Fast-charging Lithium-Metal Batteries have taken a significant step forward, according to a recent report in the journal Nature Energy. Researchers from the University of California San Diego and UC Irvine have found a way to charge these batteries in as little as an hour. This was made possible by growing uniform layers of lithium metal on a surprising surface, one that lithium officially doesn’t “like”.
The researchers replaced the traditional copper surface on the anode side of lithium-metal batteries with a lithiophobic nanocomposite surface made of lithium fluoride (LiF) and iron (Fe). This surface allowed for the formation of lithium crystal seeds, which then grew into dense lithium layers, even at high charging rates. The result was long-lasting lithium-Metal batteries that could be charged quickly.
This breakthrough could eliminate a significant roadblock in the widespread use of energy-dense lithium-Metal batteries for electric vehicles and portable electronics. Lithium-Metal batteries hold great potential for these applications because of their high charge density, but today’s lithium-Metal batteries must be charged slowly to maintain battery performance and avoid safety problems. This slow charging is necessary to minimize the formation of performance-degrading lithium dendrites on the anode side of the battery.
The discovery by the UC San Diego nanoengineers is a scientific insight that solves a technical problem and challenges the traditional notion of the surface needed to grow lithium crystals. “The substrate we use does not like lithium, however, it provides abundant nucleation sites along with fast surface lithium movement. These two factors lead to the growth of these beautiful crystals,” said UC San Diego nanoengineering professor Ping Liu.