An Australian research team led by the CSIRO has found that treating lithium-ion batteries with a simple “salt bath” can extend both their shelf life and performance, while also making them safer – a potentially game-changing breakthrough for the battery technology and for the uptake of electric vehicles.
The CSIRO scientists, in collaboration with RMIT University and QUT, have demonstrated that pre-treating a battery’s lithium metal electrodes with an electrolyte salt solution extends the battery life and increases its performance and safety.
The research, published in Nature Communications on Monday, found that the method could accelerate the development of next-gen energy storage solutions and overcome the issue of ‘battery range anxiety’ that is currently holding back the electric car industry.
CSIRO battery researcher Adam Best said the pre-treated lithium metal electrodes could also potentially outperform other batteries currently on the market.
“Our research has shown by pre-treating lithium metal electrodes, we can create batteries with charge efficiency that greatly exceeds standard lithium batteries,” Dr Best said.
The pre-treatment process involves the immersion of lithium metal electrodes in an electrolyte bath containing a mixture of ionic liquids and lithium salts, prior to a battery being assembled.
When used in batteries, these materials can prevent the risk of fire and explosion – a known rechargeable battery issue – by adding a protective film to the surface of the electrode that helps stabilise the battery when in operation.
“The pre-treatment reduces the breakdown of electrolytes during operation, which is what determines the battery’s increased performance and lifetime,” Dr Best said.
Batteries that have undergone the process can also spend up to one year on the shelf without loss of performance.
QUT researcher Associate Professor Anthony O’Mullane said the pre-treatment method could be easily adopted by manufacturers, using “existing manufacturing processes.”
The electrolyte salt solutions, to which CSIRO holds patents, come in a range of chemical compositions. The team of scientists is currently developing batteries based on this technology, and looking for partners to help bring the materials and devices to market.