RRP 5: Lithium hybrid battery-supercapacitor devices

Person Responsible: Robert Dominko, PhD (National Institute of Chemistry)

Electricity can be efficiently stored in two limiting types of devices: batteries and supercapacitors. Batteries typically store large amounts of energy per unit of mass or volume, but the storage process is slow (small power). The situation with capacitors is reversed: the amount of energy stored is small, but the power is large. In practice, one often sees examples when the two devices need to be combined: electric cars are a typical example. Theoretical and some practical studies show that it is possible to prepare a material able to exhibit both battery and capacitor properties at the same time using suitable nanostructuring.

Such a material will undoubtedly be extremely desirable in the development of future electric cars, with applications encompassing other portable devices (who would not want a battery that can be charged in a minute or less?).

This project therefore aims to develop a new battery-capacitor material that will replace the separate use of batteries and capacitors. The aim is realistic and the members of this CoE are among the pioneers in this field. This is also evident from the recent article published in the Nature magazine (B. Kang, G. Ceder, Nature, 458 (2009) 190) describing a preliminary material with the above-mentioned properties where the authors refer to the two articles of our project group.

However, certain key problems remain unsolved:
a) How to link the active nanoparticles together so that there will be no loss of interparticle contact during operation?
b) How to activate the nanoparticle surface to make lithium insertion as fast as possible?
c) How to ensure sufficiently fast ionic and electronic paths between the approx. 1012 nanoparticles that are typically applied to each cm2 of electrodes?
d) How to ensure that rapidly charging/discharging the battery-capacitor device will not cause local or even global material overheating?

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