Electrode….heal thyself

In a breakthrough that could help improve the lifetime of next generation lithium-ion batteries US researchers have developed a self-healing battery electrode.

Demonstrated by a team from Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory the breakthrough (which was reported in the Nov 19 issue of Nature Chemistry) has been made possible by a stretchy polymer that coats the electrode and spontaneously heals tiny cracks that develop during battery operation.

The polymer was developed by Stanford researcher Dr Chao Wang, who added tiny nanoparticles of conductive carbon to a material that was originally being developed as an electronic skin for use in robotics. When the material was applied to silicon electrodes the group found that they lasted ten time longer than would normally be expected.

Though an exceptionally promising material for electrodes, silicon is easily degraded during a batteries’ charging and recharging cycle and its thought that the new coating could represent a solution to this problem.