Stanford University scientists writing in Nature Communications asserts that novel electrodes made of silicon and conducting polymer hydrogel betters the performance of rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries. Using this method, these scientists have come up with a new technique which creates low-cost, silicon based batteries that hold potential spanning several electrical devices. Study co-author Zhenan Bao, a member of chemical engineering at Stanford stated that for the development of rechargeable Li-ion batteries with high energy density and long life, it was critical to attend to the ever-growing energy storage demands for portable devices, electric vehicles and other technologies.
So, their quest for a practical and cheap substance that increase the Li-ion batteries' storage capacity is what made the team turn to silicon, which has 10x the charge storage capacity of carbon. While it has been since they're trying to develop silicon-based electrodes, it's only recently that they could do so successfully by addressing the issue of silicon-expansion and breakage, by following a fabrication technique called in situ synthesis polymerization that covers the silicon nanoparticles within the conducting hydrogel. This method let the scientists create a stable Li-ion battery that maintained a high storage capacity through 5000 charging-discharging cycles. Hydrogel not only binds well with the silicon particles, but it also provides channels for faster transfer of electron and lithium ions. And in situ polymerization technique proved far more superior compared to a mixture of silicon and hydrogel, where the latter required an additional step that reduced battery performance. The team made use of the 3-dimensional network of the hydrogel in the electrode, but water was removed in the final production phase.
Though several technical issues linger, but the team beams positive regarding commercial applications of this novel technique.