Batteries are the backbone of the modern world. Without them, we wouldn’t have electric cars, portable electronics or renewable energy systems. But even with all the advancements that have been made, there is still much room for improvement, and that’s where nanostructured materials come in. This article will explore the use of these materials in lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), specifically for anodes, and highlight recent scientific research and developments in the field of high-performance LIBs.
Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable power sources that have become the standard for modern electronics and other devices. They are used in everything from smartphones and laptops to hybrid and electric vehicles and renewable energy storage systems. Despite the widespread use, there is always a drive to improve battery life, durability, and energy storage capacity. That’s where nano-engineering and nanotechnology offer a promising strategy for enhancing the performance of lithium-ion batteries through the use of nanostructured materials.
Nanostructured materials are materials that have been engineered to have specific properties by manipulating or exploiting their nanoscale dimensions. They offer several distinct advantages over conventional materials, including higher surface area, increased reactivity, and improved mechanical and electrical properties. These advantages have made them a promising solution for improving battery performance, including high energy density, long cycle life, and fast charging.
Nanostructured Materials for Anodes
The anode is an essential component of LIBs, and its electrochemical properties are critical to the battery’s performance. By using nanostructured materials in anodes, we can improve the battery’s capacity, stability, and performance under high loads. Several types of nanostructured materials have been explored for anodes, including:
- Silicon-comprising nanostructures: The use of one or more silicon-based nanostructures, as proposed in the recently granted patent EP3859830B1, can provide a higher capacitance, cyclic performance, and thermal stability. Silicon has a high theoretical capacity of 4200 mAh/g, ten times higher than graphite, but suffers from large volume expansion, which leads to a decrease in performance over time. By using silicon-based nanostructures, volume change can be controlled and the capacity retention improved.
- Graphite particles: Graphite is commonly used as an anode material, but its electrochemical performance can be improved through the use of nanostructured graphite particles. This reduces the particle size, allowing for better diffusion rates, cycling ability, and power density.
- Titanium oxides: Titanium oxide (TiO2) is a promising anode material for LIBs due to its high safety, low cost, and eco-friendliness. However, its low conductivity has limited its performance. The use of nanostructured TiO2 has the potential to overcome this issue by providing improved conductivity and an increased surface area.
- Carbon-based powder: Carbon-based powders, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes, can also be used in anodes for high energy density and fast charging. These materials offer high conductivity, high surface area, and low weight, making them ideal for use in rechargeable batteries.
Other Nanostructured Materials for High-Performance LIBs
In addition to the anode, other components in the LIBs can also benefit from the use of nanostructured materials. Here are some examples:
Cathodes: The cathode is the other critical component of LIBs, responsible for storing and releasing lithium ions during charge and discharge. The use of nanostructured materials such as cathodes has been investigated, including the use of carbon nanostructures, metallic materials, and metal oxides. Graphene, in particular, has shown promise as a high-capacity cathode material due to its unique electronic structure.
Separators: Separators are the thin membranes responsible for keeping the cathode and anode separated while allowing lithium ions to flow between them. The use of nano-membranes, including conductive polymer and nanocomposites, has been studied for their potential to increase the battery life and stability by improving the separator’s mechanical properties and resistance to degradation.
Printable Batteries: One exciting application of nanostructured materials in LIBs is the development of printable batteries using nanotube ink. This development opens the door to thin, flexible batteries that can be easily printed on various surfaces, expanding the range of applications for battery technology.
Special Issue of Nanomaterials Journal
As the use of nanostructured materials in LIBs continues to grow and evolve, scientific research is continually pushing the limits of what’s possible. The “Nanostructured Materials for Li-ion Batteries and Beyond” special issue of the Nanomaterials journal focuses on the latest advances in the synthesis, optimization, and characterization of nanostructured materials for high-performance LIBs.
The issue covers various nanostructured materials and includes articles on their synthesis processes, electrode reaction mechanisms, and electrochemical properties. It highlights the potential use of various nanostructured materials, including nano-carbon, metallic materials, metal oxides, polymer nanoparticles, thin films, and nano-membranes for LIBs and beyond systems. By bringing together research from various fields, the special issue gives us a glimpse of what’s yet to come and the potential for new and exciting applications of nanostructured materials in the realm of battery technology.
Nanostructured materials have great potential to improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries, particularly when used in anodes. By manipulating the nanoscale dimensions and properties of materials, we can improve battery capacity, stability, and performance under high loads, leading to more efficient devices and systems. Research and development in the field of nanostructured materials for LIBs are ongoing, and new advancements are continually being made. With this technology advancing rapidly, it’s only a matter of time before we see even higher-performing and efficient batteries that will continue to shape our energy landscape and power the future, one cell at a time.