DEC 26, 2022 12:00 PM PST

What to Print Next? 3D printing the Next Generation of Lithium Batteries

WRITTEN BY: Mandy Woods

Today’s world has the most access to information and technology it has ever had. We are plugged in everywhere and portable as often as we can be. This pressing needs to be more efficient, and portable has created a high demand for high-energy, rechargeable batteries at higher production rates.

While practical applications of Lithium battery technology are limited by dendrite growth, low efficiency, and other things, advancements in 3D printing are revolutionizing how we use and produce Li metal batteries.

Professor WU Zhongshuai leads a team of researchers from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in developing a 3D-printed Li metal battery (LMB) with more stability and energy density than earlier models. Li metal batteries might be the most promising so far and are considered the ideal material for battery production because of their high energy density capacity. The limitations of batteries stem from the formation of dendritic growths, which are known to cause short-circuiting, amplification of adverse reactions, increased volume changes, and increasing polarization, which eventually lead to what has been termed as “dead Li.”

One 2020 study by a Washington State University research team showed the development of a synergistic combination of additives into a porous carbon structure. They then filled it with selenium disulfide (non-toxic and commonly found in dandruff shampoo), which helps suppress the growth of dendritic growths. It creates a thin layer and protects the lithium anode, allowing it to recharge.

While this method enhances safety and performance without sacrificing other features, it only solves some problems.

Another team of scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory created a battery that lasted 600 cycles, the longest reported results. The research was carried out by a multi-institutional team to develop electric vehicle batteries that are lighter, less expensive, and more efficient.

3D printing proves efficient in multiple aspects: it provides an ultra-thick, porous network that allows the lithium-ion and current distribution to homogenize, helping suppress dendritic growths. This fabrication of a conductive porous framework creates an environment abundant in nucleation sites and a large pore volume, preventing volume change and, therefore, dendritic growth.

Before the 3D printing process, Li metal batteries were still known for considerable advantages, yet still had real-world challenges that hindered long-term practical applications. 3D printing creates parts less susceptible to damage caused by reactions at various component levels.

Sources: ScienceDirect, DICP, EurekAlert, Frontiers, ScienceDaily, PNNL

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Mandy (She/Her) is a Scientific Writer and an active Field Archaeologist. She has worked in the Southwest, Midwest, and Great Basin for Historical Archaeology and Resource Management. She received her B.A. from the University of New Mexico with a focus in Archaeology and History. In her free time, she is outdoors with her two dogs, Nala and Nova. She channels her passion for nature and exploration into her career.
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