The demand for high-performance batteries, especially for use in electric vehicles, is surging as the world shifts its energy consumption to a more electric-powered system, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and prioritizing climate remediation efforts. To improve battery performance and production, Penn State researchers and collaborators have developed a new fabrication approach that could make for more efficient batteries that maintain energy and power levels.
The improved method for fabricating battery electrodes may lead to high-performance batteries that would enable more energy-efficient electric vehicles, as well as such benefits as enhancing power grid storage, according to Hongtao Sun. Sun is an assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering at Penn State, and the co-corresponding author of the study, which was published in and featured on the front cover of Carbon.
"With current batteries, we want them to enable us to drive a car for longer distances, and we want to charge the car in maybe five minutes, 10 minutes, comparable to the time it takes to fill up for gas,” Sun said. “In our work, we considered how we can achieve this by making the electrodes and battery cells more compact, with a higher percentage of active components and lower percentage of passive components.”
If an electric car maker wants to improve the driving distance of their vehicles, they add more battery cells, numbering in the thousands. The smaller and lighter, the better, according to Sun.
"The solution for longer driving distances for an electric vehicle is just to add compact batteries, but with denser and thicker electrodes,” Sun said, explaining that such electrodes could better connect and power the battery’s components, making them more active. “Although this approach may slightly reduce battery performance per electrode weight, it significantly enhances the vehicle's overall performance by reducing the battery package's weight and the energy required to move the electric vehicle.”
More efficient electrodes — a kind of gateway for electricity in a battery — could help achieve a battery with a higher percentage of active components.
"If you think about the core components inside a battery, only the electrode contributes to the battery performance,” Sun said. “The other parts like packaging, separator, current collector and so on, they are all passive components that add weight and do not contribute to the battery performance at all. If we want to improve the battery performance, we need to work on the battery electrode materials and maximize their weight percentage in a battery cell.”
“With current batteries, we want them to enable us to drive a car for longer distances, and we want to charge the car in maybe five minutes, 10 minutes, comparable to the time it takes to fill up for gas,”
Hongtao Sun, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering at Penn State