Scientists develop Lithium Metal batteries that charge faster, last longer with 10X times more energy by volume than Li-Ion Batteries – BIG potential for Our EV / AV Future


 

October 25, 2018

Rice University scientists are counting on films of carbon nanotubes to make high-powered, fast-charging lithium metal batteries a logical replacement for common lithium-ion batteries.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour showed thin nanotube films effectively stop dendrites that grow naturally from unprotected lithium metal anodes in batteries. Over time, these tentacle-like dendrites can pierce the battery’s electrolyte core and reach the cathode, causing the battery to fail.

That problem has both dampened the use of lithium metal in commercial applications and encouraged researchers worldwide to solve it.

img_0837-1Rice University graduate student Gladys López-Silva holds a lithium metal anode with a film of carbon nanotubes. Once the film is attached, it becomes infiltrated by lithium ions and turns red. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Lithium metal charges much faster and holds about 10 times more energy by volume than the lithium-ion electrodes found in just about every electronic device, including cellphones and electric cars.

 

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MIT NEWS: Read More About Lithium Metal Batteries

“One of the ways to slow dendrites in lithium-ion batteries is to limit how fast they charge,” Tour said. “People don’t like that. They want to be able to charge their batteries quickly.”

The Rice team’s answer, detailed in Advanced Materials, is simple, inexpensive and highly effective at stopping dendrite growth, Tour said.

“What we’ve done turns out to be really easy,” he said. “You just coat a lithium metal foil with a multiwalled carbon nanotube film. The lithium dopes the nanotube film, which turns from black to red, and the film in turn diffuses the lithium ions.”

“Physical contact with lithium metal reduces the nanotube film, but balances it by adding lithium ions,” said Rice postdoctoral researcher Rodrigo Salvatierra, co-lead author of the paper with graduate student Gladys López-Silva. “The ions distribute themselves throughout the nanotube film.”

img_0835An illustration shows how lithium metal anodes developed at Rice University are protected from dendrite growth by a film of carbon nanotubes. Courtesy of the Tour Group

When the battery is in use, the film discharges stored ions and the underlying lithium anode refills it, maintaining the film’s ability to stop dendrite growth.

The tangled-nanotube film effectively quenched dendrites over 580 charge/discharge cycles of a test battery with a sulfurized-carbon cathode the lab developed in previous experiments.

The researchers reported the full lithium metal cells retained 99.8 percent of their coulombic efficiency, the measure of how well electrons move within an electrochemical system.

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Rice University scientists have discovered that a film of multiwalled carbon nanotubes quenches the growth of dendrites in lithium metal-based batteries. Courtesy of the Tour Group

Co-authors of the paper are Rice alumni Almaz Jalilov of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia; Jongwon Yoon, a senior researcher at the Korea Basic Science Institute; and Gang Wu, an instructor, and Ah-Lim Tsai, a professor of hematology, both at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice.

The research was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Institutes of Health, the National Council of Science and Technology, Mexico; the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel, Brazil; and Celgard, LLC.

1028_DENDRITE-5-rn-18fsg2wRice University chemist James Tour, left, graduate student Gladys López-Silva and postdoctoral researcher Rodrigo Salvatierra use a film of carbon nanotubes to prevent dendrite growth in lithium metal batteries, which charge faster and hold more power than current lithium-ion batteries. Photo by Jeff Fitlow.

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Rice University: Carbon-Capture from Asphalt Based Nano-Materials: 154% of its Weight in CO2


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A Rice University laboratory has improved its method to turn plain asphalt into a porous material that can capture greenhouse gases from natural gas. In research detailed this month in Advanced Energy Materials (“Ultra-High Surface Area Activated Porous Asphalt for CO2 Capture through Competitive Adsorption at High Pressures”), Rice researchers showed that a new form of the material can sequester 154 percent of its weight in carbon dioxide at high pressures that are common at gas wellheads.

