Nanotube film enabling ten times higher energy lithium metal batteries

Thin nanotube films effectively stop dendrites that grow naturally from unprotected lithium metal anodes in batteries. Over time, these tentacle-like dendrites can pierce the battery’s electrolyte core and reach the cathode, causing the battery to fail. That problem has mostly stopped the use of lithium metal in commercial applications.

Lithium metal charges much faster and holds about 10 times more energy by volume than the lithium-ion electrodes commonly used today.

The tangled-nanotube film effectively quenched dendrites over 580 charge/discharge cycles of a test battery with a sulfurized-carbon cathode the lab developed in previous experiments. The researchers reported the full lithium metal cells retained 99.8 percent of their coulombic efficiency, the measure of how well electrons move within an electrochemical system.

Abstract – Suppressing Li Metal Dendrites Through a Solid Li‐Ion Backup Layer

Advanced Materials – Suppressing Li Metal Dendrites Through a Solid Li‐Ion Backup Layer

The growing demand for sustainable and off‐grid energy storage is reviving the attempts to use Li metal as the anode in the next generation of batteries. However, the use of Li anodes is hampered due to the growth of Li dendrites upon charging and discharging, which compromises the life and safety of the battery. Here, it is shown that lithiated multiwall carbon nanotubes (Li‐MWCNTs) act as a controlled Li diffusion interface that suppresses the growth of Li dendrites by regulating the Li+ ion flux during charge/discharge cycling at current densities between 2 and 4 mA cm−2. A full Li‐S cell is fabricated to showcase the versatility of the protected Li anode with the Li‐MWCNT interface, where the full cells could support pulse discharges at high currents and over 450 cycles at different rates with coulombic efficiencies close to 99.9%. This work indicates that carbon materials in lithiated forms can be an effective and simple approach to the stabilization of Li metal anodes.

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