Dec. 21, 2018 — In today’s technology landscape, companies are continually making improvements to electronic devices. Bigger screens, better cameras, and smarter systems are just some of the improvements these companies promise to consumers with each product upgrade. But one question remains: where are the long-lasting batteries?
A collaboration of researchers recently made a discovery that might hold the answer to that question: a new liquid electrolyte material that conducts fluoride in fluoride-based rechargeable batteries, which pack a major energy punch. As part of the project, a team led by the California Institute of Technology’s (Caltech’s) Thomas Miller used the 27-petaflop Cray XK7 Titan supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) to understand and refine the electrolyte’s properties and confirm its unprecedented ability to conduct fluoride ions and retain chemical stability at room temperature, making the breakthrough material the first of its kind in the battery world.
Fluoride batteries—which employ the same element that’s added to toothpaste and tap water to prevent tooth decay—have long been studied for their potential to hold more charge than lithium batteries. However, these batteries have previously only worked with solid electrolytes that require high temperatures to operate, rendering them impractical for everyday applications.
“The problem with solid electrolytes is that the rigidity of the solid prevents the needed motion of the fluoride ions at a useful rate,” Miller said.
Victoria Davis, an intern working under Jet Propulsion Laboratory(JPL) chemist Simon Jones, first proposed the new material—and it worked. Simulations performed by Miller’s team then revealed the reason for the success of the electrolyte and guided its further improvement on the basis of the simulation predictions.
“This liquid electrolyte allows for much more facile motion of the fluoride ions, even at room temperature, and its interactions help stabilize the fluoride,” Miller said.
The finding is crucial because the more energy-dense fluoride batteries could hold up to eight times more charge than lithium batteries. The discovery gives researchers a map for the mechanisms involved in stabilizing fluoride batteries and could aid in the development of new kinds of batteries with applications in cars, cell phones, or other electronic devices.
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Source: Rachel Harken, OLCF