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New material improves li-ion battery charging speed by 10 times

Electric articulated truck in Amsterdam. (Reference image by Nik Morris (van Leiden), Flickr).

Researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands discovered that by using nickel niobate for the anode of lithium-ion batteries, the charging speed can be improved by ten times.

In a paper published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials, the scientists say that they were able to increase the charging speed while mitigating the risk of damaging the anode material, causing battery breakdown or reducing its lifetime.

Nickel niobate (NiNb2O6) is a new material that, in the researchers’ view, has very attractive properties such as returning to its original level after many cycles of ultrafast charging. This primarily has to do with its ‘open’ and regular crystal structure, resulting in channels for charge transport that are identical. This means that it performs better than graphite, the standard anode material.

New material improves Li-ion battery charging speed by 10 times
a,b) Schematic diagrams of the NiNb2O6 host structure. (Graph by University of Twente).

Other nanomaterials being investigated for the same purpose show channels that are organized in a more random way. This may cause the deposit of lithium on the anode material, resulting in poorer performance after every cycle.

Also, even though manufacturing this type of nanomaterial is complicated, this is not the case for nickel niobate, which doesn’t require a cleanroom infrastructure.

One disadvantage of nickel niobate is, however, that it has a higher volumetric energy density than graphite. This is because weight and energy density increase when trying to avoid the negative consequences of high charging and discharging rates.

The researchers behind the study tested the first full batteries with the new anode material paired with various existing cathode materials. They found that this version would be ideal for introducing it into an energy grid, in electrically powered machines that require fast charging and decharging, or in electrically powered heavy transport.

They believe that some steps still have to be taken to be able to use it in electric cars.