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Berkeley Lab Scientists Discover New Atomically Layered, Thin Magnet

Berkeley Lab scientists have found an unexpected magnetic property in a 2-D material. The new atomically thin, flat magnet could have major implications for a wide range of applications, such as nanoscale memory, spintronic devices, and magnetic sensors.

Scientists Identify Chemical Causes of Battery "Capacity Fade"

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory identified one of the major culprits in capacity fade of high-energy lithium-ion batteries.

Modeling Reveals How Policy Affects the Adoption of Solar Energy Photovoltaics in California

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, inspired by efforts to promote green energy, are exploring the factors driving commercial customers in Southern California, both large and small, to purchase and install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. As the group reports this week in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, they built a model for commercial solar PV adoption to quantify the impact of government incentives and solar PV costs.

Machine Learning Dramatically Streamlines Search for More Efficient Chemical Reactions

A catalytic reaction may follow thousands of possible paths, and it can take years to identify which one it actually takes so scientists can tweak it and make it more efficient. Now researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have taken a big step toward cutting through this thicket of possibilities.

Freezing Lithium Batteries May Make Them Safer and Bendable

Columbia Engineering Professor Yuan Yang has developed a new method that could lead to lithium batteries that are safer, have longer battery life, and are bendable, providing new possibilities such as flexible smartphones. His new technique uses ice-templating to control the structure of the solid electrolyte for lithium batteries that are used in portable electronics, electric vehicles, and grid-level energy storage. The study is published online April 24 in Nano Letters.

New Study Reveals the Mystery Behind the Formation of Hollowed Nanoparticles During Metal Oxidation

In a newly published <i>Science</i> paper, Argonne and Temple University researchers reveal new knowledge about the behavior of metal nanoparticles when they undergo oxidation, by integrating X-ray imaging and computer modeling and simulation. This knowledge adds to our understanding of fundamental processes like oxidation and corrosion.

Rare Supernova Discovery Ushers in New Era for Cosmology

With help from a supernova-hunting pipeline based at NERSC, astronomers captured multiple images of a gravitationally lensed Type 1a supernova. This is currently the only one, but if astronomers can find more they may be able to measure Universal expansion within four percent accuracy. Luckily, Berkeley Lab researchers do have a method for finding more.

Making Batteries From Waste Glass Bottles

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering have used waste glass bottles and a low-cost chemical process to create nanosilicon anodes for high-performance lithium-ion batteries. The batteries will extend the range of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and provide more power with fewer charges to personal electronics like cell phones and laptops.

Changing the Game

High performance computing researcher Shuaiwen Leon Song asked if hardware called 3D stacked memory could do something it was never designed to do--help render 3D graphics.

A Scientific Advance for Cool Clothing: Temperature-Wise, That Is

Stanford University researchers, with the aid of the Comet supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer at UC San Diego, have engineered a low-cost plastic material that could become the basis for clothing that cools the wearer, reducing the need for energy-consuming air conditioning.


OU Engineering Professor Receives National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award

A University of Oklahoma Gallogly College of Engineering professor, Steven P. Crossley, is the recipient of a five-year, National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award in the amount of $548,829 for research that can be used to understand catalysts that are important for a broad range of chemical reactions ranging from the production of renewable fuels and chemicals for natural gas processing. The research will be integrated with educational and outreach programs intended for American Indian students, emphasizing the importance of sustainable energy.

3 Small Energy Firms to Collaborate with PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is collaborating with three small businesses to address technical challenges concerning hydrogen for fuel cell cars, bio-coal and nanomaterial manufacturing.

ORNL to Collaborate with Five Small Businesses to Advance Energy Tech

Five small companies have been selected to partner with the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to move technologies in commercial refrigeration systems, water power generation, bioenergy and battery manufacturing closer to the marketplace.

U.S. Department of Energy's INCITE Program Seeks Advanced Computational Research Proposals for 2018

The Department of Energy's INCITE program will be accepting proposals for high-impact, computationally intensive research campaigns in a broad array of science, engineering, and computer science domains.

New Berkeley Lab Project Turns Waste Heat to Electricity

A new Berkeley Lab project seeks to efficiently capture waste heat and convert it to electricity, potentially saving California up to $385 million per year. With a $2-million grant from the California Energy Commission, Berkeley Lab scientists will work with Alphabet Energy to create a cost-effective thermoelectric waste heat recovery system.

New SLAC Theory Institute Aims to Speed Research on Exotic Materials at Light Sources

A new institute at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is using the power of theory to search for new types of materials that could revolutionize society - by making it possible, for instance, to transmit electricity over power lines with no loss.

Lenvio Inc. Exclusively Licenses ORNL Malware Behavior Detection Technology

Virginia-based Lenvio Inc. has exclusively licensed a cyber security technology from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory that can quickly detect malicious behavior in software not previously identified as a threat.

