New way to develop fast-charging batteries found

Briton to beat Tesla with world's biggest battery
FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009, file photo, an A123 Systems Inc. high power Nanophospate Lithium Ion Cell for Hybrid Electric Vehicles battery is displayed in Livonia, Mich. Bankrupt battery maker A123 Systems Inc. on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, said it will sell most of its assets to the U.S. arm of Chinese auto parts conglomerate Wanxiang Group Corp. for $256.6 million. Wanxiang America Corp. won an auction conducted under the supervision of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

As technology firms scramble to develop long-lasting powering devices, a team of researchers, including one of the Indian-origin, has discovered a new method to build better performing Lithium-ion batteries, which can be charged in matter of minutes.

The new research has the potential to improve battery performance for consumer electronics, solar grid storage and electric vehicles, said the team from New York-based Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the journal Nature Communications.

A lithium-ion battery charges and discharges as lithium ions move between two electrodes, called anode and cathode. In a traditional lithium-ion battery, the anode is made of graphite and the cathode of lithium cobalt oxide.

“The way to make batteries better is to improve the materials used for electrodes,” said Nikhil Koratkar, Professor of mechanical, aerospace and nuclear engineering at Rensselaer.

“What we are trying to do is to make lithium-ion technology even better in terms of performance,” said Koratkar whose extensive research into nanotechnology and energy storage has placed him among the most highly cited researchers in the world.

Koratkar and his team improved performance of lithium-ion battery by substituting cobalt oxide with vanadium disulfide (VS2). “It gives you higher energy density, because it’s light and faster charging capability, because it’s highly conductive,” said Koratkar.

Excitement surrounding the potential of VS2 has been growing in recent years, but until now, Koratkar said, researchers had been challenged by its instability — a characteristic that would lead to short battery life.

The Rensselaer researchers have not only found the reason behind the instability but also developed a new way to combat it.

Koratkar sees multiple applications for this discovery in improving car batteries, power for portable electronics, and solar energy storage where high capacity is important, but increased charging speed would also be attractive.