Raw natural gas typically contains between 2 and 10 percent carbon dioxide and other impurities, which must be removed before the gas can be sold. The cleanup process is complicated and expensive and most often involves flowing the gas through fluids called amines that can soak up and remove about 15 percent of their own weight in carbon dioxide. The amine process also requires a great deal of energy to recycle the fluids for further use.

“It’s a big energy sink,” said Rice chemist James Tour, whose lab developed a technique last year to turn asphalt into a tough, sponge-like substance that could be used in place of amines to remove carbon dioxide from natural gas as it was pumped from ocean wellheads.

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Rice University scientists have improved their asphalt-derived porous carbon’s ability to capture carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from natural gas. The capture material derived from untreated Gilsonite asphalt has a surface area of 4,200 square meters per gram. (Image: Almaz Jalilov/Rice University) 

 

Initial field tests in 2015 found that pressure at the wellhead made it possible for that asphalt material to adsorb, or soak up, 114 percent of its weight in carbon at ambient temperatures.

Tour said the new, improved asphalt sorbent is made in two steps from a less expensive form of asphalt, which makes it more practical for industry.

“This shows we can take the least expensive form of asphalt and make it into this very high surface area material to capture carbon dioxide,” Tour said. “Before, we could only use a very expensive form of asphalt that was not readily available.”

 

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A scanning electron microscope image shows micropores in carbon capture material derived from common asphalt. The material created at Rice University sequesters 154 percent of its weight in carbon dioxide at 54 bar pressure, a common pressure at wellheads. (Image: Tour Group/Rice University)

 

 

The lab heated a common type asphalt known as Gilsonite at ambient pressure to eliminate unneeded organic molecules, and then heated it again in the presence of potassium hydroxide for about 20 minutes to synthesize oxygen-enhanced porous carbon with a surface area of 4,200 square meters per gram, much higher than that of the previous material.

The Rice lab’s initial asphalt-based porous carbon collected carbon dioxide from gas streams under pressure at the wellhead and released it when the pressure was released. The carbon dioxide could then be repurposed or pumped back underground while the porous carbon could be reused immediately.
In the latest tests with its new material, Tours group showed its new sorbent could remove carbon dioxide at 54 bar pressure. One bar is roughly equal to atmospheric pressure at sea level, and the 54 bar measure in the latest experiments is characteristic of the pressure levels typically found at natural gas wellheads, Tour said.
Source: Rice University

 

Creating the Future of Batteries


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We need better ways to store and use energy, that’s no secret. Cell phones need charging every day, electric cars only have a range of about a hundred miles and our ability to use solar and wind energy to feed the power grid is still very limited. These are things we’ve taken for granted, but if you look, historically, at the rate in which our technology improves — just think about cell phones and computers in the last 20 years — it’s easy to see that this area of technological development has severely lagged.

energy storage device.jpgWhile there are a number of political, philosophical and theoretical explanations for why energy storage development has fallen behind, experts agree that if the problem is going to be fixed in our lifetime, it needs to start now.

Energy storage is a limiting factor that researchers have been aware of for quite a while, but their work to improve our storage devices has taken many, disparate directions. In a recent edition of Nature Communications, Drexel materials science and engineering researchers Yury Gogotsi, PhD, and Maria Lukatskaya, PhD, who have been surveying the landscape of energy storage research for years, offer a unified route for bringing our energy storage and distribution capabilities level with our energy production and consumption.

rice-nanoporus-battery-102315-untitled-1You May Also Want To Read: Nanoporous Material Combines the Best of Batteries and Supercapacitors for ESS (Energy Storage Systems)

 

Read about the work of Dr. Jim Tour at Rice University – “Changing the Equation” for how we think about Batteries, Super Capacitors and Energy Storage.        Rice logo_rice3

 

 

Lukatskaya and Gogotsi unpacked the problem for the News Blog and offered up three ways in which energy storage research and development need to change right now to get things moving in the right direction:

 So, the directions where we want our energy storage devices — such as batteries — to go are pretty intuitive: we want them to store more energy per unit of volume (or mass) so that it would provide longer autonomy times for portable electronics without making them bulkier. We also want to enable fast charging of the devices, so that five minutes of charging would provide full-day power for device operation. And last, but not least, we want to increase the lifespan of batteries — meaning the number of charge/discharge cycles they can undergo without performance degradation.  

