Researchers are on the lookout for new materials to be used in the next generation of batteries that may one day replace current lithium ion batteries. Today, the latter are commonplace and provide a reliable power source for smartphones, laptops and many other portable electrical devices.

Lithium-ion Batteries

A current lithium-ion battery comprises two electrodes — a cathode and an anode. The anode is often made of graphite, the cathode of metal oxides such as cobalt oxide. The lithium ions lodge themselves in these materials during the charging or discharging processes. The two electrodes are separated by a e wall permeable only for lithium ions traveling between the two electrodes, but not for electrons.

During the discharge of a battery, the lithium ions shift from the anode to the cathode. As the electrons do not fit through, they take a detour via an electronic device, which is powered by the resulting electron flux. Electrons and ions meet again in the cathode. When the battery is charging, the ions and electrons are enforced to flow in the opposite direction. For the battery to work effectively and for a long time, the ions need to be able to move in and out of the electrode materials easily. The shape and size of the electrode materials should not change much through the recurrent absorption and release of the ions.