30 January 2013 (created 30 January 2013)
Lithium-ion batteries work by moving lithium ions back and forth between two electrodes, the cathode and anode. Charging the battery forces the ions and electrons into the anode, creating an electrical potential that can power a wide range of devices. Discharging the battery – using it to do work – moves the ions and electrons to the cathode. Today’s lithium-ion batteries typically retain about 80 percent of their initial capacity after 500 charge/discharge cycles.
Cui’s innovation is a cathode made of nanoparticles, each a tiny sulfur nugget surrounded by a hard shell of porous titanium dioxide, like an egg yolk in an eggshell. Between the yolk and shell, where the egg white would be, is an empty space into which the sulfur can expand. During discharging, lithium ions pass through the shell and bind to the sulfur, which expands to fill the void but not so much as to break the shell. The shell, meanwhile, protects the sulfur-lithium intermediate compound from electrolyte solvent that would dissolve it.
Over the past seven years, Cui’s group has demonstrated a succession of increasingly capable anodes that use silicon rather than carbon because it can store up to 10 times more charge per weight. Their most recent anode also has a yolk-shell design that retains its energy-storage capacity over 1,000 charge/discharge cycles.
The group’s next step is to combine the yolk-shell sulfur cathode with a yolk-shell silicon anode to see if together they produce a high-energy, long-lasting battery. Source: From Egg-cellent World-record Battery Performance by Mike Ross. This work is detailed in the paper “Sulphur–TiO2 yolk–shell nanoarchitecture with internal void space for long-cycle lithium–sulphur batteries” by Zhi Wei Seh, Weiyang Li, Judy J. Cha, Guangyuan Zheng, Yuan Yang, Matthew T. McDowell, Po-Chun Hsu & Yi Cui.