Skip to Content

Power Polymers

Conductive binders could make high-capacity battery electrodes practical
December 20, 2011

Source: “Polymers with Tailored Electronic Structure for High Capacity Lithium Battery Electrodes”
Gao Liu et al.
Advanced Materials
, published online September 23, 2011

Results: An electrode material that combines silicon with a new polymer developed by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory can store four times as much energy as conventional anodes, potentially increasing overall battery storage by 30 percent. The electrodes maintained these performance levels over 650 charging cycles.

Why it matters: Silicon electrodes have a high theoretical storage capacity, but they tend to break up after only a few charges, greatly reducing their actual capacity. Using silicon in the shape of nanowires and other nanostructures helps, but that makes it difficult to maintain electrical conductivity, and the manufacturing techniques required could prove expensive. The new polymer holds silicon particles together and maintains conductivity, and electrodes made with it could be produced on existing battery manufacturing equipment. The resulting higher-capacity batteries could improve personal electronics and extend the range of electric vehicles.

Methods: The researchers analyzed the voltage levels and other conditions that materials encounter in battery elec­trodes and worked with theoretical chemists to identify a list of conductive polymers that could withstand these conditions. They added molecules designed to tune the electrical properties of the polymer and to make it more flexible, which in turn improves its ­ability to bind particles of silicon together.

Next Steps: The researchers are collaborating with a major material-industry partner to scale up production of silicon-based electrodes that use the binders.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.