It could be the Holy Grail for electric vehicle makers – lithium-ion batteries that pack in more power for vehicles to allow longer runs between charges.
Lithium-ion batteries, store three to four times more energy per unit mass than traditional batteries and are used extensively in scores of electronic devices like laptop computers, cell phones, MP3 players and iPods. However, the electrode materials in these batteries though highly effective are too expensive for use in the large batteries needed for electric vehicles.
Now, researchers at Stanford University and Hanyang University in Ansan, Korea are working on a technology that promises the Gen-next in lithium-ion batteries to boost the current battery charge life manifold a development that could see Lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles.
The quantum leap in battery charge life is expected to be delivered by the development of a silicon nano tube anode which resembles a bunch of hollow straws.
In 2007, researchers at Stanford developed silicon nano-wires for use in lithium-ion battery anodes to deliver 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion batteries. The greatly expanded storage capacity sparked interest in Li-ion batteries for use in electric vehicles.
According to Jaephil Cho, professor of energy engineering at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Korea, who is leading the research, if the new silicon anode is matched with a cathode of comparable storage capacity, it should be able to run a car three to four hours without recharging.
However, there is a downside the to lithium absorbing capacity of silicon. The mechanical strain caused by the increased volume is so severe it causes the brittle material to crack after a few charge-discharge cycles.