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Metal Nanoclusters for Stable Lithium–Sulfur Batteries
Graphene separator with platinum-gold nanoclusters boosts lithium-sulfur batteries for improved energy storage and sustainability.
Posted by Staff
October 12, 2023
3 Min Read
Schematic of a Li–S battery with Au24Pt(PET)18@G-modified separator for the adsorption of LiPSs and catalytic reduction of S8 to LiPSs to Li2S2/Li2S and oxidation of Li2S/Li2S2 to LiPSs to S8.Courtesy of Yuichi Negishi from TUS Japan
Lithium-sulfur batteries (LSBs) offer a higher energy storage potential. However, issues like the formation of lithium polysulfides and lithium dendrites lead to capacity loss and raise safety concerns. Now, researchers from Japan and China have developed a graphene separator embedded with platinum-doped gold nanoclusters, which enhance lithium-ion transport and facilitate redox reactions. This breakthrough addresses the long-standing issues associated with LSBs, setting the stage for commercialization.
The demand for efficient energy storage systems is ever-increasing, especially due to the recent emergence of intermittent renewable energy and the adoption of electric vehicles. LSBs, which can store three to five times more energy than traditional lithium-ion batteries, have emerged as a promising solution.
LSBs use lithium as the anode and sulfur as the cathode, but this combination poses challenges. One significant issue is the “shuttle effect,” in which intermediate lithium polysulfide (LiPS) species formed during cycling migrate between the anode and cathode, resulting in capacity fading, low life cycle, and poor rate performance. Other problems include the expansion of the sulfur cathode during lithium-ion absorption and the formation of insulating lithium-sulfur species and lithium dendrites during battery operation. While various strategies, such as cathode composites, electrolyte additives, and solid-state electrolytes, have been employed to address these challenges, they involve trade-offs and considerations that limit the further development of LSBs.
Recently, atomically precise metal nanoclusters, aggregates of metal atoms ranging from 1–3 nanometers in size, have received considerable attention in materials research, including on LSBs, owing to their high designability and unique geometric and electronic structures. However, while many suitable applications for metal nanoclusters have been suggested, there are still no examples of their practical applications.
Now, in the latest collaborative study published in the journal Small, a team of researchers from Japan and China, led by Professor Yuichi Negishi of Tokyo University of Science (TUS), has harnessed the surface binding property and redox activity of platinum (Pt)-doped gold (Au) nanoclusters, Au24Pt(PET)18 (PET: phenylethanethiolate, SCH2CH2Ph), as a high-efficiency electrocatalyst in LSBs. Assistant Professor Saikat Das co-authors the work from TUS and Professor Deyan He and Junior Associate Professor Dequan Liu from Lanzhou University, China.
The researchers prepared composites of Au24Pt(PET)18 and graphene (G) nanosheets with a large specific surface area, high porosity, and conductive network, using them to develop a battery separator that accelerates the electrochemical kinetics in the LSB. “The LSBs assembled using the Au24Pt(PET)18@G-based separator arrested the shuttling LiPSs, inhibited the formation of lithium dendrites, and improved sulfur utilization, demonstrating excellent capacity and cycling stability,” stated Prof. Negishi. The battery showed a high reversible specific capacity of 1535.4 mA h g−1 for the first cycle at 0.2 A g−1 and an exceptional rate capability of 887 mA h g−1 at 5 A g−1. Additionally, the capacity retained after 1000 cycles at 5 A g−1 was 558.5 mA h g−1.
These results highlight the advantages of using metal nanoclusters in LSBs. They include improved energy density, longer cycle life, enhanced safety features, and a reduced environmental impact of LSBs, making them more environment-friendly and competitive with other energy storage technologies.
“LSBs with metal nanoclusters may find applications in electric vehicles, portable electronics, renewable energy storage, and other industries requiring advanced energy storage solutions. In addition, this study is expected to pave the way for all-solid-state LSBs with more novel functionalities,” concluded Prof. Negishi. Soon, the proposed technology can lead to cost-efficient and longer-lasting energy storage devices. This would help reduce carbon emissions and support renewable energy adoption, promoting sustainability.
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