Advanced science.  Applied technology.


SwRI to receive $1.2 million to develop advanced anode materials for lithium-ion batteries

Sept. 1, 2010 — Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) has been selected by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to receive an award of $1.2 million to develop advanced anode materials for lithium-ion batteries. The award is one of several selected under LBNL's Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies (BATT) Program. The BATT Program is the premier fundamental research program supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Vehicle Technologies and managed by LBNL for developing high-performance, rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and hybrid-electric vehicles. 

Institute Scientist Dr. Kwai Chan, Staff Scientist Dr. Michael Miller and Research Engineer Dr. Wuwei Liang from SwRIs Materials Engineering Department are the team for the project, "Synthesis and Characterization of Silicon Clathrates for Anode Applications in Lithium-Ion Batteries." The project is scheduled to begin in January 2011 and is expected to be completed by December 2014.

"The objective of this project is to investigate how silicon clathrates can be used to improve the performance of lithium batteries," said Chan, who will serve as project manager for the four-year effort. "The primary application for the technology is electric, hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric automobiles." SwRI has been addressing advanced battery technologies through its internally funded research program Chan said.

Currently, most lithium-ion batteries have a 10-year life expectancy and a range of 10 miles between charges. A goal of the DOE and stakeholders is to quadruple the range and double the energy density of these batteries within the next four years while extending the battery life to greater than 10 years.

Silicon clathrate is a form of silicon with a cage structure that researchers believe can be used to store lithium at the battery anode. "The clathrate's soccer-ball-like structure would trap the lithium ions in a compact space," Miller added, "thereby providing a higher energy density and longer battery life."

Project tasks include investigating new ways to make clathrates, fundamental modeling of the anode material to better understand how it behaves, and developing and evaluating a prototype battery cell.

"If successful, this program could be extended to look at new materials for the cathode, thereby further increasing battery performance," Chan said.

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