Leveraging Nanotechnology to Make Lithium-Ion Batteries 10X Better

Using carbon nanotubes to increase efficiency in general lithium-ion batteries.

Carbon nanotube
  • affordable (a 70–90 kilowatt battery weighs 600 kg and costs up to $30k!)
  • efficient (a Nissan Leaf can only operate for 3 hours straight before it needs a recharge!)

Before I start, let’s remember that climate change is a REAL problem!

This means we have 10 years to completely turn all cars in electric before it’s too late…

Here is a chart that shows the extreme difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees celsius.

Source: CarbonBrief

It is of utmost importance that electric cars replace all fossil fuel cars. We need proper batteries to help them become 10X better.

This is a scary problem, the world will be forever lost to us if we let climate change get out of hand. Not only will there by increase of natural disasters but the offset effects will massively destroy the livelihood of millions of people.

  1. Sea levels rising will wipe out coastal areas reducing land size, this will globally affect the housing crisis.
  2. Loss of crops will lead to an increase in widespread hunger across many nations.
  3. Amount of safe drinking water will be at risk and could lead to huge outbreaks of diseases in areas with no access to clean water.

My proposition: using carbon nanotubes to increase the efficiency in lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are the most popular technology currently used as rechargeable batteries. They are found in our cellphones, computers and huge ones in electric cars.

  1. Electric current is traveled through a battery by conductive outside layers, most often aluminum and copper.
  2. A positive and negative electrode are placed on the insider to allow ions to flow and induce chemical reactions, positive cathode is made of lithium while the negative anode is made of graphite.
  3. In between the electrodes is a layer of electrolytes that help transfer lithium ions their charge across the electrodes and in between the electrolyte is a permeable insulator that prevents any short circuits from happening.
  4. As a battery charges, the lithium ions travel from the cathode to the anode and get stored in the graphite material, when the battery discharges energy is released and transformed into electrical energy while the lithium ions travel back to the cathode.

The problem? Lithium-ion batteries have a limited life-span and efficiency of the battery degrades overtime.

  • Their capacity is structurally limited because only 1 lithium ion is stored for every 6 carbon atoms.
  • After battery usage, this capacity is lost over time as the cycle of charging and discharging the battery leaves lithium to become permanently lodged in the anode.
  • Lithium ions overtime create a film over the graphite anode which prevents ion storage and overall lower lithium ion concentration as more ions are lost during each cycle.
  • This chemical reaction is irreversible and puts a strict limit on the longevity of a battery, this SUCKS because in EV’s batteries need to be changed frequently.
  • That is completely inefficient because replacing a battery alone will cost as much as a new car.

Solution? Carbon nanotubes could be better suited as anode material!

Carbon nanotubes are another allotrope of carbon, they are carbon atoms bonded together into a tube like structure. They resemble graphene sheets that are rolled together. So a sheet of covalently bonded carbon atoms, rolled together into tubes that are 1 atom thick.

Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotube
  • storage capacity between the carbon nanotubes.
  • less prone to degrade over time because they penetrate the carbon nanotubes way more easily + quickly.
  • charging cycles will become faster and relatively no loss of lithium ions making the batteries more long-lasting.
3-walled CNT

Limitations on carbon nanotubes:

  • still ongoing research field so not complete mastery over this nanomaterial
  • Producing CNT’s with identical properties and structure
  • Mass producing CNT’s is extremely difficult and not 100% control over the outcome result

Key Takeaways:

  • Climate change is a pressing issue that needs to be taken seriously, a major step towards the solution is improving EV’s to be better than fossil fuel cars.
  • Long-lasting and efficient batteries are needed to make EV’s 100X better and nanotechnology will help provide new ideas of innovation.
  • Carbon nanotubes are one possible way to make traditional lithium ion batteries much more efficient and cost friendly if need to replace lithium batteries is eradicated completely.

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