To achieve that, we need to rethink conventional electrode architectures and materials that are currently used in energy storage devices, such as batteries and supercapacitors.

  1. Clean up all the wasted space

For example, in state of the art batteries, too much volume is occupied by the cell components that do not store charge. It is estimated that in smaller devices more than 80 percent of the volume is occupied by the inert cell components: current collectors, separators and casings. So new design concepts that minimize use of current collectors would lead to substantial improvement in energy that can be stored per unit of mass or volume of the device.

  1. Come up with a better recipe

Secondly, new electrolyte and electrode chemistries should be explored. Currently, oxide materials dominate the “insides” of batteries. Oxides have many advantages, being among the most studied material, and they provided a reliable energy storage solution for quite a while, but in order to address growing needs for high-energy batteries, other electrode materials should be explored that have high electrical conductivity and can enable multielectron redox reactions (storing more charges per atom than lithium).

  1. Get electrons and ions on the expressway

In order to make energy storage devices fast, it is again necessary to reconsider electrode architectures to ensure rapid accessibility of ions and electrons toward active sites. Basically, we need to create such architectures where, instead of a “maze,” ions can move on “highways” providing fast charging.

 

Gogotsi is Distinguished University and Trustee Chair professor in the College of Engineering and director of the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute. Lukatskaya, was a doctoral candidate in the Department of Materials Science and Engineeringwhen she worked with Gogotsi on this research. She is now a post-doctoral research fellow at Stanford University.

You can read their Nature Communications paper “Multidimensional materials and device architectures for future hybrid energy storage” here:http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12647

 

Can Nanotechnology Solve the Energy Crisis?


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Image: Solar panels are seen in the Palm Springs area, California April 13, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson: Special to the WEF (World Economic Forum) by Tim Harper

This post is part of a series examining the connections between nanotechnology and the top 10 trends facing the world, as described in the Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015. All authors are members of the Global Agenda Council on Nanotechnology.

The late Richard Smalley, often considered to be one of the fathers of nanotechnology following his Nobel Prize-winning work on fullerenes, had a keen interest in energy. In many presentations he would ask the audience to call out what they considered to be the most pressing issues facing humanity.

Watch Video: Dr. Wade Adams of The Smalley Institute and Rice University: 

Nanotechnology and the Future of Energy

 

The answers were often similar to those identified in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report, including persistent worries such as disease, clean water, poverty, inequality and access to resources. Smalley would then rearrange the list to put energy at the top and proceed to explain how a happy, healthy world of 9 billion could be achieved if we could only fix the problem of providing cheap and abundant clean energy.

Back in the early 2000s, most of the imagined solutions to the energy challenge involved novel materials such as carbon nanotubes for lossless electricity transmission, or hydrogen storage to enable fuel-cell vehicles. While novel materials like nanotubes never quite lived up to their promise, 15 years later many nanotechnologies, including the latest carbon-based material graphene, are now promising to deliver huge leaps in the way that we generate, store and use energy.

But these advances are not enabled by nanotechnologies in isolation. Many of the technologies identified in the Forum’s top 10 emerging technologies list for the past three years, from gene editing to additive manufacturing, also play a role, supporting our ability to understand the nanoscale processes in nature, generating new insights into how to move beyond conventional solar cells and copy some of nature’s tricks, such as photosynthesis.

Solar solutions

The problem is that conventional silicon-based solar cells, while effective, have many drawbacks. They are brittle, which means that they need to be fixed to a rigid support, and they only harvest a small amount of the spectrum of light generated by the sun. For instance, silicon is transparent to infrared light, which means a lot of potential energy available is not harvested.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, are helping to solve this by working with hybrid material combining inorganic semiconductor nanoparticles with organic compounds. These first capture two infrared photons that would normally pass right through a solar cell without being converted to electricity, then add their energies together to make one higher energy photon.

