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Researcher Works to Build a Better Battery

By: Kathleen Tuck   Published 10:58 am / March 14, 2013

XiongImage Squeezing more life out of Lithium-ion batteries is a high priority, given the fact that so many consumer electronics — particularly handheld devices — are powered by them. The Li-ion batteries are so popular because they have high energy to last longer than conventional batteries. On the flip side, they’re also less stable than their old-school cousins, leaving room for improvement.

Claire Xiong, Material science engineering, studio portrait“Battery safety and stability are critical and challenging problems for the life of a Li-ion battery,” said Claire Xiong, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and co-author of a study conducted with colleagues from the Argonne National Laboratory and University of Chicago.

Their findings were recently published in Physical Review Letters in a paper titled “Compositional Tuning of Structural Stability of Lithiated Cubic Titania via a Vacancy-Filling Mechanism under High Pressure.”

In a nutshell, the group looked at the problem from the bottom up, focusing on the stability of nanostructured battery materials. What they found was that some materials — in this case titania — are better able to handle high pressure, an analog to stress in battery systems, leading to long-term stability for Li-ion battery operation.

“The anode material, titanium dioxide (TiO2), is abundant in nature and extensively used in many industrial applications,” Xiong said, “and it is one of a few metal oxides that can intercalate Li-ions at reasonably low voltage for safe operation.”