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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.
    • 2018-05-31 15:05:10
    • Article ID: 695332

    Solving a Magnesium Mystery in Rechargeable Battery Performance

    Study reveals surprising, bad chemical reactivity in battery components previously considered compatible.

    • Credit: Berkeley Lab

      Simulations show the weakening of a bond in a liquid solvent due to the presence of free-floating hydroxide ions, which contain a single oxygen atom bound to a hydrogen atom. This process degrades battery performance. In this illustration, atoms are color-coded: hydrogen (white), oxygen (red), carbon (light blue), nitrogen (dark blue), sulfur (yellow), and fluorine (brown).

    The Science

    Packing more energy into smaller rechargeable batteries could extend the range of electric vehicles. Magnesium-based batteries have potential but also have chemical roadblocks. Now, a team of Molecular Foundry scientists and users has discovered a new kind of chemical reactivity. The self-stabilizing, thin oxide surface layer that forms on the magnesium electrode has defects. These defects can expose underlying magnesium ions. The ions trap molecules from the battery’s liquid electrolyte. The battery begins to fail before it’s even charged. Previously, scientists thought the next-generation electrode and electrolyte were compatible.

    The Impact

    The discovered reactions degrade battery performance even before the battery can be charged. The findings could be relevant to other battery materials and guide the design of next-gen batteries away from such pitfalls.

    Summary

    Rechargeable batteries based on magnesium, rather than lithium, have the potential to extend electric vehicle range by packing more energy into smaller batteries. But unforeseen chemical roadblocks have slowed scientific progress. The places where solid meets liquid—where the oppositely charged battery electrodes interact with the surrounding chemical mixture known as the electrolyte—are the known problem spots.

    Now, a research team has discovered a surprising set of chemical reactions involving magnesium that degrade battery performance even before the battery can be charged up. The findings could be relevant to other battery materials and could steer the design of next-generation batteries toward workarounds that avoid these newly identified pitfalls.

    The team used X-ray experiments, theoretical modeling, and supercomputer simulations to develop a full understanding of the chemical breakdown of a liquid electrolyte occurring within tens of nanometers of an electrode surface that degrades battery performance.

    The battery they were testing featured magnesium metal as its negative electrode (the anode) in contact with an electrolyte composed of a liquid (a type of solvent known as diglyme) and a dissolved salt, Mg(TFSI)2. Molecular Foundry researchers developed detailed simulations of the point where the electrode and electrolyte meet, known as the interface, indicating that no spontaneous chemical reactions should occur under ideal conditions, either. The simulations, though, did not account for all of the chemical details.

    The team employed a unique X-ray technique developed recently at the Advanced Light Source, called APXPS (ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy). This new technique is sensitive to the chemistry occurring at the interface of a solid and liquid, which makes it an ideal tool to explore battery chemistry at the surface of the electrode, where it meets the liquid electrolyte.

    What they determined is that the self-stabilizing, thin oxide surface layer that forms on the magnesium has defects and impurities that drive unwanted reactions. A further round of simulations, which proposed possible defects in the oxidized magnesium surface, showed that defects in the oxidized surface layer of the anode could expose magnesium ions that then act as traps for the electrolyte’s molecules. The results could be relevant to other types of battery materials, too, including prototypes based on lithium or aluminum metal. 

    Funding

    This work was supported by Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, an Energy Innovation Hub, and the Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage (NEES), an Energy Frontier Research Center, both funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Portions of this work were supported by a user project at the Molecular Foundry, an Office of Science scientific user facility, and its compute cluster (Vulcan) managed by the High Performance Computing Services Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and portions of this work used the computing resources of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, a scientific user facility at LBNL, all of which are supported by the DOE Office of Science. The researchers also used resources at the Advanced Light Source, a scientific user facility which is supported by the Director, DOE, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Q.L. would like to acknowledge the support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

    Publications

    Y. Yu, A. Baskin, C. Valero-Vidal, N.T. Hahn, Q. Liu, K.R. Zavadil, B.W. Eichhorn, D. Prendergast, and E.J. Crumlin, “Instability at the electrode/electrolyte interface induced by hard cation chelation and nucleophilic attack.” Chemistry of Materials 29, 8504 (2017). [DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.7b03404]

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    Missing gamma-ray blobs shed new light on dark matter, cosmic magnetism

    Scientists, including researchers from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have compiled the most detailed catalog of such blobs using eight years of data collected with the Large Area Telescope (LAT) on NASA's Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. The blobs, including 19 gamma-ray sources that weren't known to be extended before, provide crucial information on how stars are born, how they die, and how galaxies spew out matter trillions of miles into space.

    Applying Auto Industry's Fuel-Efficiency Standards to Agriculture Could Net Billions in Corn Sector, Researchers Conclude

    Adopting benchmarks similar to the fuel-efficiency standards used by the auto industry in the production of fertilizer could yield $5-8 billion in economic benefits for the U.S. corn sector alone, researchers have concluded in a new analysis.

