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A new idea could supercharge battery performance for electric vehicles and beyond

Introducing a new solvent improved battery, even at extremely low temperature

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Wednesday 28 February 2024 17:29 GMT
The Promising Future Of Battery Storage On The U.S. Grid

Scientists are racing to make breakthroughs in battery technology, the cornerstone of global electrification, so they charge faster, last longer and cope better with fluctuations in temperature.

Batteries are a key part of fighting the climate crisis not only because they can power electric vehicles but also store clean energy created by renewable sources like solar panels and wind turbines.

New findings, detailed in a research paper published on Wednesday, suggested that a lithium-ion battery could be improved by altering its electrolyte, the solution that allows it to charge and discharge. Lithium ion is currently the main battery type for EVs and clean energy storage.

Researchers from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, and the Beijing Institute of Technology, said that making improvements to the electrolyte was challenging because it needed both high conductivity and low solvation energy, which can limit the cycle life of batteries.

The team used a solvent called fluoroacetonitrile, a chemical made up of small molecules, and said that it had improved how lithium ions move through the electrolyte. The result was high conductivity which allowed the battery to be charged faster.

What’s more, the battery performance remained high, even when tested at extremely low temperatures of minus 65 degrees Celsius. Battery life is often compromised at low temperatures.

The research not only holds promise for the development of lithium-ion batteries but for other types of energy storage systems, the researchers said.

The US Department of Energy announced in November that it was investing $3.5bn in companies that produce batteries and their critical mineral components.

The US government expects that demand for lithium ion batteries will be ten-fold by the end of the decade.

But there is growing concern around lithium-ion batteries catching fire. Lithium-ion batteries that power e-bikes was named as the cause of a fire which tore through an apartment building in Harlem, New York last week, killing a 27-year-old journalist.

Four people died after a lithium-ion battery caught fire in an e-bike store in New York in June 2023 and spread to apartments above. In December, a fire broke out on a cargo ship carrying nearly 2,000 tons of lithium-ion batteries off Alaska’s coast.

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