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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-10-16 12:05:45
  • Article ID: 683022

Breakthrough Cuttable, Flexible, Submersible and Ballistic-Tested Lithium-ion Battery Offers New Paradigm of Safety and Performance

  • Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

    Flexible battery is cut multiple times and immersed in synthetic sea water and continues to power load.

  • Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

    Battery is shot multiple times with an air cannon to simulate ballistic impact and continues to power load.

A team of scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, has partnered with researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) and the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to develop a new type of flexible lithium-ion battery that can operate under extreme conditions, including cutting, submersion and ballistic impact. The team recently published their discovery in the journal Advanced Materials.

Li-ion batteries have become the energy storage source of choice for multiple applications, ranging from consumer electronics to military and aerospace systems, due to their energy and power performance. Despite these benefits, potential safety hazards associated with the organic electrolytes that are used in Li-ion battery cells remain an ongoing concern. These electrolytes are highly flammable, toxic, and moisture sensitive, limiting the forms in which a Li-ion battery can be manufactured.

In the recently published paper “Flexible Aqueous Li-ion Battery with High Energy and Power Densities” in Advanced Materials, a team of scientists from UMD, APL, and ARL have demonstrated a new type of flexible Li-ion battery that is not hazardous and also can continue to operate even under severe mechanical abuse.

The work builds upon a novel aqueous electrolyte referred to as “water-in-salt” developed in 2015 by UMD and ARL. This highly concentrated water-based electrolyte can address the key issue associated with the use of water in Li-ion batteries, which is the low electrochemical stability window of roughly 1.2 volts. By expanding this window to 3 volts, the water-in-salt enables much higher energy density aqueous Li-ion batteries.

“In recent years, UMD and ARL have explored several anode and cathode combinations that can be used within the stability window of our electrolyte. By collaborating with APL, we are starting to transition this technology into novel battery architectures and demonstrate its practical true potential,” said Chunsheng Wang, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UMD and corresponding author of the paper.

In this new research, the team is embedding the water-in-salt electrolyte in a polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) polymer matrix, forming a gel polymer electrolyte (GPE). This GPE is even more stable than the liquid counterpart, and enables integration into a flexible battery configuration. “What limits the form factor of current Li-ion batteries is the flammable organic electrolytes. To ensure safety, you need sufficient packaging and protective measures. When the water-in-salt electrolyte was introduced, I thought that making a stable polymer version would radically change the way that Li-ion batteries are made and used,” said Kostas Gerasopoulos, senior research scientist and principal investigator at APL.

“By expanding the window of the electrolyte and improving its stability, we are also expanding the list of available materials that can be used to make working cells with long cycle life,” said Kang Xu, electrochemistry team leader and fellow at ARL. The team’s flexible battery uses LiVPO4F as the single active material in both the anode and cathode, forming a symmetric Li-ion battery. The “LiVPO4F is not a new material. It is well established as a Li-ion battery cathode. What makes it attractive for us is that it can be used as both anode and cathode within the stability window of the water-in-salt GPE, or alternatively, it can be matched with other high-voltage cathodes to achieve high energy density,” says Dr. Chongyin Yang, assistant research scientist at UMD and first author of the Advanced Materials article.

The team operated the flexible Li-ion battery in open air with minimal packaging, using only some electronically insulating heat-resistant tape to keep the flexible substrate in place. In their demonstration, the battery powered a significant motor load without any safety concerns. To demonstrate the full safety potential, the team attempted further tests that are not possible with today’s Li-ion batteries. These tests were performed while the battery was in operation and included cutting in air, immersing in sea water, and even subjecting it to ballistic testing at an APL facility. Impressively, not only do these abuse tests cause no catastrophic failure, but the battery maintains its performance and continues to power the load even when damaged and completely exposed to air and water.

The extraordinary safety of the water-in-salt GPE in the flexible cell stems from the fact that the water is strongly bound to the salt and that the water-in-salt GPE is slightly hydrophobic. “We wanted to show the real implications of this technology in practical applications. Particularly for our military, with our warfighters exposed to extreme conditions and environments during their missions, the capability to maintain both safety and performance is unprecedented,” said Gerasopoulos. “By making the batteries flexible and lighter compared to the devices currently used in the field, you can significantly decrease the burden to the warfighter,” added Xu.

The current generation of flexible batteries shows considerable potential, but they are still in the prototype phase. The team is looking for opportunities to transition the technology to make it available to the military. “We want to increase the robustness of the GPE and the energy density of the batteries even further. This work though proves the concept that we can build safe Li-ion batteries that can survive mechanical abuse,” said Gerasopoulos.

“Our team is currently working on several key innovations both in the materials and manufacturing,” said Jeffrey P. Maranchi, Signature, Energy and Materials Science Program Manager at APL. “We are interacting closely with the defense community, and we are very encouraged by the feedback we are receiving. We are not that far away from testing in the field. The sky is the limit for this technology.”

Journal Reference: Chongyin Yang, Xiao Ji, Xiulin Fan, Tao Gao, Liumin Suo, Fei Wang, Wei Sun, Ji Chen, Long Chen, Fudong Han, Ling Miao, Kang Xu, Konstantinos Gerasopoulos, Chunsheng Wang. Flexible Aqueous Li-Ion Battery with High Energy and Power Densities. Advanced Materials, 2017; DOI: 0.1002/adma.201701972.

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Light-Emitting Nanoparticles Could Provide a Safer Way to Image Living Cells

A research team has demonstrated how light-emitting nanoparticles, developed at Berkeley Lab, can be used to see deep in living tissue. Researchers hope they can be made to attach to specific components of cells to serve in an advanced imaging system that can pinpoint even single cancer cells.

