A brand-new mathematical model that integrates the physics and chemistry of extremely promising lithium-metal batteries has been created by researchers. As a result, this has produced workable, original solutions to a problem that has been associated with deterioration and failure.

Lithium-metal batteries have a lot of potential as next-generation energy storage technology. Compared to lithium-ion batteries, they are lighter, faster at charging, and have a larger energy capacity. However, due to worries about their propensity to overheat and catch fire, commercial usage of such batteries has been restricted to date. One of the primary causes is the development of “dendrites,” which are tiny, metallic trees that appear as lithium metal builds up on the electrodes within the battery.

According to a mathematical model developed by Stanford scientists, dendrite development may be slowed or even prevented by using different electrolytes, the liquid that transports lithium ions between a battery’s two electrodes.

The study especially asks for new electrolyte design strategies that focus on anisotropic materials, which exhibit varying properties depending on their orientation. A good illustration of such a substance is wood, which is more durable when cut with the grain as opposed to the grain. In anisotropic electrolytes, these materials might optimise the intricate interaction between ion transport and interfacial chemistry, reducing the buildup that results in dendrite growth. The researchers claim that some liquid crystals and gels display these desired characteristics.

Another solution that played a significant role in the study was battery separators, which are membranes that stop electrodes at opposing ends of the battery from touching and short-circuiting. It may be possible to create new kinds of separators with holes that let lithium ions migrate anisotropically back and forth across the electrolyte.

Weiyu Li, a PhD student in energy resources engineering who is co-advised by Professors Daniel Tartakovsky and Hamdi Tchelepi, stated that the goal of the work is to “help guide the design of lithium-metal batteries with longer life duration.” Our mathematical framework takes into account, at the proper scale, the important chemical and physical processes in lithium-metal batteries.

According to study co-author Tchelepi, a professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, “This study provides some of the specific details about the conditions under which dendrites can form, as well as possible pathways for suppressing their growth” (Stanford Earth).