A multi-institution team of Foundry users and staff has discovered an exceptional metal-oxide magnesium battery cathode material, moving researchers one step closer to delivering batteries that promise higher density of energy storage on top of transformative advances in safety, cost and performance in comparison to their ubiquitous lithium-ion (Li-ion) counterparts.
The team's futuristic solution hinges on a redesigned form of an old Li-ion cathode material, vanadium pentoxide, which they proved is capable of reversibly inserting magnesium ions.
This rare phenomenon is achieved by limiting the location of the magnesium ions to relatively uncomfortable atomic positions by design, based on the way the vanadium pentoxide is made -- a property known as metastability. This metastability helps prevent the magnesium ions from getting trapped within the material and promotes complete harvesting of their charge-storing capacity with negligible degradation of the material after many charge-recharge cycles.
The researchers were able to observe the unique electronic properties of their novel vanadium pentoxide and directly prove magnesium-ion intercalation into the material. Collectively, the team applied decades of combined experience in materials science to explain the fundamental reasons why this new type of vanadium pentoxide is superior to the old version as well as to Li-ion batteries.
David Prendergast, Director of the Molecular Foundry's Theory facility, helped the team design and interpret their calculations, which were experimentally verified in part by collaborators at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source along with structural data collected at Argonne National Lab's Advanced Photon Source.
Funding for the Molecular Foundry and collaborators from the University of Illinois at Chicago was provided in part by the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, a Department of Energy Innovation Hub that is supported by the DOE Office of Science.