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Wax, soap clean up obstacles to better batteries
Date:8/12/2010

d colleagues mixed the electrode ingredients with melted paraffin and oleic acid and let the crystals grow as they slowly raised the temperature. By 400 Celsius (four times the temperature of boiling water), crystals had formed and the wax and soap had boiled off. Materials scientists generally strengthen metals by subjecting them to high heat, so the team raised the temperature even more to meld the crystals into a plate.

"This method is a lot simpler than other ways of making lithium manganese phosphate cathodes," said Choi. "Other groups have a complicated, multi-step process. We mix all the components and heat it up."

To measure the size of the miniscule plates, the team used a transmission electron microscope in EMSL, DOE's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the PNNL campus. Up close, tiny, thin rectangles poked every which way. The nanoplates measured about 50 nanometers thick -- about a thousand times thinner than a human hair -- and up to 2000 nanometers on a side. Other analyses showed the crystal growth was suitable for electrodes.

To test LMP, the team shook the nanoplates free from one another and added a conductive carbon backing, which serves as the positive electrode. The team tested how much electricity the material could store after charging and discharging fast or slowly.

When the researchers charged the nanoplates slowly over a day and then discharged them just as slowly, the LMP mini battery held a little more than 150 milliAmp hours per gram of material, higher than other researchers had been able to attain. But when the battery was discharged fast -- say, within an hour, that dropped to about 117, comparable to other material.

Its best performance knocked at the theoretical maximum at 168 milliAmp hours per gram, when it was slowly charged and discharged over two days. Charging and discharging in an hour -- a reasonable goal for use in consumer electronics -- allowed it to store a measl
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Contact: Mary Beckman
mary.beckman@pnl.gov
509-375-3688
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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