Engineers at Cornell University have achieved a significant milestone in battery technology by developing a lithium battery capable of charging in under five minutes while maintaining stable performance over extended charging and discharging cycles.
The research, overseen by Lynden Archer, professor and dean of Cornell’s College of Engineering, introduces a novel electrode design principle detailed in the paper “Fast-charge, long-duration storage in lithium batteries,” published in Joule. Archer highlights the significance of overcoming range anxiety, asserting, “If you can charge an EV battery in five minutes, I mean, you don’t need a battery big enough for a 300-mile range. You can settle for less, which could reduce the cost of EVs, enabling wider adoption.”
The key to the breakthrough lies in indium’s characteristics as a battery anode, specifically its low migration energy barriers and moderate exchange current density. These properties facilitate rapid ion diffusion and efficient surface reactions crucial for swift charging and long-term storage. Archer explains the innovation: “We’ve discovered a design principle that allows metal ions at a battery anode to move around freely, find the right configuration, and only then participate in the charge storage reaction.”
The study, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Basic Energy Sciences Program and the Cornell Center for Materials Research, delves into the battery’s performance using a chemical engineering concept known as the Damköhler number. This calculation relates the chemical reaction rate to mass, energy, charge, and momentum exchange within a system, providing insights into the stability and efficiency of the battery’s morphological state during each charging cycle.
While acknowledging the weight of indium as a drawback, Archer sees an opportunity for computational chemistry modeling, possibly utilizing generative AI tools, to explore lightweight material chemistries that can achieve similarly low Damköhler numbers.
The prospect of designing better battery anodes with faster charge rates beyond current technology is an exciting avenue for future advancements in battery innovation.