An alternative approach is the use of quantum dots. These are nanoscale particles where the response to different wavelengths can be tuned by altering their sizes. Because of their unique optical properties, they are finding increasing uses in lighting and televisions, but these properties are also useful in solar cells. While the efficiency of quantum-dot solar cells reported in recent studies is increasing to as high as 9%, the real breakthrough is that the new devices can be produced at room temperature and in an atmosphere, rather than an expensive and hard-to-maintain vacuum. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of quantum-dot solar cells, though, is that the quantum dots can be dispersed in other materials, leading to “spray on” low-cost and large-area solar cells that can be applied to buildings or vehicles.

A leaf out of nature’s book

But the big prize in advanced photovoltaics will come with achieving artificial photosynthesis. The aim is to enable the production of useful chemicals and fuels directly from sunlight and carbon dioxide, just as plants do. By combining nanotechnology and biology, researchers are mimicking the processes that occur in the leaf of a plant to produce fuels such as butanol and biodegradable plastics. Once combined with synthetic biology to precisely engineer the bacteria, the possibilities are endless.

Generating energy is only half the solution, though. It also has to be stored for later use. This is an addressable issue for energy utilities, who balance peaks and troughs in demand by using techniques such as pumping water uphill into hydro-electric dams. But such large-scale engineering solutions are not an option for off-grid communities in much of the developing world. Local energy use requires a cheap and efficient way of storing energy, as do electric vehicles and smartphones.

Nanomaterials, and graphene in particular, have been attracting significant interest as potential game-changers for energy storage. One driver for this is the high surface area of many nanomaterials, which increases the ability to store charge within a given volume. Graphene – which is formed from layers of carbon a single atom thick – has a tremendous surface area for a given amount of material, and has created a lot of excitement about graphene-based supercapacitors and anodes for lithium ion batteries.

One of the biggest problems with the lithium ion batteries is the amount of charge that can be stored in the conventional graphite-based anodes they use. Lithium is added to the graphite when the battery is charging and removed as it discharges, but the low capacity of graphite means that the anode is limited in the amount of energy it can store. Researchers have been looking at silicon anodes that promise 10 times better capacity for the best part of decade, but the constant stresses on the material results in a short lifetime. One way of addressing this issue has been to place the silicon in cage of fullerenes, nanotubes or nanowires. Companies such as XG Sciences andCalifornia Lithium Battery are developing graphene-coated silicon, or “silicon-graphene nano-composite anode material”.

Rice Nanoporus Battery 102315 untitledRead About a NEW Solution for Nano-Batteries:

Rice University: Dr. Jim Tour: Nanoporous Material Combines the Best of Batteries and Supercapacitors for ESS (Energy Storage Systems)

 

 

 

Fast-charging batteries

Taking a more bio-inspired approach, the Israeli company StoreDot is combining nanotechnology and biology to create nanoscale peptide crystals to produce a battery that will charge in less than a minute, while researchers in Singapore have recently developed a nanotube-based battery that could last more than 10 times as long as normal ion batteries and can also charge in minutes.

Watch Video: Rice University’s laser-induced graphene makes simple, powerful energy storage possible

In the meantime, while we wait for current nanotechnology research to bear fruit, the biggest contribution that nanotechnology can make today is simply to reduce the amount of energy required to perform common tasks, such as heating and cooling.

The UK company Xefro, for instance, is making use of graphene to create a smart home-heating system which promises savings of up to 70%. The heaters make use of the high surface area of what is effectively a two-dimensional material to create an efficient heating material which is then applied as an ink. The ink can be printed on a variety of materials and in just about any shape, including water heaters. In a two-dimensional material, energy isn’t wasted in heating up the heater, so the heat can be turned on and off quickly. This both reduces energy use and makes the system ideal for use with smart thermostats.

