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Asphalt could speed up lithium battery charging by 20 times

Photo: rawpixel/Pixabay

Lithium ion batteries suck. They barely keep a decent bit of charge, and even with rapid charging technology, it still takes some time to get it juiced up.

What if we told you a simple compound like asphalt might be the key to dramatically reducing lithium battery charge times by as much as 20 times?

James Tour, a chemist at Rice University, Houston, Texas, developed anodes made of asphalt-based porous carbon. This allowed for extremely quick charging and discharge times without any noticeable instability, even after 500 cycles.

The test batteries were able to go from zero to full in as low as five minutes, versus two hours with similar commercial-type batteries.

A high-current density of 20 milliamps per square centimeter demonstrated the material’s promise for use in rapid charge and discharge devices that require high-power density.

To develop the new battery, Tour’s team mixed asphalt with conductive graphene nanoribbons and coated the composite with lithium metal through electrochemical deposition.

The lab combined the anode with a sulfurized-carbon cathode to make full batteries for testing. The batteries showed a high-power density of 1,322 watts per kilogram and high-energy density of 943 watt-hours per kilogram.

Testing revealed another significant benefit: The carbon mitigated the formation of lithium dendrites. These mossy deposits invade a battery’s electrolyte. If they extend far enough, they short-circuit the anode and cathode and can cause the battery to fail, catch fire or explode. But the asphalt-derived carbon prevents any dendrite formation.

Battery technology like this may take years to reach the market, but at least it’s another alternative to look at.

You can read up the entire paper in the ACS Nano journal here.

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