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Acc Chem Res. 2009 Jun 16;42(6):713-23. doi: 10.1021/ar800229g.

Combination of lightweight elements and nanostructured materials for batteries.

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  • 1Institute of New Energy Material Chemistry and Engineering Research Center of Energy Storage & Conversion (Ministry of Education), Chemistry College, Nankai University, Tianjin 300071, China.


In a society that increasingly relies on mobile electronics, demand is rapidly growing for both primary and rechargeable batteries that power devices from cell phones to vehicles. Existing batteries utilize lightweight active materials that use electrochemical reactions of ions such as H(+), OH(-) and Li(+)/Mg(2+) to facilitate energy storage and conversion. Ideal batteries should be inexpensive, have high energy density, and be made from environmentally friendly materials; batteries based on bulk active materials do not meet these requirements. Because of slow electrode process kinetics and low-rate ionic diffusion/migration, most conventional batteries demonstrate huge gaps between their theoretical and practical performance. Therefore, efforts are underway to improve existing battery technologies and develop new electrode reactions for the next generation of electrochemical devices. Advances in electrochemistry, surface science, and materials chemistry are leading to the use of nanomaterials for efficient energy storage and conversion. Nanostructures offer advantages over comparable bulk materials in improving battery performance. This Account summarizes our progress in battery development using a combination of lightweight elements and nanostructured materials. We highlight the benefits of nanostructured active materials for primary zinc-manganese dioxide (Zn-Mn), lithium-manganese dioxide (Li-Mn), and metal (Mg, Al, Zn)-air batteries, as well as rechargeable lithium ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries. Through selected examples, we illustrate the effect of structure, shape, and size on the electrochemical properties of electrode materials. Because of their numerous active sites and facile electronic/ionic transfer and diffusion, nanostructures can improve battery efficiency. In particular, we demonstrate the properties of nanostructured active materials including Mg, Al, Si, Zn, MnO(2), CuV(2)O(6), LiNi(0.8)Co(0.2)O(2), LiFePO(4), Fe(2)O(3), Co(3)O(4), TiS(2), and Ni(OH)(2) in battery applications. Electrochemical investigations reveal that we generally attain larger capacities and improved kinetics for electrode materials as their average particle size decreases. Novel nanostructures such as nanowires, nanotubes, nanourchins, and porous nanospheres show lower activation energy, enhanced reactivity, improved high-rate charge/discharge capability, and more controlled structural flexibility than their bulk counterparts. In particular, anode materials such as Si nanospheres and Fe(2)O(3) nanotubes can deliver reversible capacity exceeding 500 mA.h/g. (Graphite used commercially has a theoretical capacity of 372 mA x h/g.) Nanocomposite cathode materials such as NiP-doped LiFePO(4) and metal hydroxide-coated Ni(OH)(2) nanotubes allow us to integrate functional components, which enhance electrical conductivity and suppress volume expansion. Therefore, shifting from bulk to nanostructured electrode materials could offer a revolutionary opportunity to develop advanced green batteries with large capacity, high energy and power density, and long cycle life.

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