Tin nanocrystals for the battery of the future

Monodisperse tin nanodroplets in an electron microscopic image. (Image: Maksym Kovalenko / ETH Zürich)

Tin nanocrystals for the battery of the future

More powerful batteries could help electric cars achieve a considerably larger range and thus a breakthrough on the market. A new nanomaterial for lithium ion batteries developed in the labs of chemists at ETH Zurich and Empa could come into play here.

They provide power for electric cars, electric bicycles, smartphones and laptops; nowadays, rechargeable lithium ion batteries are the storage media of choice when it comes to supplying a large amount of energy in a small space and light weight. All over the world, scientists are currently researching a new generation of such batteries with an improved performance. Scientists headed by Maksym Kovalenko from the Laboratory of Inorganic Chemistry at ETH Zurich and Empa have now developed a nanomaterial which enables considerably more power to be stored in lithium ion batteries.

The nanomaterial is composed of tiny tin crystals, which are to be deployed at the minus pole of the batteries (anode). When charging the batteries, lithium ions are absorbed at this electrode; while discharging, they are released again (see box). “The more lithium ions the electrodes can absorb and release – the better they can breathe, as it were – the more energy can be stored in a battery,” explains Kovalenko.

Tin nanocrystals for the battery of the future.

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