Rice University in Texas Continues to Drive Improvement of Lithium Metal Batteries

Xenia Zoller

The Rice Lab of chemist James Tour has successfully experimented with nanotubes and came one step closer to making lithium metal batteries competitive with lithium ion batteries.

In fact, the lithium metal battery already has a clear advantage in terms of charging time and energy storage volume. However, there is one obstacle in particular that has impaired the reliability of the lithium metal battery so far: After a while of use, dendrites start growing naturally from unprotected lithium metal anodes in the battery. These dendrites can cause the battery to fail by piercing its electrolyte core and making its way to the cathode.

And here is exactly where Rice Lab’s research begins. Until now it was assumed that the slowing down of dendride growth can only be accompanied by a slowing down of the charging time of the battery, which is of course a negative effect. Now, the Rice research team discovered a simple and inexpensive, yet very effective way to hinder dendrite growth within the battery. James Tour explained: “What we’ve done turns out to be really easy. 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.” And his colleague Rice postdoctoral researcher Rodrigo Salvatierra, co-lead author of the paper with graduate student Gladys López-Silva, added: “Physical contact with lithium metal reduces the nanotube film, but balances it by adding lithium ions. The ions distribute themselves throughout the nanotube film.”

Source: Rice University

Image Source: Rice University/Jeff Fitlow | rice.edu