The world at large runs on lithium ion batteries. New research at Rice University shows that tiny worlds may soon do the same.
The Rice lab of Professor Pulickel Ajayan has packed an entire lithium ion energy storage device into a single nanowire, as reported this month in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters. The researchers believe their creation is as small as such devices can possibly get, and could be valuable as a rechargeable power source for new generations of nanoelectronics.
In their paper, researchers described testing two versions of their battery/supercapacitor hybrid. The first is a sandwich with nickel/tin anode, polyethylene oxide (PEO) electrolyte and polyaniline cathode layers; it was built as proof that lithium ions would move efficiently through the anode to the electrolyte and then to the supercapacitor-like cathode, which stores the ions in bulk and gives the device the ability to charge and discharge quickly.
The second packs the same capabilities into a single nanowire. The researchers built centimeter-scale arrays containing thousands of nanowire devices, each about 150 nanometers wide. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, thousands of times smaller than a human hair.
Ajayan's team has been inching toward single-nanowire devices for years. The researchers first reported the creation of three-dimensional nanobatteries last December. In that project, they encased vertical arrays of nickel-tin nanowires in PMMA, a widely used polymer best known as Plexiglas, which served as an electrolyte and insulator. They grew the nanowires via electrodeposition in an anodized alumina template atop a copper substrate. They widened the template's pores with a simple chemical etching technique that created a gap between the wires and the alumina, and then drop-coated PMMA to encase the wires in a smooth, consistent sheath. A chemical wash removed the template and left a forest of electrolyte-enc
|Contact: David Ruth|