MARYLAND, 30 October 2023: A transformative advancement in battery technology is poised to revolutionize the electric vehicle (EV) industry, making high-energy EVs safer and more efficient. Researchers at the University of Maryland have engineered an innovative solution to suppress lithium dendrites, destructive structures that pose a fire hazard in lithium batteries. This remarkable breakthrough, published in the journal Nature, brings us one step closer to viable all-solid-state batteries for EVs.
The Challenge of Lithium Dendrites
Lithium-ion batteries, widely used in EVs due to their high energy storage capacity, have a critical drawback. They contain a flammable liquid electrolyte that can ignite if exposed to high temperatures. While EV battery fires are relatively rare, they present unique risks to first responders, including electric shock and toxic fumes.
Pioneering Solid-State Batteries
The introduction of all-solid-state batteries promises to address these safety concerns and transform the EV industry. However, these batteries faced a significant challenge in suppressing the growth of lithium dendrites, which occur when the batteries operate at high capacities and charging-discharging rates. Lithium dendrites can lead to short circuits and a decline in battery capacity.
The Innovative Solution
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor Chunsheng Wang and Postdoctoral Associate Hongli Wan embarked on a groundbreaking journey to tackle this issue. They developed a unique theory for the formation of lithium dendrite growth, leading to a transformative battery “interlayer.”
Stabilizing Battery Interfaces
The novel approach involves enhancing the stability of the interfaces within the battery. By adding a fluorine-rich interlayer on the cathode side and modifying the anode’s interlayer with magnesium and bismuth, they successfully suppress lithium dendrite formation. This innovation holds the key to safe, high-energy all-solid-state batteries.
The Promise of Solid-State Batteries
Solid-state batteries are hailed as next-generation power sources because they combine high energy storage with enhanced safety. In current batteries, achieving high energy often comes at the expense of safety. With this breakthrough, researchers are on the cusp of reconciling these critical factors, promising a brighter, safer future for EVs.
While this breakthrough is undeniably promising, there are challenges to overcome before it reaches the market. Scaling down the solid electrolyte layer to match the thickness of lithium-ion batteries is crucial for improving energy density. Additionally, addressing the high costs of basic materials is essential for commercialization.
Looking to 2026
Advanced battery manufacturer Solid Power is set to commence trials of this innovative technology, with the aim of bringing these new batteries to the market by 2026. Ongoing research continues to focus on boosting energy density, further enhancing the potential of these batteries.
The University of Maryland’s pioneering battery technology stands as a beacon of hope for the electric vehicle industry. By addressing the critical issue of lithium dendrites, these researchers are making electric vehicles safer, more efficient, and paving the way for a greener, more sustainable future.