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Brookhaven Lab and Gould Electronics develop new materials for building better batteries

DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory : 12 February, 2003  (Technical Article)
The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory has joined with Gould Electronics, Inc., to create more efficient, more environmentally friendly batteries. Developed about a decade ago, light-weight and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are used today in laptop computers and cellular phones, and they will most likely be the battery of choice for electric cars in the future.
Brookhaven and Gould, an Eastlake, Ohio company that produces lithium-ion polymer batteries, are working together under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to enhance the efficiency of these batteries, while reducing the use of toxic salts in them.

Under the CRADA, Brookhaven researchers are developing a new class of electrolytes, substances that conduct electricity in a battery. Three new electrolyte components that are environmentally friendly and less expensive than those currently in use have been synthesized: aza-ether compounds; new boron-based compounds; and new organic salts.

The most promising compounds are the new boron-based compounds. When used as additives, simple, inexpensive and nontoxic salts, such as lithium fluoride and lithium chloride, can be used to replace the expensive and toxic salts in electrolytes. The new compounds are being tested in lithium-ion batteries developed by Gould, and the new electrolytes being developed by Brookhaven researchers will be studied using x-rays at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source.

Additionally, Brookhaven researchers will use the NSLS to study changes, on the atomic level, in the anodes and cathodes of Gould-designed test battery cells during their actual operation. Using synchrotron x-ray techniques, Brookhaven scientists will study the structural and electronic changes that occur during normal cycling and when the battery is overcharged or over-discharged.

In particular, Gould is interested in investigating the performance of lithium manganese oxide, a new cathode material that is nontoxic, safe and inexpensive. However, the batteries made with this material have performance problems such as loss of capacity and shorter life cycles. These performance problems are being investigated at the NSLS.

Xiao-Qing Yang, Brookhaven's principal investigator for the CRADA, commented, 'We are confident that we can make a better battery with the sophisticated techniques we have developed at the NSLS. Because we can actually see structural changes in batteries under operating conditions, we can precisely pinpoint problems that need to be addressed.'

Concurring with Yang, Xue Kun Xing, manager of battery chemistry at Gould, said, 'We are pleased to use the unique expertise and facilities at Brookhaven Lab to investigate lithium-ion battery electrode materials. The successful outcome of this CRADA will benefit Gould and Brookhaven, as well as other scientists who are interested in battery research.'
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