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Traditional Lithium Materials Are Being Abandoned


In recent years, scientists have made continuous efforts to develop a variety of new batteries to meet the growing energy demand and environmental requirements. These new battery technologies are expected to make up for the shortcomings of traditional battery technologies and promote the development of the battery industry. At present, traditional battery technology is mainly based on lead-acid batteries, nickel-cadmium batteries, and lithium-ion batteries. These batteries have certain shortcomings, such as long charging times, short service life, pollution of the environment, and so on. Therefore, the research and development of new battery technology is of great significance.

Through continuous innovation, scientists have developed a variety of new battery technologies, including fuel cells, lithium-sulfur batteries, solid-state batteries, and so on. These new battery technologies have the advantages of high energy density, fast charging speed, longer service life, and environmental protection. For example, the fuel cell is a device that converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and heat through a chemical reaction, with high energy density and environmental friendliness; lithium-sulfur batteries use elemental sulfur as the anode material, with high theoretical energy density and low cost; solid-state batteries use solid electrolyte instead of liquid electrolyte, which improves the safety of the battery and energy density.

The research and development of new battery technology not only helps to solve the shortcomings of traditional battery technology but is also expected to bring significant breakthroughs in many areas. From a market perspective, the new battery market has huge potential. With the rapid development of electric vehicles, mobile devices, and other fields, the market demand for high energy density, fast charging speed, and environmental performance of the battery continues to grow. The development of new battery technology will provide better solutions for these areas and promote the continuous development of the battery market.

From the environmental point of view, the new battery technology has a higher degree of environmental protection. Traditional batteries contain environmentally harmful substances, such as lead, cadmium, and other heavy metals and organic solvents, posing a threat to the environment and human health. The new battery technology uses more environmentally friendly materials, such as fuel cells using hydrogen as fuel, which does not produce pollutants; lithium-sulfur batteries use elemental sulfur with high theoretical energy density and low cost, and less impact on the environment; solid-state batteries use solid electrolyte, reducing the use of liquid electrolyte and improving the safety of the battery. Therefore, the research and development of new battery technology is of great significance in reducing environmental pollution.

From the energy point of view, new battery technology plays an important role in alleviating the energy crisis. With the growing global energy demand, it is imperative to find renewable energy sources and efficient energy utilization. New battery technologies can store and release large amounts of energy and have high energy density and charging speed, which help to improve the efficiency of energy use and alleviate the energy crisis. For example, fuel cells, as a clean energy source, use hydrogen as fuel and do not produce pollutants; meanwhile, lithium-sulfur batteries and solid-state batteries have high energy density and low cost, which help improve the energy use efficiency of batteries.

U.S. Researchers Issue Organic Battery Materials

Traditional battery material

According to the latest reports, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States have designed a battery material to power electric vehicles more sustainably. The new lithium-ion battery cathode is based on organic materials rather than on cobalt or nickel. A related research paper was published in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Central Science.

Most electric cars are powered by lithium-ion batteries whose cathodes contain cobalt. Cobalt is a metal that provides high stability and energy density. As a rare metal, its price fluctuates greatly. The mining of cobalt is generally accompanied by hazardous working conditions, as well as the generation of toxic waste.

MIT researchers have recently developed an organic material that consists of multiple layers of bis-tetraminobenzoquinone (TAQ), a small organic molecule containing three thickened hexagonal rings, and these layers of the material can be extended in all directions to form a graphite-like structure. The chemical group benzoquinone is an electron reservoir, and amines help the material form strong hydrogen bonds. These hydrogen bonds make the material highly stable and very insoluble, and their insolubility prevents the new material from dissolving into the electrolyte, as some organic battery materials do, thus extending battery life.

The material is much cheaper to produce than cobalt-containing batteries and conducts electricity at a similar rate to cobalt batteries, the study showed. The new batteries also have comparable storage capacity to cobalt batteries and charge faster.

To stabilize the organic material and improve its ability to adhere to battery collectors made of copper or aluminum, the researchers added filler materials such as cellulose and rubber. These fillers make up nearly one-tenth of the overall positive electrode composite. They do not significantly reduce the battery’s storage capacity and also prevent lithium ions from flowing into the cathode while the battery is charging, thus extending the life of the battery cathode.

In addition, the main materials required to make this type of cathode are phenol precursors and amine precursors, which are commercially available. As a result, the cost of materials to assemble these organic batteries could be half or less than that of cobalt batteries.

Recently, Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) jointly announced a collaboration that has led to the discovery of a new type of battery material that can reduce the lithium content of conventional lithium batteries by 70 percent while achieving the same level of efficacy through a high degree of integration of artificial intelligence in the research process.

AI Speeds Up the Screening of New Battery Materials

Battery materials

Modern lithium-ion rechargeable batteries rely on lithium and other rare-earth metals to have a long cycle life, making them an excellent material for making batteries. On the other hand, lithium batteries also have a major drawback; discarded lithium batteries are difficult to recycle efficiently and can have a somewhat negative impact on the environment.

Researchers at Microsoft and PNNL used high-performance computer systems, artificial intelligence, and the Azure Quantum Elements cloud platform to simulate, predict, and validate the various properties of a variety of new materials to find battery materials with even better properties.

A total of 32.6 million materials were screened, from which 500,000 were initially selected by the AI algorithm, and after a second round of screening, the candidates were further narrowed down to 800. In the third round of screening, the Microsoft Quantum team used AI to accelerate simulation validation and narrowed the selection to 150.

After a fourth round of screening, the 18 best candidate materials were identified, and ultimately, the team selected a new electrolyte material with the best overall performance, which could reduce the lithium in existing lithium-ion batteries by 70 percent. And it can replace some of the lithium with sodium.

In the R&D verification process, the team used millions of data points to train the AI model, and the traditional density flood theory for computational comparison verification, the speed of predicting material properties increased by 1500 times.

In this regard, Microsoft said that through the combined use of artificial intelligence, Azure quantum element platform, and existing scientific research tools, it can increase the speed of traditional chemistry and materials science R&D by 10 times, and the original research and development that takes 250 years to complete will only take 25 years in the future.

Currently, the team has successfully synthesized this new material, and more tests are currently underway to further validate the stability and efficiency of this material, which has a very broad commercial outlook and can also make a significant contribution to environmental protection.

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