Nanotech boost for batteries

Efforts to help lithium-ion batteries store more juice have long aimed at allowing them to use pure lithium metal as the negative electrode due to the metal’s high charge-storing capacity and light weight. But repeated charging and discharging causes whiskerlike spikes to form on the lithium electrodes, which can cause the batteries to short out, or worse, catch fire. Now, researchers at Stanford University report online this week in Nature Nanotechnology that they’ve figured out how to protect lithium electrodes with a carbon coating shaped like an array of connected tiny spheres. The coating allows lithium ions to pass back and forth during charging and discharging but prevents the whiskers from forming.

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