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.

Weighty Polymers Impact Battery Stability and Safety

Materials prevent battery failure by inhibiting tree-like growths.

The Science

Simply adding a weighty polymer to a battery’s electrolyte solution prevents the unwanted growth of tree-like metal structures, called dendrites, known to cause short circuits. Preventing dendrites is critical for battery safety. The polymers do this by altering the consistency of the liquid significantly. They make it both sticky and elastic.

The Impact

This new processing route demonstrates that adding large polymers creates electrolytes that prevent dendrite formation. This allows reactive metals such as sodium and lithium to be layered on the electrode surface using an electric current (electrodeposition). These two metals are targeted for use in more powerful batteries for storing energy from solar panels and wind farms. Because the new process enables stable electrodeposition of many metals, it may be vital for metal plating and other industrial uses.

Summary

Adding a simple new family of ultra-large polymers to the electrolyte liquids present in batteries frustrates dendrite growth. The polymers add elasticity to the liquids, which suppress an instability known as electroconvection that causes electrolytes to flow in a dendrite-forming pattern. The team observed the most dramatic stabilizing effects of polymers for reactive metals, including lithium and sodium. Researchers at Cornell University made measurements by dispersing small tracer particles in electrolytes and then tracking the particle motions with a light microscope while applying an electric field. They found that adding small amounts of a polymer known as poly(methyl methacrylate) resulted in less swirling motions and a large slowdown of particle movement. Measurements under a shearing force confirmed that the polymer additions to the electrolyte produce viscoelastic behavior. The researchers conclude that polymers function by inducing detrimental interfacial interactions and unsteadiness in the flow but do not compromise the rate of metal ion movement important to the battery function. A surprising finding is that far less (orders of magnitude) than expected polymer is needed to have a substantial effect. The new process for stabilizing electrolytes with polymers may be important in bringing safe battery technology to fruition as well as for controlling deposition processes in broadly utilized industrial applications such as paint and metal plating.

Funding

The work was supported by the Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences. X-ray spectroscopy was used through the facility at Cornell supported by the National Science Foundation.    

Publications

S. Wei, Z. Cheng, P. Nath, M.D. Tikekar, G. Li, and L.A. Archer, “Stabilizing electrochemical interfaces in viscoelastic liquid electrolytes.” Science Advances 4, 1 (2018). [DOI:10.1126/sciadv.aao6243] 

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Newswise: Fungus That Tastes Just Right
Released: 29-Jul-2021 2:25 PM EDT
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Released: 29-Jul-2021 2:05 PM EDT
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Newswise: 1_d6670919-hr.jpg
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Scientists at Brookhaven and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories have been developing an automated experimental setup of data collection, analysis, and decision making.

Released: 28-Jul-2021 1:45 PM EDT
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Newswise: SLAC Partners with National Labs and Scientific Publishing Organizations on Transgender-Inclusive Name-Change Process for Published Papers
Released: 28-Jul-2021 10:55 AM EDT
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The agreement, announced today, will make it easier for researchers to change their names and claim work from all stages of their careers. It specifically addresses the administrative and emotional difficulties some transgender researchers have experienced when requesting such name changes.

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Released: 27-Jul-2021 4:35 PM EDT
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The Electron-Ion Collider Center at the Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (EIC Center at Jefferson Lab) has announced the winners of six international fellowships to help advance the science program of the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC).

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Released: 29-Jul-2021 2:25 PM EDT
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Released: 29-Jul-2021 2:05 PM EDT
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Charles M. “Chick” Macal, a modeling and simulation expert at Argonne, garnered the distinguished title of Fellow of the Society for Computer Simulation International for his 20 years in the field and his recent studies on COVID-19 spread.

Newswise: AI Learns Physics to Optimize Particle Accelerator Performance
Released: 29-Jul-2021 11:15 AM EDT
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Researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have demonstrated that they can use machine learning to optimize the performance of particle accelerators by teaching the algorithms the basic physics principles behind accelerator operations – no prior data needed.

Released: 29-Jul-2021 6:05 AM EDT
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Scientists studying particle collisions at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider have produced definitive evidence for two physics phenomena predicted more than 80 years ago: that matter/antimatter can be generated directly from collisions of photons and that a magnetic field can bend polarized light along different paths in a vacuum.

Newswise: 1_d6670919-hr.jpg
Released: 28-Jul-2021 2:25 PM EDT
Automatically Steering Experiments Toward Scientific Discovery
Brookhaven National Laboratory

Scientists at Brookhaven and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories have been developing an automated experimental setup of data collection, analysis, and decision making.

Released: 28-Jul-2021 1:45 PM EDT
Department of Energy Announces $7.7 Million for Earth & Environmental Systems Modeling
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $7.7 million in funding for 11 studies to improve understanding of Earth system predictability and DOE’s Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM), a state-of-the-science climate model.

Newswise: SLAC Partners with National Labs and Scientific Publishing Organizations on Transgender-Inclusive Name-Change Process for Published Papers
Released: 28-Jul-2021 10:55 AM EDT
SLAC Partners with National Labs and Scientific Publishing Organizations on Transgender-Inclusive Name-Change Process for Published Papers
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The agreement, announced today, will make it easier for researchers to change their names and claim work from all stages of their careers. It specifically addresses the administrative and emotional difficulties some transgender researchers have experienced when requesting such name changes.

Newswise: EIC Center at Jefferson Lab Announces Research Awards
Released: 27-Jul-2021 4:35 PM EDT
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