Researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) have discovered a way to vastly increase the lifespan of lithium-ion batteries, presenting a significant milestone for the green energy transition.
The breakthrough, published in the Nature Communications journal and released to the public on Monday, showed how an atomic-thin layer could be used to coat high-voltage lithium batteries to more than double their lifespan — increasing charge, discharge cycles from 500 to over 1,000.
Lead researcher, Professor Lianzhou Wang from UQ’s School of Chemical Engineering told Xinhua the technology could be applied to batteries in many types of technologies.
“Our process will increase the life-span of batteries in many things from smartphones and laptops, to power tools and electric vehicles,” he said.
Wang said the technology works by creating an extremely “robust”, long-lasting layer that prevents the battery materials from dissolving and losing its charge capacity over time.
“This atomic layer has a very strong bond between this protection layer and the battery materials underneath, because it has a very good adhering bonding,” said Wang. “This will enable a long lifetime of the battery materials.”
Previous electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries have primarily used Cobalt, a material which is both expensive and toxic. The nanomaterial coating developed by Wang and his team is made from nickel and magnesium which are both cheaper and less toxic.
Lithium-ion batteries are set to play a key role in the global transition to non-carbon forms of energy. They are instrumental in electric vehicles, household electronics and as a way to store energy produced by renewable energy sources.
However, the transition to batteries poses both a solution and a problem as many have a lifespan averaging five to 10 years.
A 2018 report by Australia’s leading industrial research organization, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), found that lithium-ion battery waste was increasing by 20 percent each year and only 10 percent of all batteries were being recycled.
Wang’s discovery could begin to address this growing problem. He told Xinhua they expect to scale industrial production in the next two to three years.
“The new technology enables much longer lifespan of the batteries, representing an important step forward since the recycling need of the battery is much less frequent.”