Researchers from Kansas State University have been working on batteries made from silicon and graphene, but early attempts were met with poor results. To correct problems including mechanical instability and low efficiency, the researchers developed a glass-like ceramic silicon oxycarbide electrode that’s surrounded by chemically modified graphene. The resulting glass based electrode is a high-capacity device that doesn’t require substantial mechanical support.
That’s good news because support elements don’t typically contribute to the efficiency of the system, but they can cause mechanical failure, and they increase the weight and size of the finished battery package. The glass based electrode weighs about 10% less than conventional battery components, and it can store enough electrons for practical use. As an added benefit, the glass-based electrode performs well at low temperatures, a feat that most batteries can’t achieve.
The new material was made by heating a liquid resin. Once heated, the resin breaks down into glass-like particles. The heated mixture, which contains oxygen, silicon and carbon, also self-arranges into a new 3-dimensional structure. This creates large storage spaces and smooth transportation pathways for lithium ions. The researchers intend to keep working on the process to make larger electrodes and perhaps develop mass production techniques. They also believe it may be possible to create electrodes from this material using a 3-D printing approach.
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Photo Credit: Kansas State University