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Graphene enables all-carbon lithium battery

24 Apr 2014

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In this study, however, they looked at the interaction of elemental lithium with such defect sites in the graphene. They found that lithium ions are strongly attracted to defect sites, which creates a very high local concentration of lithium near the defects. This initiates the formation, or "plating," of metallic lithium at the defect sites, which significantly increases the energy density of the battery. Such graphene-lithium metal composites can be used as the cathode, eliminating the need for toxic metals or complicated chemistries associated with lithium cobalt oxide or lithium iron phosphate.

However, what surprised the research team was that even after thousands of charge-recharge cycles, as the metallic lithium transitioned back and forth between the anode and cathode, no significant dendrites formed.

"We discovered that the porous graphene network acts as a caged entrapment for lithium metal that prevents dendritic growth, facilitating extended cycling of the electrode," Koratkar said. "The result is a device with excellent energy density and stable performance. We are excited about its potential as a new type of battery."

When compared to traditional graphitic anodes and conventional lithium cobalt oxide cathodes, the new graphene-lithium metal composite electrode provides higher charge storage capacity and up to three times higher energy density. Extended testing for over 1,000 charge-discharge cycles showed highly stable performance. Importantly, even after 1,000 cycles there was no indication of any significant dendritic structures, since the lithium metal is caged within the pores of the porous graphene network structure. To demonstrate the concept, the researchers built a cell using graphene electrodes and used it to power a commercial LED device.

Along with Koratkar, co-authors of the paper are graduate students Rahul Mukherjee, Abhay Thomas, and Eklavya Singh, and visiting scientist Osman Eksik, of the Rensselaer Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering; graduate student Dibakar Datta of Brown University; and postdoctoral scientist Junwen Li and Professor Vivek Shenoy of the University of Pennsylvania.

Koratkar's graduate student and first author of the paper, Mukherjee, was a finalist in the 2014 MIT-Lemelson National Collegiate Student Prize Competition in the graduate student category and presented his research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology earlier this month. With fellow student Eklavya Singh, Mukherjee won the "best of the best" grand prize at the spring 2014 Change the World Challenge competition at Rensselaer.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, as well as the John A. Clark and Edward T. Crossan Professorship at Rensselaer, and a Bob Buhrmaster '69 grant from the Severino Centre for Technological Entrepreneurship and Lally School of Management at Rensselaer.

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