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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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X-Rays Reveal 'Handedness' in Swirling Electric Vortices

Scientists used spiraling X-rays at Berkeley Lab to observe, for the first time, a property that gives left- or right-handedness to swirling electric patterns - dubbed polar vortices - in a layered material called a superlattice.

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By combining the latest developments in neutron scattering and theory, researchers are close to predicting phenomena like superconductivity and magnetism in strongly correlated electron systems. It is likely that the next advances in superconductivity and magnetism will come from such systems, but they might also be used in completely new ways such as quantum computing.

ORNL Researchers Use Titan to Accelerate Design, Training of Deep Learning Networks

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Dark Energy Survey Publicly Releases First Three Years of Data

At a special session held during the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., scientists on the Dark Energy Survey (DES) announced today the public release of their first three years of data. This first major release of data from the Survey includes information on about 400 million astronomical objects, including distant galaxies billions of light-years away as well as stars in our own galaxy.

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Filtering Water Better than Nature

Water passes through human-made straws faster than the "gold standard" protein, allowing us to filter seawater.

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A revolutionary material harbors magnetism and massless electrons that travel near the speed of light--for future ultrasensitive, high-efficiency electronics and sensors.


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DOE Announces Funding for New HPC4Manufacturing Industry Projects

The Department of Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) today announced the funding of $1.87 million for seven new industry projects under an ongoing initiative designed to utilize DOE's high-performance computing (HPC) resources and expertise to advance U.S. manufacturing and clean energy technologies.

DOE Announces First Awardees for New HPC4Materials for Severe Environments Program

The Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE) today announced the funding of $450,000 for the first two private-public partnerships under a brand-new initiative aimed at discovering, designing and scaling up production of novel materials for severe environments.

Two Argonne Scientists Recognized for a Decade of Breakthroughs

Two scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have been named to the Web of Science's Highly Cited List of 2017, ranking in the top 1 percent of their peers by citations and subject area. Materials Scientist Khalil Amine and Energy and Environmental Policy Scientist David Streets say they are thrilled to see their work -- and the laboratory -- recognized in such a way.

Argonne Welcomes Department of Energy Secretary Perry

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Argonne National Laboratory yesterday, getting a first-hand view of the multifaceted and interdisciplinary research program laboratory of the Department.

Argonne names John Quintana Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations and COO

John Quintana has been named Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations and Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

Developing Next-Generation Sensing Technologies

Recently, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced $20 million in funding for 15 projects that will develop a new class of sensor systems to enable significant energy savings via reduced demand for heating and cooling in residential and commercial buildings.

Supporting the Development of Offshore Wind Power Plants

Offshore wind is becoming a reality in the United States, especially in the northeast states. To support this development, the Center for Future Energy System (CFES) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will present a webinar titled "Turbine and Transmission System Technologies for Offshore Wind (OSW) Power Plants." The program will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 20, from 2 to 4 p.m. Advance registration is required.

LLNL Releases Newly Declassified Nuclear Test Videos

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) released 62 newly declassified videos today of atmospheric nuclear tests films that have never before been seen by the public.

NAU Researchers Join DOE Project to Study the Soil Microbiome and Its Effect on Carbon Persistence

NAU Regents' Professor Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss), recently joined a new initiative lead by LLNL to study how the soil microbiome controls the mechanisms that regulate the stabilization of the organic matter in soil.

Four Scientists Win the Los Alamos Medal

Los Alamos National Laboratory will award four former researchers with the Los Alamos Medal for their scientific contributions.


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What's the Noise Eating Quantum Bits?

The magnetic noise caused by adsorbed oxygen molecules is "eating at" the phase stability of quantum bits, mitigating the noise is vital for future quantum computers.

Rewritable Wires Could Mean No More Obsolete Circuitry

An electric field switches the conductivity on and off in atomic-scale channels, which could allow for upgrades at will.

Filtering Water Better than Nature

Water passes through human-made straws faster than the "gold standard" protein, allowing us to filter seawater.

Machine Learning Provides a Bridge to the Texture of the Quantum World

Machine learning and neural networks are the foundation of artificial intelligence and image recognition, but now they offer a bridge to see and recognize exotic insulating phases in quantum materials.

A Rare Quantum State Realized in a New Material

A revolutionary material harbors magnetism and massless electrons that travel near the speed of light--for future ultrasensitive, high-efficiency electronics and sensors.

Discovering Secrets of Superfluids

Observed atomic dynamics helps explain bizarre flow without friction that has been puzzling scientists for decades.

An Exotic State of Matter Discovered in 2-D Material

Electrons are forced to the edge of the road on a thin sheet of tungsten ditelluride.

Studying Crowd Behavior at MINERvA

Detector measures the energy a neutrino imparts to protons and neutrons to help explain the nature of matter and the universe.

Tweaking Quantum Dots Powers-Up Double-Pane Solar Windows

Using two types of "designer" quantum dots, researchers are creating double-pane solar windows that generate electricity with greater efficiency and create shading and insulation for good measure. It's all made possible by a new window architecture which utilizes two different layers of low-cost quantum dots tuned to absorb different parts of the solar spectrum.

See What Lies Beneath

Real-time imaging shows how hydrogen causes oxygen to leave a buried surface, transforming an oxide into a metal.


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