While lithium-ion batteries are ubiquitous with almost all consumer items being powered by them, their limited lifetime has remained a challenge to overcome.
Now, researchers at Indian Institute of Technology Madras and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany, have a solution to its longevity.
The researchers have developed a new class of ‘high entropy materials’ for use as cathodes in long-lasting and better-performing lithium-ion batteries.
Since the poor lifetime of lithium-ion batteries arises from the poor cycling stability of the cathodes – the performance of the cathode reduces with multiple charge-discharge cycles because of side reactions between the active material and the electrolyte. Improvements in cycling stability and better performance have therefore hinged on developing better cathode materials, such as those developed by the IIT Madras and KIT researchers.
Their recent work, published in the peer-reviewed RSC journal Energy and Environmental Science, reports the synthesis of non-toxic and relatively inexpensive and more earth-abundant cathode materials with enhanced lithium-ion storage properties and considerably improved cycling performance over currently used cathode materials.
The Research was headed at IIT Madras by Prof. S.S. Bhattacharya, Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT Madras and at KIT by Prof. Dr.-ing. Horst Hahn, Executive Director, Institute of Nanotechnology, KIT, who is also a Distinguished Honorary Professor of IIT Madras and a frequent visitor to the Institute as well as a host for many exchange students.
Dr. Bhattacharya described the cathode materials the team developed as complex compounds that contain five or more metal ions in equal amounts. “The uniqueness of our cathode materials is that despite their high chemical complexity, they have phase purity,” added Prof. Bhattacharya.
The phase purity is believed to result from high configurational entropy that results from the five cations occupying random sites in the crystal lattice, hence the name ‘High Entropy Oxides’ or HEOs. Dr. Bhattacharya and his co-scientists developed HEOs containing the ions of five metals, manganese, cobalt, nickel, copper and zinc. While only oxygen ions occupy the anionic site in traditional HEOs, they replaced some of the oxides with fluoride ions to adjust the electrochemical properties.
They then compared the performance of these cathodes to conventional nickel-based cathode materials and found that not only was the specific capacity higher for the HEO, but the performance degradation during cycling was also much smaller than conventional cathodes. Better lithium-ion storage and cycling performance were due to the entropy stabilization in these compounds.
Speaking about the real-life implications of their discovery, Prof Bhattacharya said, “In practical terms, the retention of Coulombic efficiency with cycling points to longer life of batteries. Better lithium-ion storage and cycling stability are not the only advantages of the HEOs developed in this collaboration. We were able to vary the anions with the use of these HEOs.”
Prof. Hahn added, “This possibility of using multiple anions opens up pathways for developing not only better performing lithium-ion batteries but also futuristic sodium-ion batteries that are expected to be even cheaper than the former.” As an alternative, it is possible to synthesize oxy-chlorides for use in sodium-ion batteries.
The researchers believe that the icing on the cake is that the use of HEOs as cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries would eliminate the use of toxic and costly cathodic materials such as those used today, with no loss in energy density.