Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in electric vehicles and smartphones because they are light, reliable, and energy-efficient. However, they have slow charging times and cannot handle high surges of current. In recent research, Cornell Engineering team developed lithium EV battery that can fully charge in 5 minutes. The prototype of one such fast charging battery.
Cornell Engineering team developed a new lithium battery. It charges in less than 5 minutes, faster than any other battery available. It also maintains stable performance when charging and discharging over a long period. The recent discovery might bring relief to range anxiety in drivers. Their concerns about the limited range of electric vehicles and the inconvenience of long recharging times would be reduced.
The researchers discovered that indium, a soft metal commonly used for touchscreen displays and solar panels, has an exceptionally high potential as a material for fast-charging batteries. This is due to its inherent fast solid-state transport rates and low Damköhler numbers. Additionally, indium serves as a great alternative to lead in low-temperature solder.
Professor Lynden Archer, dean at Cornell Engineering, and the head of the project, said, “Range anxiety is a greater barrier to electrification in transportation than any of the other barriers, like cost and capability of batteries, and we have identified a pathway to eliminate it using rational electrode designs.”
Prof. Archer further added, “If you can charge an EV battery in five minutes, I mean, gosh, you don’t need to have a battery that’s big enough for a 300-mile range. You can settle for less, which could reduce the cost of EVs, enabling wider adoption.”
Lead author of the study, Shuo Jin, a doctoral student in chemical and biomolecular engineering said, “Our goal was to create battery electrode designs that charge and discharge in ways that align with daily routine. In practical terms, we desire our electronic devices to charge quickly and operate for extended periods. To achieve this, we have identified a unique indium anode material that can be effectively paired with various cathode materials to create a battery that charges rapidly and discharges slowly.”
The researchers took a unique approach for their new lithium battery, emphasizing the kinetics of electrochemical reactions. They specifically employed a concept from chemical engineering known as the Damköhler number. This concept essentially quantifies the speed at which chemical reactions take place in comparison to the transportation of materials to the reaction site.
The latest research reveals that indium possesses two crucial characteristics as a battery anode. They are as follows:
- An exceptionally low migration energy barrier, which determines the speed at which ions diffuse in the solid state
- A moderate exchange current density, which impacts the rate at which ions are reduced in the anode.
The synergy of these traits, fast diffusion and slow surface reaction kinetics is imperative for swift charging and prolonged storage.
Prof. Archer said, “The key innovation is we’ve discovered a design principle that allows metal ions at a battery anode to freely move around, find the right configuration and only then participate in the charge storage reaction. The end result is that in every charging cycle, the electrode is in a stable morphological state. It is precisely what gives our new fast-charging batteries the ability to repeatedly charge and discharge over thousands of cycles.”
The lithium EV battery that can fully charge in 5 minutes is using this technology in combination with wireless induction charging on roadways. This could significantly reduce the size and cost of batteries. It will further make electric transportation a more feasible choice for drivers. Nevertheless, this doesn’t imply that indium anodes are perfect or practical.
“While this result is exciting, in that it teaches us how to get to fast-charge batteries, indium is heavy. Therein lies an opportunity for computational chemistry modeling, perhaps using generative AI tools, to learn what other lightweight materials chemistries might achieve the same intrinsically low Damköhler numbers. For example, are there metal alloys out there that we’ve never studied, which have the desired characteristics? That is where my satisfaction comes from, that there’s a general principle at work that allows anyone to design a better battery anode that achieves faster charge rates than the state-of-the art technology,” Prof. Archer added.