Quickly Charge EVs with Reliable High-Energy Lithium-ion Batteries

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A research team led by Dr. Choi Jeong Hee at the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) Battery Materials and Process Research Center, in collaboration with a team from Hanyang University guided by Professor Lee Jong-Won and a team from Kyunghee University overseen by Professor Park Min-Sik, developed a core technology aimed at ensuring the stability and longevity of lithium-ion batteries during fast charging.

A key factor for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is improving the performance of lithium-ion batteries, particularly in driving range and safety. Fast charging is also crucial for user convenience. Yet, boosting the energy density of these batteries requires thicker electrodes, which can result in battery degradation and diminished performance during rapid charging.

To tackle this challenge, the KERI team found a solution by partially coating the anode’s surface with aluminum oxide (Al2O3) particles that are smaller than 1 micrometer (㎛). While numerous researchers around the globe have focused on the intrinsic materials inside the electrode, like integrating functional nanotechnology into anode materials such as graphite, Dr. Choi’s team took a more straightforward approach. They utilized a simple processing technique to apply an aluminum oxide coating to the electrode’s surface, sidestepping the complexities of altering the internal components.

Aluminum oxide brings a lot to the table with its low cost, excellent electrical insulation, heat resistance, chemical stability, and robust mechanical properties. It’s a material that’s already widely used in various ceramics. The KERI researchers discovered that aluminum oxide particles are also adept at managing the interface between the anode and the electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries. This forms what you could call an interfacial highway for efficient Li+ transport. Essentially, it prevents the problematic electrodeposition of lithium—an irreversible change that can render the lithium unavailable for future charging and discharging. By doing so, the technique ensures the stability and longevity of lithium-ion batteries, even during quick charging sessions.

Another cool benefit of this technology is that it boosts the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. Usually, to improve performance and stability, you’d need to introduce other functional materials into the electrode’s interior, which makes the synthesis process trickier and ends up reducing the amount of reversible lithium, also known as initial coulombic efficiency. On top of that, it often thickens the electrode, which can harm performance during fast charging. But the KERI team’s approach is different—they focus on surface treating the graphite anode instead of modifying the internal active graphite materials. This savvy move lets them achieve stable performance even under fast charging conditions, all while maintaining high-energy-density thick-film electrodes without losing any reversible lithium.

Through rigorous testing, the team confirmed that the high-energy-density anode, coated with aluminum oxide, delivers top-tier performance. Impressively, it maintained over 83.4% of its capacity (residual capacity ratio) even after 500 cycles of rapid charging. They verified this exceptional performance using pouch cells with a capacity of up to 500mAh. Looking ahead, the team is planning to scale up this innovative technology, aiming to make it suitable for large-area, medium- to large-capacity cells.

“Convenient fast charging and the energy density of lithium-ion batteries have long been considered a trade-off, which has hindered the widespread adoption of electric vehicles,” said Dr. Choi. “Our work will help develop stable, high-energy-density lithium-ion batteries capable of fast charging. This advancement will contribute to the wider adoption of EVs and support the achievement of national carbon neutrality.”

The benefits of this breakthrough technology extend beyond just better batteries. With reliable and quick-charging lithium-ion batteries, consumers can enjoy the convenience of faster charging times without sacrificing the driving range or longevity of their electric vehicles. This could make EVs a more practical choice for a wider audience, potentially leading to reduced carbon emissions and helping nations meet their sustainability goals. By overcoming the previous limitations of lithium-ion batteries, Dr. Choi’s team is paving the way for a cleaner, more energy-efficient future in transportation.

The excellence of this work has been highlighted by securing patents in both Korea and the United States. Additionally, their findings were featured in the prestigious journal Advanced Functional Materials, which is internationally recognized in the field of materials engineering and boasts an impressive JCR Impact Factor of 19, placing it in the top 3.7%.

KERI is a government-funded research institute operating under the National Research Council of the Ministry of Science and ICT. This groundbreaking research was supported by the Samsung Future Technology Project and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s Industrial Technology Innovation Project, which focuses on high-power battery and charging system technology for EVs.

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