Can Band-Gap Engineering Change Batteries?

band-gap-engineeringAnyone who has worked with Lithium-ion batteries knows that, as convenient as they are for recharging, they do not last that long. Which, requires the need for recharging them. However, with new technologies, being introduced all the time, batteries last longer and charge faster.

For example, one of the answers to this problem has been to replace the graphite with silicon. However, the expanding and contracting that occurred as the lithium ions transported in and out of silicon electrodes quickly cracks it. As researchers went back to the drawing board, the next solution was to create β€œnanostructured silicon” electrodes, sometimes with the help of graphene or good old carbon nanotubes.

Today, the advancements in battery technology, especially that within Lithium-ion batteries, comes from University of California San Diego. Researchers as UCSD have begun taking what is happening with band-gap engineering, in which heterostructures are used to create energy barriers between electrons and holes, and applied the concept to creating barriers to the ions as they enter into an electrode so they diffuse in a very specific way.

This new research has been published in what is called the Nano Letters. The article describes the process of band-gap engineering as a typical surface diffusion of lithium ions into a nanowire electrode is blocked and instead the ions are diffused layer-by-layer along the length of the nanowire.

This sounds much different than any other method, but researchers are very optimistic over the long term affects it will have on rechargeable batteries. To follow up on this inforamation, Shadi Dayeh, a professor at UCSD, explains in a press release that this control of how the ions diffuse could result in β€œan effective way to tailor volume expansion of lithium ion battery electrodes, which could potentially minimize their cracking, improve their durability, and perhaps influence how one could think about different electrode architectures.”

According to Dayeh, the new electrodes would allow for battery designs in which the expansion of the electrodes would not cause any shorting between the cathode and the anode.

With all of the new ways that researchers are discovering how to create batteries, prolong their lives, add more power, and create faster recharging times, it may be possible to have incredible powerhouses within the palm of your hand, or smartphone, or car.

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