X-rays reveal how silver bridges improve efficiency of lithium ion batteries

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  • Published: Jan 13, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: X-ray Spectrometry
thumbnail image: X-rays reveal how silver bridges improve efficiency of lithium ion batteries

In situ X-ray studies of lithium batteries containing silver-based electrodes have revealed the formation of nanobridges of silver during early discharge that improve the flow of electricity.

The findings have been described in Science and recount the use of X-ray beams produced by the National Synchrotron Light Source to study the atomic structure of the batteries. Without silver, the batteries had low conductivity but the addition of silver vanadium diphosphate electrodes changed all that, providing a battery with high voltage and high stability.

During discharge, the lithium ions in the anode travel to the cathode, displacing silver ions which combine with free electrons and unused cathode material to form the conductive silver metal matrix in the form of particles up to 10 nm across. The changing structure was linked directly to discharge rate.

"Armed with this insight into battery cathode discharge processes, we can target new materials designed to address critical battery issues associated with power and efficiency," said Esther Takeuchi, one of the team. "The experimental work - in particular the in-situ x-ray diffraction in batteries totally encased in stainless steel -should prove useful for industry as it can penetrate prototype and production-level batteries to track their structural evolution during operation."

One further key finding was that a slow discharge rate early in the battery’s life created a more uniform and expansive conductive network, which will be useful in future design.

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