How can nanotechnology improve batteries?
Using nanotechnology in the
manufacture of batteries offers the following benefits:
Reducing the possibility
of batteries catching fire by providing less flammable electrode material.
available power from a battery and decreasing the time required to recharge
a battery. These benefits are achieved by
coating the surface of an
electrode with nanoparticles. This increases the
surface area of the electrode thereby allowing more current to flow between the electrode and the
chemicals inside the battery. This technique could increase the efficiency
of hybrid vehicles by significantly reducing the weight of the batteries
needed to provide adequate power.
shelf life of a battery by using nanomaterials
separate liquids in the battery from the solid electrodes
when there is no draw on the battery. This separation prevents the low level
discharge that occurs in a conventional battery, which increases the shelf
life of the battery dramatically.
Applications under Development
Researchers at North Carolina State University
have demonstrated the use of
silicon coated carbon nanotubes for in anodes for Li-ion batteries.
They are predicting that the use of silicon can increase the capacity of
Li-ion batteries by up to 10 times. However silicon expands during a
batteries discharge cycle, which can damage silicon based anodes. By
depositing silicon on nanotubes aligned parallel to each other the
researchers hope to prevent damage to the anode when the silicon
Researchers at Stanford University and SLAC are
developing techniques to surround
silicon nanoparticles with
graphene cages. The idea is that when the silicon expands and cracks
form in the nanoparticles the silicon remains in the graphene cage
without degrading the anode.
Researchers at Los Alamos National
Laboratory have demonstrated a
catalyst made from
nitrogen-doped carbon-nanotubes, instead of platinum. The
researchers believe this type of catalyst could be used in Lithium-air
batteries, which can store up to 10 times as much energy as lithium-ion
Researchers at USC are developing a
lithium ion battery
that can recharge within 10 minutes using silicon nanoparticles in
the anode of the battery. The use of silicon nanoparticles, rather than
solid silicon, prevents the cracking of the electrode which occurs in
solid silicon electrodes.
Researchers at the University of Delaware have demonstarted the use of carbon nanotubes in 3-D structured electrodes to increase the
energy density of capacitors.
Researchers at the University of California,
Irvine have demonstrated electrodes with
much longer lifetime that use nanowires coated with a gel.
Researchers at Rice University have developed
electrodes made from carbon
nanotubes grown on graphene with very high surface area and very low
electrical resistance. The researchers first grew graphene on a metal
substrate then grew carbon nanotubes on the graphene sheet. Because the
base of each nanotube is bonded, atom to atom, to the graphene sheet the
nanotube-graphene structure is essentially one large molecule with a
huge surface area.
Researchers at Stanford University have grown silicon nanowires
on a stainless steel substrate and demonstrated that batteries using
these anodes could have up to 10 times the power density of conventional lithium ion batteries. Using silicon nanowires, instead of bulk silicon fixes a problem of the silicon cracking, that has been seen on electrodes using bulk silicon. The cracking is caused because the silicon swells it absorbs lithium ions while being recharged, and contracts as the battery is discharged and the lithium ions leave the silicon. However the researchers found that while the silicon nanowires swell as lithium ions are absorbed during discharge of the battery and contract as the lithium ions leave during recharge of the battery the nanowires do not crack, unlike anodes that used bulk silicon.
Researchers at MIT have developed a technique to deposit
aligned carbon nanotubes on a substrate for use as the anode, and possibly the cathode, in a lithium ion battery. The carbon nanotubes have organic molecules attached that help the nanotubes align on the substrate, as well as provide many oxygen atoms that provide points for lithium ions to attach to. This could increase the power density of lithium ion batteries
significantly, perhaps by as much as 10 times. A battery manufacturer called Contour Systems has licensed this technology and are planning to use it in their next generation Li-ion batteries.
Researchers at MIT have used carbon nanofibers to
make lithium ion battery electrodes that show
four times the storage
capacity of current lithium ion batteries.
Researchers at Rensselaer have used graphene on
the surface of anodes to make lithium-ion batteries
that recharge about 10 times faster than conventional Li-ion batteries. Defects in the graphene sheet (introduced
using a heat treatment) provide pathways for the lithium ions to attach
to the anode substate.
Researchers at MIT have demonstrated batteries
with carbon nanotubes that generate electricity
without the use of metals. The electricity is produced when heat is
applied along the nanotubes by a source such as burning sugar. The
researchers believe this method could be used to make very small
batteries which might be needed for wearable devices.
The next step beyond lithium-ion batteries may
be lithium sulfur batteries (the cathode contains the sulfur), which
have the capability of storing several times the energy of lithium-ion
batteries. Researchers at Stanford University are using cathodes made up
carbon nanofibers encapsulating the sulfur, while researchers at LMU Munic
and Waterloo University are using cathodes made up of
mesoporous carbon nanoparticles, with the sulfur inside the
Researchers at Institute of Physical Chemistry
of the Polish Academy of Sciences are developing a cathode using carbon
nanotubes for use in fuel
cells or batteries used to power medical implants.
Researchers at Rice University are using carbon
nanotubes mixed with carbon black particles in one layer of a five layer
battery that can be painted
on a wide range of types of surfaces.
Cathodes made of a nanocomposite designed to
increase the energy density of Li-ion batteries.
Battery small enough to be implanted in the eye and
power artificial retina
Long shelf life battery
uses "nanograss" to separate liquid electrolytes from the solid electrode until power is needed.
batteries with nanoparticle (Nanophosphate™) electrodes that meet the safety requirements for
while improving the performance.
batteries with electrodes made from
nano-structured lithium titanate that
significantly improves the charge/discharge capability at sub freezing
temperatures as well as increasing the upper temperature limit at which
the battery remains safe from thermal runaway.
Ultracapacitors using nanotubes may do even better than batteries in hybrid
single atom thick graphene sheets
to store electrical charge.
Battery anodes using
silicon nanoparticles coating a titanium disilicide lattice
improve the charge/discharge rate of Li-ion batteries as well as the
Thermocells using nanotubes
Electrical generator built with nanostructured
material that can
produce watts of electrical power from walking.
Batteries: Nanotechnology Company Directory
||Lithium-ion battery with the cathode made from nano-phosphate,
literature is unclear as to whether this is nanoparticles of phosphate
on a substrate or a nano-porous phosphate structure
||Higher power, quicker recharge, less combustible than standard
||Battery with chemicals isolated from electrode by "nanograss" when
the battery is not in use
|| Very long shelf life
||Lithium-ion battery with the anode composed of
lithium titanate spindel nanoparticles
Higher power, quicker recharge, less combustible than
standard lithium-ion batteries
||Silver-zinc battery using
nanoparticles in the silver cathode
||Higher power density, low
More companies applying
nanotechnology to batteries
Resources For Advancing Battery Technology
Transportation Technology R&D
Center at Argonne National Laboratory
Other Energy Related Pages:
Earl Boysen of Hawk's Perch Technical Writing, LLC and
UnderstandingNano.com. You can find him on