Will it be possible to make batteries that do not crumble when used?

Will it be possible to make batteries that do not crumble when used?

Will it be possible to make batteries that do not crumble when used?

Batteries are one of the components of cell phones that are most affected by their performance and after their disposal they generate dangerous contamination.

Batteries are falling more and more often as cell phone usage increases

Batteries have become an essential device in our daily lives. We use them to wake up, gnash our teeth, communicate with loved ones, play music during sports, play video games while waiting for the bus. Work from our laptop or move on a scooter.

They will remain virtually unnoticed throughout the day, but they are, giving us energy coverage and a lot of trouble when it runs out. We probably did not realize it, but a person living in a developed country may need several dozen batteries in his daily life. In the EU alone, more than 200 tonnes of batteries are included daily for use in electronic devices. With the exception of other applications, such as industrial or automotive, this figure exceeds one million tons per year.

Even more battery life

The use of this energy storage technology, based on electrochemistry, has experienced strong growth, accompanied by the development of consumer electronics. However, in the coming years its growth will be even greater. As it is called the New Change in the Energy and Mobility Paradigm.

Batteries allow us to store energy from renewable sources and use it when it is impossible to produce and they are an integral part of electric vehicles. In terms of global energy demand, it is expected that by 2030 it will reach 2600 GWh. In short, in this decade we will need more batteries, with more storage capacity, faster charging and also, more durable.

In this regard, one of the most pressing problems of batteries is their durability. In fact, we are all experiencing the gradual loss of power of some portable electronic devices like our mobile phone. This is usually presented as a loss of autonomy (duration). This phenomenon also worsens over time. To understand how batteries break down, we need to understand how they work.

Cheap cell phone batteries will heat up more and more
Cheap cell phone batteries will heat up more and more

How lithium ion batteries work

A lithium-ion battery consists of a set of prismatic or cylindrical cells. Each cell in turn consists of two electrodes (one negative and one positive), separated by a membrane and an electrolyte, which is the solution through which ions are transferred to the electrodes during the charging and discharging process of the battery. In addition, the electrodes are connected to electronic conductors (current collectors) through which electrons circulate.

The anode is made of graphite, and the cathode is usually graphite with lithium and a metal compound such as NMC (a combination of nickel, manganese and cobalt) charged during the charging process.. Therefore, there is always a flow of species and electrons in the battery from one side to the other.. As we will see below, this movement has its consequences on the cell, causing it to deteriorate.

Why do batteries break down?

By lithium ions through the electrolyte, the membrane and, above all, the electrodes They include many phenomena that disrupt these components and, ultimately, the battery.

The first of these is known as the formation of solid electrolytes. Lithium ions are introduced into the electrodes during charging and discharging. This is known as assembly. When the electrodes are full, ions that do not enter react with the graphite on the surface, forming a whitish layer that, as its name suggests, is an electrolyte solidification.

This process This usually happens after the first charge of the battery and is responsible for the loss of 10% of its capacity, since this layer acts as a kind of barrier to ion diffusion. AndIt is a phenomenon that increases with increasing battery temperature and can also lead to what is known as thermal escape, a series of chain reactions that emit heat and are very difficult to stop.

Scientists have warned of a serious problem with discarded batteries
Scientists have warned of a serious problem with discarded batteries

As for the electrodes, by definition, positive is the one with the highest potential. In the case of lithium-ion batteries, the cathode is positive and the anode is negative. The electrodes also deposit metal lithium on the surface of the anode. It occurs at low temperatures and High current levels (As in fast charging).

Ion intercalation and deintercalation also cause significant structural changes in the electrodes. Certain internal voltages are generated in the material, which ends with the cracking of the electrodes and, consequently, the loss of storage capacity. In addition, a new surface may appear where two previous phenomena may occur, exacerbating the problem.

In addition to the above, there are other phenomena such as oxidation, electrolyte breakdown or acid attack that cause Destroys both electrodes and electrolytes. All of them make it difficult to use as well as the temperature or charging speed.

Can we prevent it from getting worse?

After identifying the mechanisms of battery degradation, we can observe their state of health. In addition to controlling the above aspects, it is possible to introduce agents that: Either autonomously or driven by a predecessor, start Battery healing process.

Just as blood heals our wounds, it is possible to manipulate materials by engaging in self-healing mechanisms. This line of work is one of the main proposals of the new European battery strategy and it is proposed to use microencapsulated repair agents, carbon nanomaterials or activated carbon to fix cracks.

Lithium batteries are used by all the latest models of mobile phones.
Lithium batteries are used by all the latest models of mobile phones.

In order for the self-repair process to start at the right time, it is necessary to properly monitor the health status of the batteries. For this, for example, fiber optics can be used. In addition, better protection of components is essential. This can be done using two-dimensional materials such as GrapheneWhich will implement passive internal defenses to minimize deterioration.

In short, thanks to nanotechnology, there are several routes currently being explored to significantly improve battery health. Consequently, it will be possible to have devices with greater durability within a reasonable time.

Then our problem will be different: we will have to look for alternative, more sustainable production materials so as not to repeat the dependence on fossil fuels. New technologies such as sodium batteries, silicon electrodes or dual graphite electrodes of recycled origin are considered in this regard.

This text is reproduced under a Creative Commons license from The Conversation.

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Source: La Nacion