New lead-based anode for lithium batteries could boost Pb industry, say Argonne scientists

by John Shepherd
A lithium-ion battery and a lead-based core-shell particle developed for the anode. Image: ANL, Scapiens Inc and Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology
A new lead-based anode could boost performance of next-generation lithium-ion batteries – and trigger a new source of revenue for the lead-acid battery industry, according to scientists at the US Argonne National Laboratory (ANL).

The electrode design research has "exciting implications for designing low-cost, high-performance, sustainable lithium-ion batteries that can power hybrid and all-electric vehicles”, said Eungje Lee, principal author and materials scientist in ANL’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering (CSE) division.

Lee said: "Our new anode could offer a new revenue stream for the large industry currently engaged in lead-acid battery manufacturing and recycling.”

'Microscopic particles'

The team’s anode is not a plain slab of lead but "innumerable microscopic particles with an intricate structure – lead nanoparticles embedded in a carbon matrix and enclosed by a thin lead oxide shell”.

Project principal investigator and an Argonne distinguished fellow in the CSE division, Christopher Johnson, said the findings also "provide exciting implications for designing low-cost, high-performance anode materials for transportation and stationary energy storage, such as backup power for the electric grid”.

The team has invented a "simple, low-cost” method of fabrication, which involves "shaking, for several hours, large lead oxide particles mixed with carbon powder until they form microscopic particles with the desired core-shell structure”, Johnson said.

Energy storage capacity

Tests in laboratory cells over 100 charge-discharge cycles showed that the new lead-based nanocomposite anode attained twice the energy storage capacity of current graphite anodes (normalised for the same weight).

Stable performance during cycling was possible because the small particle size alleviated stresses, while the carbon matrix provided needed electrical conductivity and acted as a buffer against damaging volume expansion during cycling.

The team also found that adding a small amount of fluoroethylene carbonate to the standard electrolyte significantly improved performance.

Contributors to the discovery of the new electrode design, using low-cost materials lead as well as carbon, included scientists from Northwestern University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology.

The team’s paper appeared in a recent special issue of 'Advanced Functional Materials'. For details, click on the link below:

Argonne National Laboratory

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