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices

    A paper published in Nature Communications by Sufei Shi, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer, increases our understanding of how light interacts with atomically thin semiconductors and creates unique excitonic complex particles, multiple electrons, and holes strongly bound together.

    Next-Gen Ultrafast Optical Fiber-Based Electron Gun to Reveal Atomic Motions During Transition State

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    Ancient Pigment Can Boost Energy Efficiency

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    Expanding Fungal Diversity, One Cell at a Time

    Reported October 8, 2018, in Nature Microbiology, a team led by U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute researchers developed a pipeline to generate genomes from single cells of uncultivated fungi. The approach was tested on several uncultivated species representing early diverging fungi.

    Columbia Engineers Build Smallest Integrated Kerr Frequency Comb Generator

    Optical frequency combs can enable ultrafast processes in physics, biology, and chemistry, as well as improve communication and navigation, medical testing, and security. Columbia Engineers have built a Kerr frequency comb generator that, for the first time, integrates the laser with the microresonator, significantly shrinking the system's size and power requirements. They no longer need to connect separate devices using fiber--they can now integrate it all on compact and energy efficient photonic chips.

    Scientists Present New Clues to Cut Through the Mystery of Titan's Atmospheric Haze

    Experiments at Berkeley Lab helped scientists zero in on a low-temperature chemical mechanism that may help to explain the complex molecular compounds that make up the nitrogen-rich haze layer surrounding Titan, Saturn's largest moon.

    Consumers willing to pay more for sustainably brewed beer, study finds

    More and more breweries are investing in practices to save energy and reduce greenhouse gases. Will it pay off? A study by Indiana University researchers suggests it may.


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    Prototype Solar Energy, Battery Systems to Fuel Commercialization

    Designing, building and testing prototype systems that show how renewable energy can power devices, such as a weather and soil sensor station, can help bridge the gap between basic science research and commercialization.

    Argonne to Advance High Performance Computing in Manufacturing

    Argonne awarded funding to partner with Industry to advance the use of high performance computing in manufacturing.

    "Invisible Glass" Wins 2018 Create the Future Design Contest Grand Prize

    Scientists from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials developed a technique for making nonreflecting glass, silicon, and plastic surfaces.

    Missouri S&T researchers win multimillion dollar grant to build fast-charging stations for electric cars

    Researchers from Missouri S&T and three private companies will combine their expertise to create charging stations for electric vehicles that could charge a car in less than 10 minutes - matching the time it takes to fill up a conventional vehicle with gasoline."The big problem with electric vehicles is range, and it's not so much range as range anxiety.

    Making batteries store more energy, last longer

    A new solid polymer electrolyte may help make cell phone batteries store more energy and last longer.

    Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Named Fellows of American Physical Society

    The American Physical Society (APS), the world's largest physics organization, has elected three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory as 2018 APS fellows.

    Southern Research first to win accreditation under ISO 14034

    Southern Research has become the first organization in the United States to earn accreditation under ISO 14034, a new international standard for evaluating and verifying environmental technologies that was recently adopted by the American National Standards Institute.

    Kawtar Hafidi to head Physical Sciences and Engineering directorate at Argonne

    Physicist Kawtar Hafidi has been appointed Associate Laboratory Director, Physical Sciences and Engineering at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

    Argonne researchers honored by Energy Secretary's awards program

    A select group of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory was recently recognized for their contributions to infrastructure security and nuclear nonproliferation at the Secretary's Honor Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on August 29.

    PPPL's Sam Cohen earns award at meeting of U.S. government-funded laboratories hosted by PPPL

    PPPL physicist Sam Cohen and a local company win a Federal Laboratory Consortium award for a rocket propulsion technology.


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    How to Make Soot and Stardust

    Scientists unlock mystery that could help reduce emissions of fine particles from combustion engines and other sources.

    Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

    Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

    Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

    Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

    Heavy Particles Get Caught Up in the Flow

    First direct measurement show how heavy particles containing a charm quark get caught up in the flow of early universe particle soup.

    Seeing Between the Atoms

    New detector enables electron microscope imaging at record-breaking resolution.

    Scaling Up Single-Crystal Graphene

    New method can make films of atomically thin carbon that are over a foot long.

    Discovered: Optimal Magnetic Fields Suppress Instabilities in Tokamak Plasmas

    U.S. and Korean scientists show how to find and use beneficial 3-D field perturbations to stabilize dangerous edge-localized modes in plasma.

    New Electron Glasses Sharpen Our View of Atomic-Scale Features

    A new approach to atom probe tomography promises more precise and accurate measurements vital to semiconductors used in computers, lasers, detectors, and more.

    Getting an Up-Close, 3-D View of Gold Nanostars

    Scientists can now measure 3-D structures of tiny particles with properties that hold promise for advanced sensors and diagnostics.

    Small, Short-Lived Drops of Early Universe Matter

    Particle flow patterns suggest even small-scale collisions create drops of early universe quark-gluon plasma.


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