Energy

Lead-based anode for lithium batteries doubles energy storage capacity

Lead-based anode for lithium b...
Artist's impression of the new lead-based shell particles as an anode material, alongside a lithium battery and electric vehicle
Artist's impression of the new lead-based shell particles as an anode material, alongside a lithium battery and electric vehicle
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Artist's impression of the new lead-based shell particles as an anode material, alongside a lithium battery and electric vehicle
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Artist's impression of the new lead-based shell particles as an anode material, alongside a lithium battery and electric vehicle

When it comes to expanding the capabilities of today’s lithium-ion batteries, all kinds of alternative materials are on the table, from salt, to silicon, to microwaved plastics. Owing to its abundance, low cost and familiarity in battery systems, lead is one option with plenty of appeal, and scientists have just demonstrated how the material can form the basis of a new lithium battery anode that offers far greater storage capacity.

As one of the two electrodes in a lithium battery, the anode is loaded up with lithium ions during charging and releases them during discharge. Graphite is the material of choice for lithium battery anodes today, and serves them well, remaining stable across thousands of charging cycles. But where scientists would like to see some improvement is in their storage capacity, and for a team at Argonne National Laboratory, there is plenty of potential in lead.

Because it is widely used in lead-acid batteries, the oldest type of rechargeable batteries, there are well-established supply chains for lead, as well as systems in place to recycle the material at the end of its life. This, combined with the its low-cost and availability led the team to experiment with a lead-based anode for use in a lithium ion battery, with some promising early results.

The team started with large lead-oxide particles, which were combined with a carbon powder and shaken for several hours. This sees them converted into smaller, microscopic particles embedded in a carbon matrix, all encapsulated in a thin lead-oxide shell.

This new anode material was put to the test in battery cells in the lab, where it offered twice the energy storage capacity of conventional graphite anodes over 100 charging cycles, and proved perfectly stable throughout. The team was able to boost its performance further by adding fluoroethylene carbonate to the electrolyte solution, which carries the battery’s electrical charge.

“Our discovery challenges the current understanding of this type of electrode material,” says Christopher Johnson, the principal investigator of the project. ​“Our findings also provide exciting implications for designing low-cost, high-performance anode materials for transportation and stationary energy storage, such as backup power for the electric grid.”

The research was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Source: Argonne National Laboratory

8 comments
martinwinlow
Uh-huh.... and available at a battery shop near you... when, exactly?
GeoffreyR.Gunning
Yes, but what does the lead oxide actually do? This is beginning to sound like "try anything." Next stop: try curry powder.
guzmanchinky
How interesting. It's only a matter of time before we see doubling of energy density and doubling again.
Nobody
If all these break throughs in the news work out, we will power our electric cars with a AAA battery. A few more break throughs and a hearing aid battery will be plenty. When will the Dilithium be ready???
ljaques
The 100 cycle test certainly didn't gain them any respect. Keep testing and refining, folks. We all want this. (Well, we want 4x-10x increases in power density, really, but all gains are good if they combine with 4,000 to 40,000 cycles of life, please.)
jerryd
Lithium anodes need space for the li ions to move through, too. It's what Cobalt is used for and alum in Tesla cells.
So I can see lead oxide, a rather large molecule could give it the space needed between them to store the lithium.
This would have to work really well to be worth using lead, something we need to collect and put where it can't harm anything. Large grid batteries is the best choice giving it value to be collected. And with a cell refomer onsite, unlimited life.
Almost all cell couples can be recharged to some extent so unlikely lead to lead would be the first.
TomLeeM
It sounds like a 'back to the future' type technology. I think it is very interesting. It would be neat to see where they go with this and how it will affect battery technology and electric vehicles.
Leithauser
Great news on several fronts. Greater distance for EVs, or alternately, same distance but half the size batteries, bringing down cost. Cheaper grid or home solar storage because you need half the number of batteries. Reduced need for batteries means we can stretch our supply of lithium further, since people keep claiming we do not have enough lithium in the world to make all the electric cars we need.