Lithium-Ion Breakthrough! A Battery that Charges as Fast as a Supercapacitor

Lithium-Iron-Phosphate particule.
Is this the "Holy Grail" Battery We've Been Waiting For?
Nature published a very interesting paper by MIT researchers Byoungwoo Kang & Gerbrand Ceder this week: Battery materials for ultrafast charging and discharging. In it they claim that they have discovered a way to make a lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery charge and discharge about as fast as a supercapacitor. In practice, this could make plug-in hybrids and electric cars much more practical (charging time would mostly be limited by the availability of fast-charging stations with fat "electrical pipes", and regenerative braking would be more effective), as well as some smart grid tricks to better use intermittent renewables. Read on for more details.Here is the abstract of their paper:

The storage of electrical energy at high charge and discharge rate is an important technology in today's society, and can enable hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and provide back-up for wind and solar energy. It is typically believed that in electrochemical systems very high power rates can only be achieved with supercapacitors, which trade high power for low energy density as they only store energy by surface adsorption reactions of charged species on an electrode material. Here we show that batteries which obtain high energy density by storing charge in the bulk of a material can also achieve ultrahigh discharge rates, comparable to those of supercapacitors. We realize this in LiFePO4 (ref. 6), a material with high lithium bulk mobility, by creating a fast ion-conducting surface phase through controlled off-stoichiometry. A rate capability equivalent to full battery discharge in 10–20 s can be achieved.

Let's hope that this moves from the lab to the real-world quickly. Lithium-ion batteries are already very recyclable and show very little toxicity. If they could be charged very quickly, very little would stand in the way of mass production, and thus lower costs.

Via Nature, Ars Technica
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