Researchers in Japan have developed a low cost, single step process to produce silicon-carbon materials for battery anodes from waste semiconductor materials.
The process developed by researchers at Keio University uses laser irradiation to turn silicon waste from chip making into nanoparticles for battery anode materials. The results are expected to have wide-ranging applications in semiconductor manufacturing and energy-related industries.
Silicon-carbon (Si-C) composites are now being investigated as anode materials, particularly Si-C core-shell nanoparticles.
Jiwang Yan from Keio University and colleagues have developed a single-equipment, single-step process for producing Si-C nanostructures in a short time and at a low cost.
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Yan and colleagues started by mixing micrometre-sized silicon and carbon powder. The silicon powder was made from sludge, a waste generated during the grinding of silicon wafers, while for the carbon content, commercially-available graphite powder was used.
The Si-C powder mixture was then compressed into tablets and irradiated with laser light, which causes them to vaporize. The vapour, in the form of a plume, expands and diffuses, after which droplets form, which then solidify into nanoparticles.
The researchers performed a characterization of the nanoparticles by means of electron microscopy imaging and spectroscopic methods. Their analysis showed that two types of core-shell nanoparticles form. In the first type, the core consists of silicon only, whereas in the other type, the core material is silicon carbide (SiC). In both cases, the surrounding shell consisted of carbon only.
The scientists also used a high-speed camera to record the formation and the evolution of the plumes generated by the laser irradiation. This helped them to understand how precisely the core-shell nanoparticles form. In the early stages of the process, Si and SiC nanoparticles are generated as cores and then pass a carbon “cloud” persisting in the plume, through which the cores get a carbon coating as the shells (as shown in the video).
Yan is now collaborating with industrial partners to translate these results from the lab to the real-life manufacture of lithium batteries and other applications including displays and bio-imaging.
The paper is at: doi.org/10.1002/nano.202200001
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