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Lithium-ion batteries: the new generation is coming

Lithium-ion batteries were first marketed in 1991.

Engineers have finally unlocked the secret of metal oxides capable of storing up to three times more energy than current materials. A promising avenue for designing smaller and more powerful batteries …

How to make lithium-ion batteries even more efficient?
A group of metal oxides has intrigued scientists for the past twenty years, due to their mysterious ability to store much more energy than should be possible, compared to conventional electrochemical storage mechanisms.

 

Some of these metal compounds have an energy storage capacity up to three times greater than that of the materials commonly used in lithium-ion batteries available on the market today, and which power our smartphones and electric bicycles.

Although the phenomenon had already been observed, it had not yet been understood. “Our work, therefore, responds to this need for understanding, because it is considered a first step towards the next generation of lithium-ion batteries,” said Guihua Yu, a materials science researcher who participated in the study.

A new technique to study the internal electronic structure
The team has found a technique to monitor and measure the way in which chemical elements evolve over time: “in situ magnetometry”, which allows monitoring of magnetic variations in real-time. Enough to study the evolution of the internal electronic structure of a material, and quantify its charge capacity.

The researchers then realized that this ability of metal oxides to store more energy was linked to the formation of nanometric metal particles, which are created from a chemical reaction between these metal oxides and lithium ions.

More research is still needed to allow a new generation of lithium-ion batteries to emerge, but this discovery already makes it possible to envisage the creation of new, smaller, and more powerful batteries, whether for smartphones or electric vehicles.

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