Saturday, June 30, 2012

WSU Researchers Create Super Lithium-Ion Battery, Could Hit Market Next Year

Washington State University (WSU) researchers have developed a new technology that could triple the capacity of lithium-ion batteries, which as anyone who owns a cell phone or laptop knows, can be frustratingly limiting.

Grant Norton and student, David Mackay. 
Photo by WSU Photo Services.

Led by Grant Norton, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, the researchers have filed patents on the nanoscale-based technology, which also allows the batteries to re-charge many more times and more quickly than current models. They expect to bring it to the market within a year.

Thin, super lithium-ion battery
Credit: WSU

In particular, the researchers have developed an anode made of tin, rather than the carbon used currently. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries are made up of two electrodes, the cathode and an anode. During charging, the lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode. The anode holds the lithium ions and stores the battery’s energy. When the battery is used, the ions move from the anode to the cathode, discharging electrons and creating an electric circuit.

The new tin anode has the potential to store almost three times the energy of graphite.

Uttara Sahaym 

Norton and postdoctoral researcher Uttara Sahaym developed the novel material a little over a year ago while working on a project to mitigate tin whiskers, which are literally tiny whiskers that grow on tin-plated electronics. The whiskers, which can sometimes grow as long as 10 millimeters, are a pesky problem in microelectronics because they create short circuits that can cause catastrophic damage. Yet, despite the fact that tin whiskers have been causing problems for more than 60 years, researchers have been unable to come up with ways to entirely avoid them.

Norton and his group decided to turn the problem on its head and see if they could control the growth of tin whiskers, instead of trying to get rid of them. They applied the work to developing a tin-based anode for batteries.

The researchers developed a method for growing tin nanoneedles directly onto copper foil using a standard electroplating process that is commonly used in industry. Electroplating means the tin-based anode costs less than regular graphite anodes with triple the energy storage capacity. The end product battery will look exactly the same as the current batteries, so that manufacturers don’t have to redesign their electronic devices to make room for a new battery.

tin nanoneedles 
Credit: WSU

With support from the WSU College of Engineering and Architecture’s Emerging Technology Fund, which is funded by private donations, the researchers have started building and testing the batteries.

Contacts and sources: 
By Tina Hilding


  1. Really Nice and interested blog!!! Electroplating means the tin-based anode costs less than regular graphite anodes with triple the energy storage capacity.
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  2. Excellent research has done here..Nanotechnology has the potential to introduce new innovative functions and properties to develop new products and application..This blog provides great information on how lithium-ion batteries beneficial than current model..Nano scale technology allows this battery to recharge many times and more quickly..Global Market Research