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The 1987 Montreal Protocol and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol called for countries around the world to phase out substances that deplete the ozone layer and cause global warming, but many HVAC systems still use synthetic refrigerants that violate those international agreements and inflict environmental damage. Recently, Iranian researchers investigated how natural refrigerants could be used in geothermal heat pumps to reduce energy consumption and operating costs. They report their findings in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

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Protons Get Zippier in Neutron-Rich Nuclei

A new study carried out at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has confirmed that increasing the number of neutrons as compared to protons in the atom's nucleus also increases the average momentum of its protons. The nuclear physics result, which has implications for the dynamics of neutron stars, has been published in the journal Nature.

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In a paper published online July 23 in Nature, a UW-led research team reports that the 2-D form of tungsten ditelluride can undergo "ferroelectric switching" -- a first for a exfoliated 2-D material. Ferroelectric materials can have applications in memory storage, capacitors, RFID card technologies and even medical sensors.

Scientists Discover How to Protect Yeast From Damage in Biofuel Production

Some chemicals used to speed up the breakdown of plants for production of biofuels like ethanol are poison to the yeasts that turn the plant sugars into fuel. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and several Department of Energy laboratories have identified two changes to a single gene that can make the yeast tolerate the pretreatment chemicals.

Lining Up the Surprising Behaviors of a Superconductor with One of the World's Strongest Magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of this material changes in an unusual way under very high magnetic fields--a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperature.


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DOE funds 13 projects under fifth round of HPC4Manufacturing Progaram

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), which manages the High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) Program to use supercomputers to advance U.S. manufacturing, today announced the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded nearly $3.8 million for 13 industry projects under the program.

Four Argonne transportation and fuel experts collect Dept. of Energy honors

Four researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have earned Distinguished Achievement awards for helping to reimagine transportation, sustainability and mobility.

From Hurricane Katrina Victim to Presidential Awardee: A SUNO Professor's Award-Winning Mentoring Efforts

Undergraduate students of Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) biology professor Murty Kambhampati come to Brookhaven Lab during the summer to conduct research in natural resource management.

SNS completes full neutron production cycle at record power level

The Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has reached a new milestone by operating a complete neutron production run cycle at 1.3 megawatts. Achieving the record power level with a remarkable 94 percent accelerator beam availability establishes a new baseline of operation as well as a path to operate reliably at higher powers. Increased power offers researchers the ability to conduct faster scientific analyses using neutrons on more types of materials.

Milsmann earns prestigious NSF CAREER Award

Carsten Milsmann, assistant professor in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry at West Virginia University, has earned the National Science Foundation's prestigious CAREER Award for research that could help develop solar energy applications that are more efficient and cheaper to produce.

46th annual SLAC Summer Institute celebrates Standard Model at 50

The event attracted 124 participants and explores the successes and challenges of the theory that describes subatomic particles and fundamental forces.

UW, PNNL to host energy research center focusing on bio-inspired design and assembly

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded an expected $10.75 million, four-year grant to the University of Washington, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and other partner institutions for a new interdisciplinary research center to define the enigmatic rules governing how molecular-scale building blocks assemble into ordered structures & hierarchical materials.

Argonne among 10 recipients of competitive grant for ultrafast science

Argonne has been awarded U.S. Department of Energy funds to probe materials and chemical processes on time scales of a quadrillionth of a second or less.

One cool camera: LSST's cryostat assembly completed

Work on the camera for the future Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) has reached a major milestone with the completion and delivery of the camera's fully integrated cryostat. With 3.2 gigapixels, the LSST camera will be the largest digital camera ever built for ground-based astronomy. It's being assembled at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Risa Wechsler named director of KIPAC

Risa Wechsler has been appointed director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), a joint institute of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. On Sept. 15, she'll take over from Tom Abel, whose five-year term at the helm of the institute is coming to an end.


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Deep Learning Stretches Up to Scientific Supercomputers

Collaboration powers machine learning software that performs data analytics on petabyte-sized data sets in series of successful test runs.

Complex Networks Identify Genes for Biofuel Crops

Systems biology leads the way to exascale computing on Summit supercomputer.

Quantum Computing of an Atomic Nucleus

The first-ever computation of an atomic nucleus, the deuteron, on a quantum chip demonstrates that even today's rudimentary quantum computers can solve nuclear physics questions.

New Approach Yields High-Purity Radium for Medical Applications

Proton-irradiated thorium targets are successfully mined for therapeutic radium isotopes.

Steering Light with Dynamic Lens-on-MEMS

Scientists add active control to design capabilities for new lightweight flat optical devices.

Sugar-Coated Sheets Selectively Target Pathogens

Researchers design self-assembling nanosheets that mimic the surface of cells.

Tracking Down Helium-4's Quarks and Gluons

Scientists obtain the first exclusive measurement of deeply virtual Compton scattering of electrons off helium-4, vital to obtaining an unambiguous 3-D view of quarks and gluons within nuclei.

Predicting Magnetic Explosions: From Plasma Current Sheet Disruption to Fast Magnetic Reconnection

Supercomputer simulations and theoretical analysis shed new light on when and how fast reconnection occurs.

Is Nature Exclusively Left Handed? Using Chilled Atoms to Find Out

Elegant techniques of trapping and polarizing atoms open vistas for beta-decay tests of fundamental symmetries, key to understanding the most basic forces and particles constituting our universe.

As Future Batteries, Hybrid Supercapacitors Are Super-Charged

A new supercapacitor could be a competitive alternative to lithium-ion batteries.


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