Batteries containing lithium as the ion source can store the highest known density of energy, but the most commonly used electrolytes do not work well in these batteries as they are unstable in typical operating conditions and may break down disastrously.
Other electrolytes, including polymers and ionic liquids (ILs), have been explored. While polymer electrolytes generally have low conductivity at room temperature, ILs are salts in a liquid state and thus have good conductivity and stability under the battery operating conditions. They are, however, unable to prevent the formation of lithium networks called dendrites, which degrade battery performance.
A research team has now developed a new family of solventless electrolytes made of hard zirconium oxide nanostructures linked to softer IL species, using a simple one-pot procedure. The electrolytes, which are a gel-like fluid at room temperature, are temperature- and redox-stable which makes them suitable for use in batteries, they transport lithium ions well and they also prevent the growth of dendrites.
Ionic Liquid Tethered Nanoparticle Hybrid Electrolytes
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2010. DOI: 10.1002/anie.201004551
Gopal R. Rao, Ph.D.
Web Science Editor
Materials Research Society (MRS)