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November 2017

New Studies on Disordered Cathodes May Provide Much-Needed Jolt to Lithium Batteries

Today’s lithium-ion battery was invented so long ago, there are not many more efficiencies to wring out of it. Now Foundry users report major progress in cathodes made with so-called “disordered” materials, a promising new type of lithium battery.

In a pair of papers published this month in Nature Communications and Physical Review Letters (PRL), a research team led by Foundry user Gerbrand Ceder has come up with a set of rules for making new disordered materials, a process that had previously been driven by trial-and-error. They also found a way to incorporate fluorine, which makes the material both more stable and have higher capacity.

The cathode material in lithium batteries is typically “ordered,” meaning the lithium and transition metal atoms are arranged in neat layers, allowing lithium to move in and out of the layers. A few years ago, Ceder’s group discovered that certain types of disordered material could store even more lithium, giving batteries higher capacity.

The other advantage of using disordered materials is the ability to avoid the use of cobalt, a limited resource, with more than half the world’s supply existing in politically unstable countries. By moving to disordered rock salts, battery designers could be free to use a wider range of chemistries. For example, disordered materials have been made using chromium, titanium, and molybdenum.

The researchers also showed that disordered materials can be fluorinated, unlike other battery materials. Fluorination confers two advantages: it allows more capacity and makes the material more stable. In a battery, the increased stability would translate into a device with long cycle life and that is less likely to catch fire.

Read the full press release.