Breakthrough in Li-ion battery technology

1 min read

Plans to commercialise lithium-ion battery technology have been unveiled, which could lead to batteries with significantly higher energy density and longer lifetime between charges.

The announcement has been made by Nexeon – a spin out company from Imperial Innovations – which has been developing the technology for the last four years. According to the company, some of the potential benefits include longer operating times and brighter screens for laptops and smart phones, and cordless tools with more power on tap. The technology is based on the use of silicon anodes instead of the more traditional carbon based anodes. According to Nexeon, this allows greater charge to be stored within the battery, while silicon provides far higher performance as an anode material, offering charge densities around 10 times that of carbon. Lithium-ion batteries have come to dominate the rechargeable batteries market as a result of the high performance for a given cell size and weight, the low self discharge rate and the absence of a 'memory effect'. Silicon has been known to offer potential as a superior anode material, but until now, silicon has suffered from physical instability when repeatedly charged and discharged. Nexeon's approach is designed to address this problem by changing the physical form ('morphology') of the silicon, allowing it to realise its full potential as a battery anode. Nexeon has completed several rounds of funding, including the raising of £10million earlier this year, and has established research and development facilities. The company says that a pilot plant at the Science Centre at Culham, Oxfordshire is capable of producing kilograms of material a day for evaluation. Here, it can simulate the performance of its materials in battery manufacturing processes that closely mirror those in commercial production plants. With so many potential applications for technology – from consumer electronic products to medical devices and electric vehicles, Nexeon says it is in discussion with a number of major corporations in the global battery industry, and its materials are currently under evaluation. Russ Cummings, chief investment officer at Imperial Innovations, said: "Nexeon is a pioneering company whose innovative technology could transform the global battery industry with significant benefits for the environment. It is exactly the kind of company Imperial Innovations is delighted to support, with its experienced management team and strong financial backing that will help it achieve significant commercial success." Nexeon's now plans to license the technology and possibly to supply the specialised materials. Since silicon is a higher efficiency material than carbon in this context, smaller amounts are required and costs could be lowered.