University of California – Riverside researchers have used waste glass bottles and a low-cost chemical process to create nanosilicon anodes for high-performance lithium-ion batteries. The batteries will extend the range of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and provide more power with fewer charges to personal electronics like cell phones and laptops.

The group’s research paper describing the research has been published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. At this writing the paper is not behind a paywall. Cengiz Ozkan, professor of mechanical engineering, and Mihri Ozkan, professor of electrical engineering, led the project.

Even with today’s recycling programs, billions of glass bottles end up in landfills every year, prompting the researchers to ask whether silicon dioxide in waste beverage bottles could provide high purity silicon nanoparticles for lithium-ion batteries.

Silicon anodes can store up to 10 times more energy than conventional graphite anodes, but expansion and shrinkage during charge and discharge make them unstable. Downsizing silicon to the nanoscale has been shown to reduce this problem, and by combining an abundant and relatively pure form of silicon dioxide and a low-cost chemical reaction, the researchers created lithium-ion half-cell batteries that store almost four times more energy than conventional graphite anodes.

To create the anodes, the team used a three-step process that involved crushing and grinding the glass bottles into a fine white power, a magnesiothermic reduction to transform the silicon dioxide into nanostructured silicon, and coating the silicon nanoparticles with carbon to improve their stability and energy storage properties.

As expected, coin cell batteries made using the glass bottle-based silicon anodes greatly outperformed traditional batteries in laboratory tests. Carbon-coated glass derived-silicon (gSi@C) electrodes demonstrated excellent electrochemical performance with a discharge capacity of 2936 mAh g−1 and a capacity of ~1420 mAh/g after 400 cycles.

Changling Li, a graduate student in materials science and engineering and lead author on the paper, said one glass bottle provides enough nanosilicon for hundreds of coin cell batteries or three-five pouch cell batteries.

Li said, “We started with a waste product that was headed for the landfill and created batteries that stored more energy, charged faster, and were more stable than commercial coin cell batteries. Hence, we have a very promising candidates for next-generation lithium-ion batteries.”

This research is the latest in a series of projects led by Mihri and Cengiz Ozkan to create lithium-ion battery anodes from environmentally friendly materials. Previous research has focused on developing and testing anodes from portabella mushrooms, sand, and diatomaceous (fossil-rich) earth.

Along with Mihri and Cengiz Ozkan and Li, contributors include graduate students Chueh Liu, Wei Wang, Zafer Mutlu, Jeffrey Bell, Kazi Ahmed and Rachel Ye. Financial support for this work was provided by the UC-Riverside and UC Faculty Climate Champion initiative.

The UCR Office of Technology Commercialization has filed a patent application for the inventions above.

The first build of this concept is quite an accomplishment. The new material in its battery holds about half of its capacity over 400 charge / discharge cycles without self destructing. This is progress on the breakthrough level.


2 Comments so far

  1. ZviBenyosef on April 25, 2017 3:07 PM

    This research will complement the recently announced research by John Goodenough. His new battery has a sodium cathode which is much cheaper and more abundant than Lithium. It is also solid state, employing glass to insulate the electrodes, allowing the electrolytes through, but preventing the formation of “dendrites”, which can limit the useful life of a battery. A suitably optimized anode, to match the cathode, was the only remaining obstacle. Here we may have the missing piece of the puzzle.

  2. Jeff BN. on December 6, 2017 6:13 AM

    It seems most laboratories start with lithium-ion coin or button cells because they are small, cheap, and simple to produce. After you can prove something at the coin size… then you can move up and make a bigger (think: 18650) battery. I think there is an issue when you start designing a battery from the POV of recycling, rather than of performance. Yes, you have proved that some type of lithium-ion battery that is very recyclable has a chance to power devices, however, that will never be the main driving point for the energy market. It has to have good performance, and then be cheap. If you optimize for that, then recycling comes next.

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