Testing lithium battery materials to understand their structure for future components
24 May 2024
- Alison Oliver



A team from the University of Waterloo, Canada and their industrial collaborator have visited ISIS for the first time to test their work on battery materials. The focus of their research was to explore new materials for solid-state lithium batteries.

Users from University of Waterloo at HRPD Spring 2024



The team's objective is to advance solid-state battery technology, which has significant advantages over conventional lithium-ion batteries. Current lithium-ion batteries are nearing their energy density limits and rely on organic-based electrolytes, posing safety risks due to potential combustion. Solid-state batteries, in contrast, use ceramics instead of combustible liquids, offering greater safety and compatibility with advanced anode materials, such as silicon and lithium metal. This could boost energy density to over 500 Wh/kg, enabling electric vehicles to travel up to 1,000 kilometres on a single charge.

“We want to make some breakthroughs in solid state electrolytes," explained Yubo Wang, a PhD student at the University of Waterloo. “We are looking for materials with excellent ionic conductivity, processability and stability against cathode materials. Our current focus is on lithium metal chlorides, which offer high electrochemical stability and ionic conductivity. The purpose of our visit to ISIS is to gain fundamental insights into the structure of our synthesised materials with the assistance of neutron diffraction. HRPD is able to offer very high resolution to enable us to obtain critical information on the lithium ions in the lattice."

Lithium is a very light element and is weakly scattered in X-ray experiments, however it has a very unique negative coherent scattering length under neutrons, making it easier to map out its positions and occupancies within the structure. Understanding these properties is crucial for further improving ionic conductivity, which is a necessary battery parameter for fast charging within 15 minutes and maintaining battery performance in cold environments as low as -20 degrees Celsius.

"We have a team in Silicon Valley," said a representative from the industrial collaborator. "We work with the University of Waterloo to utilize machine learning to predict the synthesizability of new materials by screening various cheap elements. It's crucial to understand the structure of materials to develop innovative components for future applications."

Contact: Oliver, Alison (STFC,RAL,ISIS)