ARKANSAS, January 29 (Future Headlines)- In a quest to revolutionize electric vehicle (EV) batteries, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have achieved a significant breakthrough. By incorporating a compound called cesium nitrate into the electrolyte of lithium metal batteries, the research team has not only enhanced the charging rate but also ensured a prolonged cycle life, addressing key challenges in the development of energy-dense batteries. This groundbreaking work, recently published in Nature Communications, focuses on optimizing the interphase—a protective layer critical for the longevity of lithium metal batteries.

The research at Brookhaven is part of the larger Battery500 Consortium—a collaborative effort involving various national labs and universities. Led by DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the consortium aims to develop batteries with an energy density of 500 watt-hours per kilogram, more than double the energy density of current state-of-the-art batteries. Traditional lithium-ion batteries, prevalent in many devices, lack the capacity to achieve this goal, prompting researchers to turn to lithium metal batteries.

Lithium metal batteries offer the potential for double the energy density due to their lithium metal anode, a departure from the graphite anode in lithium-ion batteries. However, challenges, including the delicate balance between charging speed and cycle life, have hindered their widespread adoption. The breakthrough achieved by Brookhaven researchers centers around the strategic use of cesium nitrate as an electrolyte additive. This compound was introduced to the electrolyte that separates the anode and cathode of the battery, aiming to improve both the charging rate and the protective interphase.

The interphase serves as a shield against the degradation of battery electrodes, crucial for enabling lithium metal batteries to be charged and discharged over numerous cycles. The research not only successfully stabilized the battery but also introduced an unexpected alteration to the battery chemistry. Muhammad Mominur Rahman, a research associate at Brookhaven and the first author of the study, emphasized the dual objective of the research: enhancing the charging rate while ensuring a longer-lasting battery. The cesium nitrate additive played a pivotal role in achieving this delicate balance.

The findings challenge conventional beliefs about the components of an effective interphase, according to Enyuan Hu, a Brookhaven chemist and principal investigator within the Electrochemical Energy Storage Group. The unexpected alterations observed in battery chemistry open new avenues for exploration and contribute to the broader DOE effort focused on advancing lithium metal batteries. Brookhaven’s research aligns with the objectives of the Battery500 Consortium, which seeks to push the boundaries of battery energy density. As lithium metal batteries present a promising avenue for achieving this goal, the successful outcomes of the cesium nitrate additive hold great significance.

The focus on striking a balance between charging speed and cycle life addresses a critical challenge in the development of lithium metal batteries. This achievement represents a crucial step toward the consortium’s ambition of creating batteries with unparalleled energy density.

Reporting by Alireza Sabet; Editing by Sarah White