Scientists reveal self-healing electrodes for boosting lithium-ion battery lifespans

Battery technology is continually evolving, with modern batteries being both more resilient and longer-lasting than batteries from days gone by. There is still quite a bit of improvement that can take place with them, however, one of which concerns the longevity of the batteries — that is, their lifespan before no longer being usable. Scientists at a couple big-name universities have revealed an accidental breakthrough in this area.

The work was done by scientists with Stanford University and the Energy Department's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which was originally working on making self-healing skin for robots and prosthetic limbs. The research led to the use of a stretchable polymer, however, that results in a self-healing electrode for lithium-ion batteries. Overall, this will increase the lifespan of batteries, allowing them to hold charges longer and reducing costs in certain industries.

During the charging and discharging cycles, lithium-ion batteries become damaged with small cracks resulting from swelling of the battery's electrodes. The swelling often takes the electrodes to three times their normal sizes, and after a while the cracks cause the material to fall apart. When this happens, battery performance drops dramatically, and soon the battery is no longer usable. By using a new polymer coating the scientists created, this process is reduced dramatically.

The polymer has weakened chemical bonds, something deliberately done that generates the healing process. Because of the weakened bonds, cracks that form are healed by the broken ends pulling back together and re-linking. This is much the same way a biological organism heals, and is a big breakthrough in battery technology. For now, the polymer-coated batteries last through 100 charge and discharge cycles, but the scientists plan to increase that number in the future.

VIA: Digital Trends