Researchers have created the first battery electrode that is capable of healing itself.
The development has opened a new and potentially commercially viable path for making the next generation of lithium ion batteries for electric cars, cell phones and other devices.
The team from Stanford University and the Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, said that the secret of the breakthrough is a stretchy polymer that coats the electrode, binds it together and spontaneously heals tiny cracks that develop during battery operation.
Chao Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford and one of two principal authors of the paper, developed the self-healing polymer in the lab of Stanford Professor Zhenan Bao, whose group has been working on flexible electronic skin for use in robots, sensors, prosthetic limbs and other applications.
For the battery project he added tiny nanoparticles of carbon to the polymer so it would conduct electricity.
Bao said that they found that silicon electrodes lasted 10 times longer when coated with the self-healing polymer, which repaired any cracks within just a few hours.
Yi Cui, an associate professor at SLAC and Stanford who led the research with Bao, said that the electrodes worked for about 100 charge-discharge cycles without significantly losing their energy storage capacity.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Chemistry.