Advanced materials and structures for rechargable batteries is a key track at this year’s MRS Fall conference and drew a large audience from the start.
Bruce Dunn of UCLA opened the presentations by highlighting the potential of 2D forms of TiO2 and TiS2 for upgrading battery performance. He added that there was the possibility of integrating these materials with graphene in a one-step exfoliation step, which could open up device opportunities. Speaking with him after the session though, he was reluctant to make any predictions in terms of translation.
In fact, most of the researchers I met today weren’t keen on talking about when we could expect to see results coming through into the market, which given the number of hurdles that have to be overcome in taking an idea from the lab and turning it into a viable product, isn’t a complete surprise.
Ways of improving the cycling performance of batteries and capacitors remained the talking point both before and after the coffee break. Potential solutions here included deformation tolerant carbon nanotube sponges and a range of electrode designs featuring materials such as core-shell nanoparticles or hollow carbon fibres, which offer void space to accommodate any expansion of the device during operation, to stop cracks from forming.
Smart thinking on the menu
The discussion then moved on to crabs and rice, not because lunch had arrived, but because both crab shells and rice husks offer a readily available and low-cost source of nanoporous material, which could in principle be used as electrolyte supports.
Another way to tackle to problem of cracking in batteries is to develop structures that can heal themselves – an idea that Yi Cui and Zhenan Bao of Stanford University are following up through the addition of a polymer coating, which can re-form when broken, through hydrogen bonding.
Stay tuned for part two, when I promise I will have an update that ticks all of the boxes for translation.
Further reading on TMR+