Harvard researchers unveil ultra-fast charging, long-lasting battery

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In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists from Harvard University have engineered a new type of battery that’s not only super fast to charge but also lasts for an exceptionally long time.

This solid-state battery, developed by the team at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), can be recharged thousands of times, making it a game-changer for various industries.

The new battery, a lithium metal type, can be charged and discharged at least 6,000 times. This performance surpasses any other similar battery available today.

More impressively, it charges in just minutes, a significant improvement over current technology.

This breakthrough is especially vital for the future of electric vehicles, as it could dramatically extend their driving range.

Associate Professor Xin Li, the lead researcher, calls lithium metal anode batteries the “holy grail” of battery technology.

They hold ten times the capacity of traditional graphite anodes, drastically enhancing energy storage capabilities. This advancement is crucial for making solid-state batteries more practical for commercial use.

A major hurdle in battery development has been the formation of dendrites. These are tiny, root-like structures that grow on the battery’s anode surface. They can penetrate the barrier between the anode and cathode, leading to short-circuiting or even fires.

Dendrites form during the charging process, when lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode and create a plaque-like layer. This uneven layer can lead to inefficient charging and shorten the battery’s lifespan.

However, Li and his team have found an innovative solution to this problem. They use micron-sized silicon particles in the anode. These particles constrict the reaction where lithium attaches to the anode, encouraging a uniform and stable coating of lithium metal. The result is a smooth, even surface that prevents dendrites from forming.

Li explains the process using a simple analogy: the lithium metal wraps around the silicon particle like a hard chocolate shell around a hazelnut in a chocolate truffle. This coating ensures an even distribution of current, eliminating dendrites and allowing for quick recharging.

In their experiments, the researchers created a small pouch cell battery, larger than what’s typically used in university labs. This battery maintained 80% of its capacity after 6,000 cycles, outshining other available batteries.

The team has also delved into the properties of silicon that help control lithium diffusion. They’ve identified a unique property descriptor, which they used to find dozens of other materials that could offer similar benefits.

Their research goes beyond just silicon. They discovered that other materials, like silver, could also be effective in solid-state batteries. This opens up new avenues for future battery designs.

Harvard’s Office of Technology Development has already licensed this technology to Adden Energy, a company co-founded by Li. They aim to scale up this technology for broader applications, like in smartphones.

This research, co-authored by Luhan Ye, Yang Lu, Yichao Wang, and Jianyuan Li, is more than just a scientific achievement; it’s a beacon of hope for sustainable, efficient energy storage solutions in the near future.