Whether it is crafting the world's fastest electrodes, building battery parts out of nuclear waste or preventing fire danger with the help of sound waves, 2020 showed us just how imaginative scientists can be when it comes to developing technologies for next-generation energy storage.
This year, we've looked at numerous creative ways to improve the functionality of electrodes, seen how dashes of graphene can make electrolytes tougher and how advanced materials might help batteries charge faster or offer far greater densities. Let's have a look at these research highlights, along with some more radical battery designs that are the result of thinking outside the box.
When it comes to boosting batteries by bringing in new materials, all options are on the table, but one with huge potential is lithium metal. Described by some as a "dream material," using lithium-metal as the anode in place of the graphite and copper currently used could significantly boost the density of today's batteries, enabling them to run far longer and hold far more energy.
The problem is safety. As the battery is charged, growths known as dendrites tend to form on the surface of the lithium metal anode, causing electrical shorts, fires and ultimately the failure of the device. We saw a few innovative approaches to solving this problem in 2020, including one from scientists at Washington State University whose approach to preventing dendrites involved adding a few key chemicals to the cathode and electrolyte solution.