Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Lithium metal batteries could soon be ready for commercialization thanks to the development of a new ultrasound device.
The technology, developed by engineers at the University of California San Diego, improves the charge and run times of the batteries.
Lithium metal batteries, LMBs, boast twice the capacity of today's best lithium ion batteries, but their short lifespans have prevented the technology's widespread commercial adoption.
LMBs are prone to the formation of dendrites, lithium metal growths that diminish performance. Scientists found that by exposing an LMB to sound waves at extremely high frequencies, they were able to create a circulating current in the electrolyte liquid sandwiched between the battery's anode and cathode -- thus, curbing the growth of dendrites.
Researchers built the ultrasound device, described Tuesday in the journal Advanced Materials, using commercially available smartphone components.
"Advances in smartphone technology are truly what allowed us to use ultrasound to improve battery technology," study co-author James Friend, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UCSD, said in a news release.
When researchers connected their ultrasound device to a lithium metal battery, they were able to charge and discharge the battery 250 times before its performance was diminished by dendrite formation. With the addition of the device, researchers were able to charge and discharge a lithium ion battery 2,000 times.
"This work allows for fast-charging and high energy batteries all in one," said senior author Ping Liu, professor of nanoengineering at UCSD. "It is exciting and effective."
Without the device, the electrolyte liquid in lithium batteries is static. As a result, lithium is more likely to deposit unevenly on the anode during charging, increasing the chance of dendrite formation and growth.
By exciting the electrolyte and causing it to flow through exposure to ultrasound waves, researchers were able to help the lithium deposit more densely and uniformly across the anode, preventing dendrite growth.
"Our next step will be to integrate this technology into commercial lithium ion batteries," said co-author Haodong Liu, nanoengineering postdoctoral researcher at UCSD.