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Iron fluoride yields threefold increase in energy storage

22 Apr 2015  | Paul Buckley

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A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Brookhaven National Laboratory has developed an X-ray imaging technique to study the electrochemical reactions in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries containing iron fluoride that can store three times the energy of existing batteries.

"Iron fluoride has the potential to triple the amount of energy a conventional lithium-ion battery can store," explained Song Jin, a UW-Madison professor of chemistry and Wisconsin Energy Institute affiliate. "However, we have yet to tap its true potential."

Graduate student Linsen Li worked with Jin and other collaborators to perform experiments with a modern transmission X-ray microscope at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven. The researchers collected chemical maps from actual coin cell batteries filled with iron fluoride during battery cycling to determine how well they perform. The results are published in the journal Nature Communications.

X-ray imaging of iron fluoride microwires

Chemical phase map showing how the electrochemical discharge of iron fluoride microwires proceeded from zero per cent discharge (left), to 50 per cent (middle), to 95 per cent (right).

"In the past, we weren't able to truly understand what is happening to iron fluoride during battery reactions because other battery components were getting in the way of getting a precise image," said Li.

By accounting for the background signals that would otherwise confuse the image, Li was able to accurately visualise and measure, at the nanoscale, the chemical changes iron fluoride undergoes to store and discharge energy.

Using iron fluoride in rechargeable lithium ion batteries has presented scientists with two challenges. The first is that it does not recharge well in its current form.

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