DOE News
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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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    Peering into the Mist: How Water Vapor Changes Metal at the Atomic Level

    New insights into molecular-level processes could help prevent corrosion and improve catalytic conversion.

    Neutron science publications reach new highs at ORNL's flagship facilities

    The High Flux Isotope Reactor and the Spallation Neutron Source at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have reached new levels of increased science productivity. In 2018, a record high of more than 500 scientific instrument publications were produced between HFIR and SNS--based on neutron beamline experiments conducted by more than 1,200 US and international researchers who used the world-leading facilities.

    Fiery sighting: A new physics of eruptions that damage fusion experiments

    Feature describes first direct sighting of a trigger for bursts of heat that can disrupt fusion reactions.

    Microbial Types May Prove Key to Gas Releases from Thawing Permafrost

    Scientists discover key types of microbes that degrade organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

    An effect that Einstein helped discover 100 years ago offers new insight into a puzzling magnetic phenomenon

    Experiments at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have seen for the first time what happens when magnetic materials are demagnetized at ultrafast speeds of millionths of a billionth of a second: The atoms on the surface of the material move, much like the iron bar did. The work, done at SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser, was published in Nature earlier this month.

    Found: A precise method for determining how waves and particles affect fusion reactions

    Like surfers catching ocean waves, particles within plasma can ride waves oscillating through the plasma during fusion energy experiments. Now a team of physicists led by PPPL has devised a faster method to determine how much this interaction contributes to efficiency loss in tokamaks.

    Discovery adapts natural membrane to make hydrogen fuel from water

    In a recent study from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, scientists have combined two membrane-bound protein complexes to perform a complete conversion of water molecules to hydrogen and oxygen.

    How Plants Regulate Sugar Deposition in Cell Walls

    Identified genes involved in plant cell wall polysaccharide production and restructuring could aid in engineering bioenergy crops.

    Scientists Identify Gene Cluster in Budding Yeasts with Major Implications for Renewable Energy

    How yeast partition carbon into a metabolite may offer insights into boosting production for biofuels.

    Nanocrystals Get Better When They Double Up With MOFs

    Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have designed a dual-purpose material out of a self-assembling MOF (metal-organic framework)-nanocrystal hybrid that could one day be used to store carbon dioxide gas molecules for the manufacture of new chemicals and fuels.


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    Top 10 Discoveries of 2018

    Every year, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory compiles a list of the biggest advances made by the Lab's staff scientists, engineers, and visiting researchers. From uncovering mysteries of the universe to building better batteries, here, in no particular order, are our picks for the top 10 discoveries of 2018.

    U.S. Department of Energy Announces $33 Million for Small Business Research and Development Grants

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced it will award 189 grants totaling $33 million to 149 small businesses in 32 states.

    DOE to Provide $16 Million for New Research into Atmospheric and Terrestrial Processes

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide $16 million for new observational research aimed at improving the accuracy of today's climate and earth system models.

    Machine learning award powers Argonne leadership in engine design

    When attempting to design engines to be more fuel-efficient and emissions-free, automotive manufacturers have to take into account all the complexity inherent in the combustion process.

    ORNL partners with industry to address multiple nuclear technology challenges

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is collaborating with industry on six new projects focused on advancing commercial nuclear energy technologies that offer potential improvements to current nuclear reactors and move new reactor designs closer to deployment.

    Lithium earns honors for three physicists working to bring the energy that powers the sun to Earth

    Feature describes research of three PPPL physicists who have won the laboratory's 2018 outstanding research awards

    DOE approves technical plan and cost estimate to upgrade Argonne facility; Project will create X-rays that illuminate the atomic scale, in 3D

    The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the technical scope, cost estimate and plan of work for an upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source, a major storage-ring X-ray source at Argonne.

    Costas Soukoulis elected to National Academy of Inventors

    Costas Soukoulis, Ames Laboratory senior scientist and Iowa State University Frances M. Craig Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor, has been named as a 2018 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow.

    Biophysicist F. William Studier Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

    F. William Studier, a Senior Biophysicist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Stony Brook University, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He is among 148 renowned academic inventors being recognized by NAI for 2018.

    Blast to the future

    A grant from DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund will help researchers at Argonne and industry partners seek improvements to U.S. manufacturing by making discovery and design of new materials more efficient.


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    Peering into the Mist: How Water Vapor Changes Metal at the Atomic Level

    New insights into molecular-level processes could help prevent corrosion and improve catalytic conversion.

    Microbial Types May Prove Key to Gas Releases from Thawing Permafrost

    Scientists discover key types of microbes that degrade organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

    New Method Knocks Out Yeast Genes with Single-Point Precision

    Researchers can precisely study how different genes affect key properties in a yeast used industrially to produce fuel and chemicals.

    How Plants Regulate Sugar Deposition in Cell Walls

    Identified genes involved in plant cell wall polysaccharide production and restructuring could aid in engineering bioenergy crops.

    Scientists Identify Gene Cluster in Budding Yeasts with Major Implications for Renewable Energy

    How yeast partition carbon into a metabolite may offer insights into boosting production for biofuels.

    More Designer Peptides, More Possibilities

    A combined experimental and modeling approach contributes to understanding small proteins with potential use in industrial, therapeutic applications.

    Deep Learning for Electron Microscopy

    Artificial intelligence on Summit to discover atomic-scale structures.

    Clarifying Rates of Methylmercury Production

    New model provides more accurate estimates of how fast microbes produce a mercury-based neurotoxin.

    Drought Stress Changes Microbes Living at Sorghum's Roots

    Scientists explore how drought-tolerant plants communicate to nearby microorganisms, suggesting ways to engineer more resilient bioenergy crops.

    How to Best Predict Chemical Reactions of Contaminants in Water

    Scientists determine the accuracy of computational methods used to study the sulfate radical approach to purifying water.


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