Have you ever been frustrated by your phone or laptop dying too soon?
You’re not alone. Scientists are constantly working to create better, more efficient batteries.
Recently, a group of researchers from Universities in the UK have made a significant discovery that could help make our batteries last longer.
The type of battery we’re talking about here is a lithium-ion battery. These are the ones commonly used in most electronic devices, like your phone, because they can store a lot of energy and can be recharged many times.
However, they have a major issue – over time, their ability to hold charge decreases.
Part of the problem comes from the material used in the battery’s cathode (one of the main components of a battery).
For a lot of batteries, a compound called LiNiO2 is used. While this material can support high voltages and capacities (which is good for us, because it means our devices can run for longer), it also has some problems.
Its structure is unstable and it tends to lose oxygen. This process leads to reduced battery life.
The researchers discovered that when an oxygen ion loses an electron, a so-called “oxygen hole” is formed. This accelerates the release of more oxygen, which further damages the battery.
With the help of advanced computer simulations, they studied what happens to the LiNiO2 as the battery is charged.
They found something unexpected – while the battery was charging, the oxygen was undergoing changes, but the nickel part stayed more or less the same.
“This is unusual,” said Professor Andrew J. Morris, one of the scientists involved in the study. He explained that normally, it’s assumed the oxygen stays the same during charging, but their results showed that the oxygen was unstable and could easily leave the cathode, damaging the battery.
They also suggested a possible way oxygen is lost during this process. Oxygen radicals (an unstable form of oxygen) could combine to form a peroxide ion, which then gets converted into oxygen gas, leaving empty spaces in the material.
What’s exciting about this research is that it could lead to better batteries in the future. Dr. Annalena Genreith-Schriever, the first author of the study, suggested that by tweaking the cathode, they could potentially make these batteries more stable and long-lasting.
This could lead to our devices running for longer, saving us from the frustration of dead batteries!
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