Argonne Scientist and Nobel Laureate Alexei Abrikosov Dies at 88

Alexei Abrikosov, an acclaimed physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory who received the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on superconducting materials, died Wednesday, March 29. He was 88.

Jefferson Lab Accomplishes Critical Milestones Toward Completion of 12 GeV Upgrade

The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has achieved two major commissioning milestones and is now entering the final stretch of work to conclude its first major upgrade. Recently, the CEBAF accelerator delivered electron beams into two of its experimental halls, Halls B and C, at energies not possible before the upgrade for commissioning of the experimental equipment currently in each hall. Data were recorded in each hall, which were then confirmed to be of sufficient quality to allow for particle identification, a primary indicator of good detector operation.

Valerie Taylor Named Argonne National Laboratory's Mathematics and Computer Science Division Director

Computer scientist Valerie Taylor has been appointed as the next director of the Mathematics and Computer Science division at Argonne, effective July 3, 2017.


The Roadmap to Quark Soup

Scientists discover new signposts in the quest to determine how matter from the early universe turned into the world we know today.

Neutrons Play the Lead to Protons in Dance Around "Double-Magic" Nucleus

Electric and magnetic properties of a radioactive atom provide unique insight into the nature of proton and neutron motion.

Ultrafast Imaging Reveals the Electron's New Clothes

Scientists use high-speed electrons to visualize "dress-like" distortions in the atomic lattice. This work reveals the vital role of electron-lattice interactions in manganites. This material could be used in data-storage devices with increased data density and reduced power requirements.

One Small Change Makes Solar Cells More Efficient

For years, scientists have explored using tiny drops of designer materials, called quantum dots, to make better solar cells. Adding small amounts of manganese decreases the ability of quantum dots to absorb light but increases the current produced by an average of 300%.

Electronic "Cyclones" at the Nanoscale

Through highly controlled synthesis, scientists controlled competing atomic forces to let spiral electronic structures form. These polar vortices can serve as a precursor to new phenomena in materials. The materials could be vital for ultra-low energy electronic devices.

In a Flash! A New Way for Making Ceramics

A new process controllably but instantly consolidates ceramic parts, potentially important for manufacturing.

Deciphering Material Properties at the Single-Atom Level

Scientists determine the precise location and identity of all 23,000 atoms in a nanoparticle.

Smallest Transistor Ever

It has long been thought that building nanometer-sized transistors was impossible. Simply put, the physics and atomic structural imperfections couldn't be overcome. However, scientists built fully functional, nanometer-sized transistors.

Creation of Artificial Atoms

For the first time, scientists created a tunable artificial atom in graphene. The results from this research demonstrate a viable, controllable, and reversible technique to confine electrons in graphene.

Developing Tools to Understand Lithium-Ion Battery Instabilities

Scientists develop tools to understand Li-ion battery instabilities, enabling the study of electrodes and solid-electrolyte interphase formation.


Friday April 07, 2017, 11:05 AM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

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High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

Argonne National Laboratory

Tuesday March 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

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Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory

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Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

Argonne National Laboratory

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Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

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NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

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Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

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University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

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Scientists Pinpoint the Creeping Nanocrystals Behind Lithium-Ion Battery Degradation

Article ID: 618514

Released: 2014-05-29 09:30:00

Source Newsroom: Brookhaven National Laboratory

  • Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Each orange dot in these scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) images represents one atomic column in the NMC cathode. The scientists found that the lithium ions tended to travel along the vertical channels between atomic layers. After one full charge/discharge cycle, the surface layers (the edge beyond the blue line) exhibited the atomic disordering that ultimately diminishes battery performance.

  • Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Materials scientist Huolin Xin in Brookhaven Lab's Center for Functional Nanomaterials.

Batteries do not age gracefully. The lithium ions that power portable electronics cause lingering structural damage with each cycle of charge and discharge, making devices from smartphones to tablets tick toward zero faster and faster over time. To stop or slow this steady degradation, scientists must track and tweak the imperfect chemistry of lithium-ion batteries with nanoscale precision.

In two recent Nature Communications papers, scientists from several U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories—Lawrence Berkeley, Brookhaven, SLAC, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory—collaborated to map these crucial billionths-of-a-meter dynamics and lay the foundation for better batteries.

“We discovered surprising and never-before-seen evolution and degradation patterns in two key battery materials,” said Huolin Xin, a materials scientist at Brookhaven Lab’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) and coauthor on both studies. “Contrary to large-scale observation, the lithium-ion reactions actually erode the materials non-uniformly, seizing upon intrinsic vulnerabilities in atomic structure in the same way that rust creeps unevenly across stainless steel.”

