Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., have received a patent for an electrolyte that can be used in rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. These batteries are popularly used in cell phones, laptop computers, and other portable devices. But a typical electrolyte's salt component is expensive and toxic, making Li-ion batteries unsuitable for electric and hybrid vehicles and other large applications. The lab, though, has developed a method for overcoming these limitations.
Brookhaven's team has been investigating ways to improve the electrical conductivity of electrolytes that contain less-expensive and less-toxic salts. So far, it has designed and synthesized a very helpful series of boron-based compounds. The researchers have added these compounds to the targeted electrolytes, raising their electrical conductivity to levels comparable to electrolytes currently in use.
"There are some improvements that need to be made," cautions Xiao-Qing Yang, one of the project's scientists. Currently, the research team is conducting studies at Brookhaven's National Synchotron Light Source. "By understanding how these additives work with the salt and the electrolyte at the molecular level," Yang explains, "we can modify their molecular structures to improve their performance."
For more details, go to www.bnl.gov.