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Sponge-like silicon enhances Li-ion battery capacity

11 Jul 2014

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Next, the team collaborated with materials scientist Chongmin Wang, who specialises in using in-situ transmission electron microscopes at DOE's EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at PNNL. Wang uses powerful microscopes to record close-up videos of tiny batteries, allowing researchers to better understand the physical and chemical changes that batteries undergo as they operate. Wang put the team's sponge-like, carbon-coated silicon electrode through a series of charges and discharges under the microscope's careful eye.


Space to grow

The team observed that while being charged, the new electrode mostly expanded into the empty spaces created by the material's porous structure. The outside shape of the electrode only expanded by 30 per cent—much less than the 300 per cent usually seen in silicon electrodes. And the new electrode didn't break down. After more than 1,000 charge-and-discharge cycles, the electrode maintained more than 80 per cent of its initial energy storage capacity.

Next, Zhang and his colleagues plan to develop a larger prototype battery with their silicon sponge electrode. Part of that effort will involve creating a more streamlined production process so their new electrode can be made at a reasonable cost.


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