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Nano-structured materials for energy devices

The development of nano-structured materials is one of the most attractive strategies to enhance the electrochemical performance of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Recently, extensive efforts were devoted to investigating the benefits of nano-structured Li-conducting materials.
Nano-structured materials for energy devices
Various new battery configurations have been proposed to achieve higher energy densities than state-of-the-art Li-ion batteries. These new batteries have several features in common. Pure Li metal is used as the anode to maximise the energy density. Additionally, aqueous solutions are adopted as the catholyte because of their low cost, high reliability and super-fast ion transport.

The application of solid electrolytes is limited because they attain practically useful conductivities only at temperatures higher than 50 °C. Still, these are one order of magnitude lower than those of liquid electrolytes. To remedy this situation, scientists focused their attention on nano-structured Li-ion-conducting materials.

Within the framework of the EU-funded project NANOLICOM (Nanostructured lithium conducting materials), chemists, physicists and material engineers joined their efforts to investigate the effects of grain size and crystallinity on ionic transport in such materials. This was accomplished through an exchange programme between the EU and Ukraine.

The first step was to explore different synthesis routes for the preparation of nanopowders with grain sizes varying from 10 to 500 nm. Several processes of soft chemistry were considered, including the in situ polymerisable complex method. Through numerous experiments, NANOLICOM scientists determined the best synthesis parameters leading to well-crystallised and pure nanoparticles.

In addition, thin films of Li-conducting nanomaterials were developed using spin-coating techniques and radio frequency magnetron sputter deposition. To prepare dense ceramics while preserving the powders' nanostructure, the team used sintering techniques like low-temperature sintering, flash sintering and spark plasma sintering (SPS).

In particular, SPS as a means of ceramic densification decreases ceramic conductivity compared to other methods due to an increase in grain boundary volume. Investigation of main factors influencing the conductivities of ceramics or thin films of perovskites, the Nasicon-type materials and lithium phosphorous oxynitrides led to many interesting results.

Research carried out by NANOLICOM partners has been described in published papers and oral presentations at international conferences. The results provide valuable insight into the relationship between ionic solid structures and physical properties, which will facilitate the rational design of electrochemical energy storage and conversion devices.

Related information

Keywords

Nano-structured materials, lithium-ion, Li-ion, conducting materials, energy densities
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