Cool fractals

Meanwhile, another UK start-up called Inclusive Designs is addressing the problem of keeping things cool by combining nanomaterials and fractals with 3D printing. The company prints 3D fractal structures designed to absorb infrared (heat) and then removes the heat by making use of the high thermal conductivity of graphene, creating a cooling system with no liquids or moving parts.

Since Richard Smalley’s untimely death in 2005, the energy situation has improved, with an increasing number of countries now generating the majority of their power from renewable sources; electric vehicles are now a common sight. But cheap, efficient renewable-energy production – together with its storage and transmission – remains a challenge. The combination of nanotechnology, with a wide range of other emerging and transformative technologies, promises to make Smalley’s dream of a world of abundant, cheap, clean energy a reality over the coming decade.

Have you read?
What does nanotech mean for geopolitics?
How new nanomaterials can boost renewables
Why energy poverty is the real energy crisis

Next in the Series: Can Nanotechnology Help Us Solve the Water Crisis? 

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Bruce has been the ‘catalyst force’ for GNT™ recognizing early-on the generational and transformative opportunity of Nanotechnology (The Fourth Industrial Revolution). Bruce has sought to position Genesis in the forefront of the coming “Nano-Sea-Change.” Focusing and applying 35+ years of experience in Business Start-Up and Venture Capital, Bruce has built ‘Nano-Bridge-Relationships’, working to forge Nanotechnologies Industry & Markets together with Commercial Opportunities that will solve the most essential ‘Grand Challenges’ for multi-generations.

 

 

Rice University: Microwaved “Nanoribbons” may bolster oil and gas wells


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Rice University researchers have developed a method to treat composite materials of graphene nanoribbons and thermoset polymers with microwaves in a way that could dramatically reinforce wellbores for oil and gas production. Credit: Nam Dong Kim/Rice University

 

Wellbores drilled to extract oil and gas can be dramatically reinforced with a small amount of modified graphene nanoribbons added to a polymer and microwaved, according to Rice University researchers.

The Rice labs of chemist James Tour and civil and environmental engineer Rouzbeh Shahsavari combined the nanoribbons with an oil-based thermoset intended to make wells more stable and cut production costs. When cured in place with low-power microwaves emanating from the drill assembly, the composite would plug the microscopic fractures that allow drilling fluid to seep through and destabilize the walls.

Results of their study appeared in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

The researchers said that in the past, drillers have tried to plug fractures with mica, calcium carbonate, gilsonite and asphalt to little avail because the particles are too large and the method is not efficient enough to stabilize the wellbore.

In lab tests, a polymer-nanoribbon mixture was placed on a sandstone block, similar to the rock that is encountered in many wells. The team found that rapidly heating the to more than 200 degrees Celsius with a 30-watt microwave was enough to cause crosslinking in the polymer that had infiltrated the sandstone, Tour said. The needed is just a fraction of that typically used by a kitchen appliance, he said.

“This is a far more practical and cost-effective way to increase the stability of a well over a long period,” Tour said.

In the lab, the nanoribbons were functionalized—or modified—with polypropylene oxide to aid their dispersal in the polymer. Mechanical tests on composite-reinforced sandstone showed the process increased its average strength from 5.8 to 13.3 megapascals, a 130 percent boost in this measurement of internal pressure, Shahsavari said. Similarly, the toughness of the composite increased by a factor of six.

“That indicates the composite can absorb about six times more energy before failure,” he said. “Mechanical testing at smaller scales via nanoindentation exhibited even more local enhancement, mainly due to the strong interaction between nanoribbons and the polymer. This, combined with the filling effect of the nanoribbon-polymer into the pore spaces of the sandstone, led to the observed enhancements.”

The researchers suggested a low-power microwave attachment on the drill head would allow for in-well curing of the nanoribbon-polymer solution.

Explore further: Graphene nanoribbons grow due to domino-like effect

More information: Nam Dong Kim et al, Microwave Heating of Functionalized Graphene Nanoribbons in Thermoset Polymers for Wellbore Reinforcement, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2016). DOI: 10.1021/acsami.6b01756

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