A team of researchers led by MIT Professor Ju Li has found an electrolyte that overcomes the problems associated with metal electrodes, which could result in batteries with longer lifespans and more energy storage capacity.
The research was reported in the journal Nature Energy in a paper by Li and others. The researchers say the finding could make it possible for lithium-ion batteries, which now typically store about 260 watt-hours per kilogram, to store up to 420 watt-hours per kilogram.
Through experiments in collaboration with Brookhaven National Laboratory, the researchers found that using the new electrolyte reduced the stress-corrosion cracking degradations that often plague batteries with metal electrodes.
The researchers say the raw materials for this electrolyte are inexpensive (though one of the intermediate compounds is still costly because it’s in limited use), and the process to make it is simple, so this advance could be implemented relatively quickly.
The next step is to scale the production to make it affordable. “We make it in one very easy reaction from readily available commercial starting materials,” said MIT Professor Jeremiah Johnson, one of the paper’s authors. Right now, the precursor compound used to synthesize the electrolyte is expensive, but he added, “If we can show the world that this is a great electrolyte for consumer electronics, the motivation to further scale up will help to drive the price down.”
Li said this is essentially a “drop-in” replacement for an existing electrolyte and doesn’t require a redesign of the entire battery system, so it could be implemented quickly and commercialized within a couple of years. “There are no expensive elements, it’s just carbon and fluorine. So it’s not limited by resources, it’s just the process,” he said.