Identifying battery electrode materials with inherently fast solid-state transport rates, and hence low Damköhler numbers, helped the researchers pinpoint indium as an exceptionally promising material for fast-charging batteries. Indium is a soft metal, mostly used to make indium tin oxide coatings for touch-screen displays and solar panels. It is also used as a replacement for lead in low-temperature solder.
The study shows indium has two crucial characteristics as a battery anode: an extremely low migration energy barrier, which sets the rate at which ions diffuse in the solid state; and a modest exchange current density, which is related to the rate at which ions are reduced in the anode.
The combination of rapid diffusion and slow surface reaction kinetics is essential for fast charging and long-duration storage.
After fast charging the battery, the researchers observed its indium anode had a smooth lithium electrodeposition. The LiIn anodes are paired with a range of intercalation such as LFP (LiFePO4) and NMC cathodes, showing fast charging capabilities in a range of electrolyte solvents.
“Our goal was to create battery electrode designs that charge and discharge in ways that align with daily routine,” said researcher Shuo Jin. “In practical terms, we desire our electronic devices to charge quickly and operate for extended periods. To achieve this, we have identified a unique indium anode material that can be effectively paired with various cathode materials to create a battery that charges rapidly and discharges slowly.”
However, that doesn’t mean indium anodes are perfect, or even practical.
“While this result is exciting, in that it teaches us how to get to fast-charge batteries, indium is heavy,” said Lynden Archer, Professor of Engineering and dean of Cornell Engineering.
“Therein lies an opportunity for computational chemistry modeling, perhaps using generative AI tools, to learn what other lightweight materials chemistries might achieve the same intrinsically low Damköhler numbers. For example, are there metal alloys out there that we’ve never studied, which have the desired characteristics? That is where my satisfaction comes from, that there’s a general principle at work that allows anyone to design a better battery anode that achieves faster charge rates than the state-of-the art technology.”
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