March 11, 2009

Nanomaterial promises record fast batteries

Coat lithium iron phosphate nanoparticles with the right material and you can make cellphone batteries that charge in seconds and electric car batteries that charge in minutes.

The material is lithium iron phosphate nanoparticles coated with glassy lithium phosphate that contains transition metal ions. The glassy coating lets lithium ions move much more rapidly than they move across uncoated lithium iron phosphate. The transition metal ions make the material conduct electricity.

Batteries made from the nanomaterial charge quickly and deliver bursts of power like ultracapacitors but retain the much larger storage capacities of lithium batteries.

A small prototype battery made with the nanomaterial charges and discharges in 10 to 20 seconds compared to six minutes for the same size battery made of ordinary lithium iron phosphate. An electric vehicle battery made of the material would charge in minutes rather than hours and allow for rapid acceleration.

Belgian materials company Umicore is one of two companies that have licensed the material.

Research paper:
Battery Materials for Ultrafast Charging and Discharging
Nature, March 12, 2009

Researchers' homepages:
Byoungwoo Kang
Gerbrand Ceder

Related stories and briefs:
Silicon nanowires boost batteries -- related research
Porous silicon boosts lithium batteries -- related research

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