A lithium-rich smartphone battery that could last 8x longer

January 04, 2018 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Since the advent of smartphones battery life has been an issue that never seems to resolve itself fully. Lithium-ion batteries are the mainstay of smartphones and other portable electronics devices, but performance improvements have been slow to come by in-spite of a flurry of research. Teaming up with researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, a research group led by Christopher Wolverton at Northwestern University has developed a rechargeable lithium-iron-oxide battery that can cycle more lithium ions than its common lithium-cobalt-oxide counterpart.

The novel battery works very well in spite of using iron, an inexpensive metal that has notoriously failed in batteries. Further, the battery leverages oxygen to help drive the chemical reaction, which researchers previously believed would cause the battery to become unstable.

The result is a much higher capacity battery that could enable smart phones and battery-powered automobiles to last much longer – potentially up to 8x longer.

"Our computational prediction of this battery reaction is very exciting, but without experimental confirmation, there would be a lot of skeptics," said Wolverton, professor of materials science and engineering in Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering. "The fact that it actually works is remarkable."

Supported by the US Department of Energy's Energy Frontier Research Center program, the research was recently published in Nature Energy.

Zhenpeng Yao, a PhD student in Wolverton's laboratory, and Chun Zhan, a postdoctoral fellow at Argonne, served as the paper's first authors. Wolverton and Yao led the computational development, and Argonne led the experimental component of the research.

The battery uses both oxygen and iron to store and release electrical energy. Image courtesy of Zhenpeng Yao.


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