New Research Holds Key to Advancing Solid-State Batteries for Electric Vehicles and Aviation

Electric Vehicles and Aviation

In a significant development, researchers from the University of Oxford have conducted a study that could help unlock the potential of lithium solid-state batteries (Li-SSBs), an innovation expected to revolutionize the electric vehicle and aviation sectors.

Dominic Melvin, a PhD student at the University of Oxford’s Department of Materials, and co-lead author of the study, highlighted the potential of Li-SSBs, stating, “Progressing solid-state batteries with lithium metal anodes is one of the most important challenges facing the advancement of battery technologies. While lithium-ion batteries of today will continue to improve, research into solid-state batteries has the potential to be high-reward and a game-changer technology.”

Li-SSBs differ from conventional batteries due to their solid electrolyte, which replaces the flammable liquid electrolyte in regular batteries, and their use of lithium metal as the anode or negative electrode. This combination enhances safety and increases the storage capacity of energy. However, a critical challenge with Li-SSBs is the risk of short circuits during charging, caused by the growth of ‘dendrites’, lithium metal filaments that break through the ceramic electrolyte.

To gain more insights into this problem, the Oxford research group applied an advanced imaging technique known as X-ray computed tomography at Diamond Light Source. This method enabled them to visualize the dendrite failure in remarkable detail during the charging process. The study findings show that the initiation and propagation of the dendrite cracks are driven by distinct mechanisms.

The study’s breakthrough insight suggests that while some pressure at the lithium anode can help avoid gaps developing at the interface with the solid electrolyte on discharge, too much pressure can be detrimental, leading to dendrite propagation and short circuits during charging.

This promising research brings us one step closer to resolving the technological challenges of Li-SSBs, potentially marking a significant turning point in the future of electric vehicles and aviation.

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