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National labs leading charge on building better batteries
Date:9/27/2011

Teams at two of the Energy Department's laboratories are making headway on two projects that will enable building a new lithium battery that charges faster, lasts longer, runs more safely, and might also arrive on the market in the not-too-distant future. Lithium batteries are used in a variety of everyday products from laptops to cell phones, but an improved battery could also significantly increase the charge capacity of hybrid electric vehicles, and energy storage systems of wind and solar power generators.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) focused on a key battery component, the anode, where electricity comes out. Most current commercial lithium batteries have anodes made of graphite, a form of carbon. However, scientists at ORNL incorporated a special form of the compound titanium dioxide into the anode instead, and they found significant improvements. At the same level of current, it takes the new ORNL battery just six minutes to be 50 percent charged, while a graphite-based lithium-ion battery would see a mere 10 percent increase in the same timeframe. The new ORNL battery also outperforms faster-charging lithium titanate batteries (which use tiny particles of lithium titanate in the anode in place of graphite to speed charging) and, unlike such batteries, has a sloping discharge voltage that is good for controlling the state of charge.

ORNL's new battery has the potential to be used in a wide range of heavy-duty applications, especially places where increased strength and safety are at a premium such as hybrid electric vehicles, power grids and the energy storage systems of wind and solar power generators. Additional research needs to be performed, but scientists at ORNL believe that if titanium dioxide proves scalable in batteries, they could be on the market within five years.

Berkeley Lab researchers are taking a different approach. They designed a
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Contact: Dolline Hatchett
dolline.hatchett@science.doe.gov
202-586-4477
DOE/US Department of Energy
Source:Eurekalert

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