A research team led by Stanley Whittingham, Nobel Prize winner and inventor of lithium rechargeable batteries, is developing a way to make them more efficient by a cleaning process using Niobium Oxide.
This process is usually done at the cathode with lithium. However, by using niobium, the impurities generated during the first charge and discharge cycle reduce the damages suffered by the batteries and, therefore, their useful life increases considerably (between 10 and 18%) providing a longer operational life.
Over time, Lithium chemical degradation is present on devices using this element as the main source for battery life, either electronic devices or electrified cars. Also, the first charge and discharge process releases a progressive loss at each repetitive cycle limiting its original capacity.
Now, Whittingham’s study determined that using a niobium coating generates a protective film on the cells to prevent this capacity loss caused by impurities compromising the cathodes formed by Cobalt, Manganese and Nickel. The latter element is detrimental, creating instability under the surface and causing a total decrease in performance.
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This experimental treatment with Niobium Oxide succeeded on replacing the Lithium for the cathode, and removed any instability during the process. According to Hui Zhou, author of the study, the team’s work opened a door to a better understanding of how the process works on batteries after the addition of this new element, increasing capacity by up to 93.2% after 250 charge/discharge cycles.
“The neutron scattering data suggest that Niobium atoms stabilize the surface by reducing losses in the first cycle.”Hui Zhou
Raising the temperature caused Niobium atoms to drive Manganese into the cathode to improve retention with longer durability time, making it a long-lasting process, although there is still a long way to go in the quest to make Lithium-ion batteries more stable every day.
Stanley Whittingham’s Profile
Stanley Whittingham is a British-American Chemist born on December 22, 1941, Nobel Prize winner for his field in 2019 after developing the lithium-ion battery in the 1970s. Since then, he set a precedent for introducing this technology into everyday life through electrical appliances and sustainable vehicles.
Written by | Ronald Ortega