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This Battery Breakthrough Could Fix Degrading Lithium Batteries

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2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Lithium-Ion Battery System

News of battery breakthroughs have been coming at a pretty rapid clip as of late, possibly due to the industry’s new, intense interest in electric and hybrid vehicles (due to various factors). However, most new battery innovations focus on whole new systems, using different materials that haven’t been used in a vehicle before.

It is pretty interesting, then, to see one that takes existing technology and makes it way better.

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Enter researchers from the University of Waterloo, which published a paper in the journal Joule that claims that they have discovered a way to improve lithium-metal batteries that could “dramatically increase battery storage capacity,” tripling the range of electric vehicles.

Mainly, what the researchers claim to have done is find a way to solve an old problem with lithium-metal batteries, which degrade quickly due to dendrites forming on the metal (dendrites are crystals with branching, treelike structures).

Researcher Quanquan Pang (who is now a post-doctoral fellow at MIT) said that the solution they found was “adding a chemical compound made of phosphorus and sulfur elements to the electrolyte liquid that carries electrical charge within batteries.” This compound reacts with the lithium to form an extremely thin protective layer, letting them take advantage of lithium’s high storage capacity without the normal degradation.

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Speaking practically, according to Pang that could mean “cheap, safe, long-lasting batteries that give people much more range in their electric vehicles.”

Of course, like with other battery breakthroughs that we have mentioned, it’s a long road from publishing a paper in a journal to commercial application. However, if this works as claimed, we can just hope that it is accelerated quickly down that path.

News Sources: Electrek, Joule