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Published on February 19th, 2013 | by James Ayre


Next-Generation Lithium-Ion Battery Designed, Should Hit Market Within 2-3 Years

February 19th, 2013 by  

Next-generation lithium-ion batteries that hold more than 3 times the charge that current batteries do and can recharge in around 10 minutes are now within reach. The new design, created by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), may be commercially available within only 2-3 years according to those involved.


The design is based on replacing the currently used graphite anodes with porous silicon nanoparticles. This follows work done by the same researchers last year using silicon nanowires. The nanowire version actually lasts much longer (2000 recharge cycles) than the current nanoparticle version (200 recharge cycles) and conventional graphite-based designs (500 recharge cycles). But the researchers are confident that the lifespan of the nanoparticle design can be greatly improved in the near future. The problem with nanowires is just that they are relatively hard to mass manufacture, while silicon nanoparticles are readily available.

The impressive charge capacity and recharge rate could be very useful for many slow-charging batteries currently in use, such as those used in electric and hybrid cars, laptops, cell phones, etc.

“It’s exciting research. It opens the door for the design of the next generation lithium-ion batteries,” said Chongwu Zhou, professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and lead researcher.

“Researchers have long attempted to use silicon, which is cheap and has a high potential capacity, in battery anodes. (Anodes are where current flows into a battery, while cathodes are where current flows out.) The problem has been that previous silicon anode designs, which were basically tiny plates of the material, broke down from repeated swelling and shrinking during charging/discharging cycles and quickly became useless,” the University of Southern California press release states.

So, last year, the researchers began experimenting with silicon nanowires, with their small size and their porous nature offering some resistance to the damage caused by swelling. “The tiny pores on the nanowires allowed the silicon to expand and contract without breaking while simultaneously increasing the surface area — which in turn allows lithium ions to diffuse in and out of the battery more quickly, improving performance.”

The researchers are also working on the development of a new cathode material to pair with the silicon nanowires and nanoparticles, potentially creating an entirely new battery design.

The new research was published in Nano Research.

Image Credit: Silicon via Wikimedia Commons 
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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Otis11

    So, let me get this right:
    3X the battery life
    10X charge cycles
    10 minute quick charge

    That means if we took the Nissan Leaf it would be able to go 220 miles per charge, recharge in 10 minutes and the battery would last longer than the car…

    Seriously? If these come out in the next 3 years we’re going to have a whole different problem: can our electric grid support 100% EVs right now?

    I’d take that problem any day, but seriously. If that were an (affordable) option, why would anyone buy an ICE?

    Please keep us up to date on this!

    • Bob_Wallace

      The Toshiba SCiB can undergo 6,000 100% DoD charge/discharge cycles and still have more than 80% capacity.

      That makes it a 400,000+ mile battery in the LEAF.

      It can be fully recharged in less than 10 minutes.

      90 hW/kg. That’s about 14% better than what the LEAF is using now. But we need more.

      We have enough “spare” capacity during off-peak hours to charge over 80% of all US cars if they turned into EVs over night. If we include transmission capability it drops into the high 70% range.

      • Bob_Wallace

        “The existing electricity infrastructure as a national resource has sufficient available capacity to fuel 84% of the nation’s cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs (198 million) or 73% of the light duty fleet (about 217 million vehicles) for a daily drive of 33 miles on average.

        There are significant emissions impacts resulting if the gasoline-based LDV fleet were to transition to a PHEV technology.

        Greenhouse gases and some criteria emissions would be reduced based on total emission figures. Particulates and SOX emissions would increase as a result of increased dispatch of coal-fired power plants. There are regional differences that depend upon the mix of coal and natural-gas-fired power plants.

        All emissions in urban areas are expected to improve because of the shifting of the emission source from millions of individual vehicles in population centers to central generation plants that are traditionally located away from population centers.”

        There’s a follow-up study which found that at the time of the study we did not have adequate transmission to get all that power to vehicles. It lowered the amount by about 10%. But the important thing is that the grid is more than ready to accept large scale movement to EVs and PHEVs.

        • Otis11

          In the time it would take to produce that many EVs, we could easily fix the transmission problem – potentially by more point of use solar! (Probably the easiest way, but I don’t have any numbers to support that)

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sure, we’ve almost certainly in the early days of a wind and solar avalanche. And major upgrades to the grid are underway.

            By the time EVs become the most purchased new cars per year we’ll be more than ready for them.

      • Otis11

        Wait, so the stats you’re quoteing – those aren’t what’s in the current LEAF though correct?

        Because I’m seeing that it’s a 100,000 mile battery pack (likely more, but only that is guaranteed) It also takes a lot longer than 10 minutes…

        Is that SCiB battery being used anywhere currently?

        Thanks for the great info!

        • Bob_Wallace

          Honda FiT and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV.

          I don’t know if they’re getting the 6,000 cycle version or an earlier version which had a lower cycle life.

          The LEAF uses a different battery. They just changed sources in order to get a better price. And they have their own battery plants.

      • Bob, I agree with everything you said, except the LEAF comparison. LTO anodes are durable, but they don’t offer great energy density and are therefore more expensive per kWh. Leaf’s LMO-LNO/C battery has ~155 Wh/kg at the cell level, according to parameters listed on the AESC website.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Thanks, I’ll check that out. When I looked on line I saw 79 Wh/kg for the LEAF. That site could have had it wrong.

          • Sama

            Except that the SCiB has a 100% DoD (Depth of Discharge) and the LEAF’s battery is limited to 50%. It is limited for a number of reasons including minimizing strain on the battery and extending cycle life. So usable energy, the LEAF battery is closer to 75 Wh/kg.

  • tibi stibi

    i read a lot about this stuff and it is fun to see how it goes from, an idea, to a prototype, to mass production. and the media goes along with it. first only on specialized blogs, than on some more and now i read it in holland on a mainstream news site.

    hope it really be 2-3 years than the new economy with very cheap electric energy on can take off!!

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