Xin used world-leading electron microscopy techniques in both studies to directly visualize the nanoscale chemical transformations of battery components during each step of the charge-discharge process. In an elegant and ingenious setup, the collaborations separately explored a nickel-oxide anode and a lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt-oxide cathode—both notable for high capacity and cyclability—by placing samples inside common coin-cell batteries running under different voltages.

“Armed with a precise map of the materials’ erosion, we can plan new ways to break the patterns and improve performance,” Xin said.

In these experiments, lithium ions traveled through an electrolyte solution, moving into an anode when charging and a cathode when discharging. The processes were regulated by electrons in the electrical circuit, but the ions’ journeys—and the battery structures—subtly changed each time.

Chinks in Nano-Armor

For the nickel-oxide anode, researchers submerged the batteries in a liquid organic electrolyte and closely controlled the charging rates. They stopped at predetermined intervals to extract and analyze the anode. Xin and his collaborators rotated 20-nanometer-thick sheets of the post-reaction material inside a carefully calibrated transmission electron microscope (TEM) grid at CFN to catch the contours from every angle—a process called electron tomography.

To see the way the lithium-ions reacted with the nickel oxide, the scientists used a suite of custom-written software to digitally reconstruct the three-dimensional nanostructures with single-nanometer resolution. Surprisingly, the reactions sprang up at isolated spatial points rather than sweeping evenly across the surface.

“Consider the way snowflakes only form around tiny particles or bits of dirt in the air,” Xin said. “Without an irregularity to glom onto, the crystals cannot take shape. Our nickel oxide anode only transforms into metallic nickel through nanoscale inhomogeneities or defects in the surface structure, a bit like chinks in the anode’s armor.”

The electron microscopy provided a crucial piece of the larger puzzle assembled in concert with Berkeley Lab materials scientists and soft x-ray spectroscopy experiments conducted at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL). The combined data covered the reactions on the nano-, meso-, and microscales.

Rock-Salt Buildups

In the other study, scientists sought the voltage sweet-spot for the high-performing lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt-oxide (NMC) cathode: How much power can be stored, at what intensity, and across how many cycles?

The answers hinged on intrinsic material qualities and the structural degradation caused by cycles at 4.7 volts and 4.3 volts, as measured against a lithium metal standard.

As revealed through another series of coin-cell battery tests, 4.7 volts caused rapid decomposition of the electrolytes and poor cycling—the higher power comes at a price. A 4.3-volt battery, however, offered a much longer cycling lifetime at the cost of lower storage and more frequent recharges.

In both cases, the chemical evolution exhibited sprawling surface asymmetries, though not without profound patterns.

“As the lithium ions race through the reaction layers, they cause clumping crystallization—a kind of rock-salt matrix builds up over time and begins limiting performance,” Xin said. “We found that these structures tended to form along the lithium-ion reaction channels, which we directly visualized under the TEM. The effect was even more pronounced at higher voltages, explaining the more rapid deterioration.”

Identifying this crystal-laden reaction pathways hints at a way forward in battery design.

“It may be possible to use atomic deposition to coat the NMC cathodes with elements that resist crystallization, creating nanoscale boundaries within the micron-sized powders needed at the cutting-edge of industry,” Xin said. “In fact, Berkeley Lab battery experts Marca Doeff and Feng Lin are working on that now.”

Shirley Meng, a professor at UC San Diego’s Department of NanoEngineering, added, “This beautiful study combines several complementary tools that probe both the bulk and surface of the NMC layered oxide—one of the most promising cathode materials for high-voltage operation that enables higher energy density in lithium-ion batteries. The meaningful insights provided by this study will significantly impact the optimization strategies for this type of cathode material.”

The TEM measurements revealed the atomic structures while electron energy loss spectroscopy helped pinpoint the chemical evolution—both carried out at the CFN. Further crucial research was conducted at SLAC’s SSRL and Berkeley Lab’s National Center for Materials Synthesis, Electrochemistry, and Electron Microscopy, with computational support from the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center and the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment.

Toward Real-Time, Real-World Analyses

“The chemical reactions involved in these batteries are startlingly complex, and we need even more advanced methods of interrogation,” Xin said. “My CFN colleagues are developing ways to watch the reactions in real-time rather than the stop-and-go approach we used in these studies.”

These in operando microscopy techniques, led in part by Brookhaven Lab materials scientists Dong Su, Feng Wang, and Eric Stach, will image reactions as they unfold in liquid environments. Custom-designed electrochemical contacts and liquid flow holders will usher in unprecedented insights.

Research at Brookhaven Lab’s CFN and SLAC’s SSRL—both DOE user facilities—was supported by DOE’s Office of Science. The NMC work was also supported through the Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies (BATT) program funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and led by Berkeley Lab.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

Scientific Papers:

Phase evolution for conversion reaction electrodes in lithium-ion batteries

Surface reconstruction and chemical evolution of stoichiometric layered cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries