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Researchers Working On A New And Unconventional Battery Chemistry

Update Date: Apr 25, 2014 11:21 AM EDT

Researchers have developed a new and unconventional battery chemistry that can be implemented to produce batteries that last longer than previously thought possible, according to a new study.

The findings of the study challenge a long-held assumptions that a battery's three main components - the positive cathode, negative anode and ion-conducting electrolyte - can play only one role in the device.

The newly developed approach uses electrolyte in two different functions: it serves not only as an ion conductor but also as a cathode supplement. 

"This bi-functional electrolyte revolutionizes the concept of conventional batteries and opens a new avenue for the design of batteries with unprecedented energy density," said ORNL's Chengdu Liang, in the press release. 

Researchers demonstrated the new concept in a lithium carbon fluoride battery. It is considered as one of the best single-use batteries because of its high energy density, stability and long shelf life. When the battery was incorporated with a solid lithium thiophosphate electrolyte, it generated 26 percent higher capacity than what would be its theoretical maximum if each component acted independently. 

According to researchers, the increase is caused by the cooperative interactions between the electrolyte and cathode. 

"As the battery discharges, it generates a lithium fluoride salt that further catalyzes the electrochemical activity of the electrolyte," Liang said. "This relationship converts the electrolyte -- conventionally an inactive component in capacity -- to an active one."

"If you have a pacemaker, you don't want to undergo surgery every 10 years to replace the battery. What if a battery could last 30 to 50 years? Our fundamental research is opening up that possibility through a new design mechanism."

The study has been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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