Stanford scientists have discovered why lithium metal batteries fail

Researchers at Stanford University and the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have identified the causes of short circuits and failures in lithium metal batteries – and this could help avoid the problem in future battery production.

As a result of this discovery, energy-dense, fast-charging, non-flammable, and long-lasting lithium-metal batteries could overcome major barriers to their use in electric vehicles, among other benefits.

Solid electrolyte lithium metal batteries are lightweight, flammable, pack a lot of energy, and can be recharged very quickly. There was only a shortness issue causing them to fail.

But the researchers seem to have pinpointed the problem. In a paper published in the journal nature energytitled “Mechanical regulation of lithium intrusion potential in garnet solid electrolytes,” the researchers cited mechanical stress, especially during forceful recharging, as a cause of failure.

Senior author william smear Explain:

Simply indenting, bending, or twisting batteries can cause nanoscale cracks to open in the materials and lithium to enter the solid electrolyte, causing a short circuit.

Even dust or other impurities introduced in manufacturing can generate enough stress to cause failure.

This artist’s rendering shows one probe bending from applied pressure, causing fracture in the lithium-filled solid electrolyte. On the right, the probe does not press the electrolyte and lithium plates onto the ceramic surface, as desired. (Image credit: Cube3D)

Coolid Shane Show author likens it to the way a hole in the pavement appears. Through rain and snow, car tires strike water into small pre-existing imperfections in the pavement, creating cracks that are constantly widening and growing over time.

Shaw said:

Lithium is actually a soft material, but, like water in the hole analogy, all it takes is pressure to widen the hole and cause failure.

So researchers are now looking for ways to use these same mechanical forces to harden the material during manufacturing, much like a blacksmith hardens a blade during production. They are also looking for ways to coat the surface of the electrolyte to prevent cracks or to repair them if they appear.

Scientists around the world working to develop new solid-state rechargeable batteries could solve the problem, or even turn the discovery to their advantage, scientists at Stanford University are now investigating.

Main image section: Cube3D

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