RESEARCH: DIAMONDS CAN MAKE LITHIUM BATTERIES MUCH SAFER
The end to battery-related disasters? Researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia have developed a process in which nanodiamonds limit the electrochemical deposition, called plating, which is the common cause for hazardous short-circuiting of lithium ion batteries.
The problems caused in batteries usually come after repeated charging. According to Science Daily, as they are used and charged, the electrochemical reaction in batteries “results in the movement of ions between the two electrodes of a battery, which is the essence of an electrical current”. Over time, this repositioning of ions can create battery buildups, called dendrites – the main culprits in short-circuit. Since the electrolyte solution in most lithium-ion batteries is highly flammable, they can also lead to a fire.
The Magic of Nanodiamonds
Prof. Yury Gogotsi and his research team from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering focused on making lithium anodes “more stable and lithium plating more uniform so that dendrites won’t grow”. To do this, they added nanodiamonds to the electrolyte solution in a battery. While much cheaper than diamonds, nanodiamonds still retain the regular structure and shape of diamonds. Therefore, once deposited, “they naturally slide together to form a smooth surface”.
In the paper, the researchers explain that lithium ions can easily attach to nanodiamonds, “so when they are plating the electrode they do so in the same orderly manner as the nanodiamond particles to which they’re linked”. Mixing nanodiamonds into the electrolyte solution of a lithium ion battery, therefore, “slows dendrite formation to nil through 100 charge-discharge cycles”.
Gogotsi notes that his group’s discovery “is just the beginning of a process that could eventually see electrolyte additives, like nanodiamonds, widely used to produce safe lithium batteries with a high energy density”.
The research, entitled “Nanodiamonds Suppress Growth of Lithium Dendrites”, was published in the journal Nature Communications.