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Fast-charging batteries enabled by tin-oxide nanoparticles

08 Dec 2014  | Paul Buckley

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A team of researchers from Purdue University has created an electrode design for lithium-ion batteries that according to them has the potential to cut charging time from hours to minutes by replacing the conventional graphite electrode with a network of tin-oxide nanoparticles.

Anodes in most of today's lithium-ion batteries are made of graphite that has a theoretical maximum storage capacity of 372mAh/g, which hinders battery technology progress.

Tin-oxide nanoparticles

The researchers have performed experiments with a 'porous interconnected' tin-oxide based anode, which has nearly twice the theoretical charging capacity of graphite. The researchers demonstrated that the experimental anode can be charged in 30 minutes and still have a capacity of 430mAh/g, which is greater than the theoretical maximum capacity for graphite when charged slowly over 10 hours.

The anode consists of an 'ordered network' of interconnected tin oxide nanoparticles that would be practical for commercial manufacture because they are synthesized by adding the tin alkoxide precursor into boiling water followed by heat treatment, explained Vilas Pol, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Purdue University.

Pol said. "This is very straightforward rapid 'cooking' of a metal-organic precursor in boiling water. The precursor compound is a solid tin alkoxide, a material analogous to cost-efficient and broadly available titanium alkoxides. It will certainly become fully affordable in the perspective of broad scale application mentioned by collaborators Vadim G. Kessler and Gulaim A. Seisenbaeva from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences."

When tin oxide nanoparticles are heated at 400°C they 'self-assemble' into a network containing pores that allow the material to expand and contract, or breathe, during the charge-discharge battery cycle.

"These spaces are very important for this architecture," said Purdue postdoctoral research associate Vinodkumar Etacheri. "Without the proper pore size, and interconnection between individual tin oxide nanoparticles, the battery fails."

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