Rensselaer Research Review Winter 2010-11
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* Deepak Vashishth

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed an entirely new type of nanomaterial that could enable the next generation of high-power rechargeable lithium (Li)-ion batteries for electric automobiles, laptop computers, mobile phones, and other devices. The material, called a “nanoscoop” because it resembles a cone with a scoop of ice cream on top, is shown in the above scanning electron microscope image. Nanoscoops can withstand extremely high rates of charge and discharge that would cause today’s Li-ion batteries to rapidly deteriorate and fail.

“Nanoscoops” Could Spark New Generation of Electric Automobile Batteries

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed an entirely new type of nanomaterial that could enable the next generation of high-power rechargeable lithium (Li)-ion batteries for electric automobiles, laptop computers, mobile phones, and other devices. The material, called a “nanoscoop” because it resembles a cone with a scoop of ice cream on top, is shown in the above scanning electron microscope image. Nanoscoops can withstand extremely high rates of charge and discharge that would cause today’s Li-ion batteries to rapidly deteriorate and fail.

An entirely new type of nanomaterial developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute could enable the next generation of high-power rechargeable lithium (Li)-ion batteries for electric automobiles, as well as batteries for laptop computers, mobile phones, and other portable devices.

The new material, dubbed a “nanoscoop” because its shape resembles a cone with a scoop of ice cream on top, can withstand extremely high rates of charge and discharge that would cause conventional electrodes used in today’s Li-ion batteries to rapidly deteriorate and fail. The nanoscoop’s success lies in its unique material composition, structure, and size.

The Rensselaer research team, led by Nikhil Koratkar, a professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer, demonstrated how a nanoscoop electrode could be charged and discharged at a rate 40 to 60 times faster than conventional battery anodes, while maintaining a comparable energy density. This stellar performance, which was achieved over 100 continuous charge/discharge cycles, has the team confident that their new technology holds significant potential for the design and realization of high-power, high-capacity Li-ion rechargeable batteries.

New Nanoengineered Batteries Developed at Rensselaer Exhibit Remarkable Power Density, Charging More Than 40 Times Faster Than Today’s Lithium-ion Batteries

“Charging my laptop or cell phone in a few minutes, rather than an hour, sounds pretty good to me,” said Koratkar. “By using our nanoscoops as the anode architecture for Li-ion rechargeable batteries, this is a very real prospect. Moreover, this technology could potentially be ramped up to suit the demanding needs of batteries for electric automobiles.”

Batteries for all-electric vehicles must deliver high power densities in addition to high energy densities, Koratkar said. These vehicles today use supercapacitors to perform power-intensive functions, such as starting the vehicle and rapid acceleration, in conjunction with conventional batteries that deliver high energy density for normal cruise driving and other operations. Koratkar said the invention of nanoscoops may enable these two separate systems to be combined into a single, more efficient battery unit.

Results of the study were detailed in the paper “Functionally Strain-Graded Nanoscoops for High Power Li-Ion Battery Anodes,” published by the journal Nano Letters. See the full paper at: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl102981d

Along with Koratkar, authors on the paper are Toh-Ming Lu, the R.P. Baker Distinguished Professor of Physics and associate director of the Center for Integrated Electronics at Rensselaer; and Rahul Krishnan, a graduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer.

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

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