Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Wollongong's online course, How to Survive on Earth: Energy Materials for a Sustainable Future. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds Batteries are very common devices we use daily and

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds this kind of energy storage devices provide a lot of power to our mobile, to our lights, even to our electric vehicles. But how we can make the battery become more powerful and long lasting. So this is always a challenge to a scientist. So in our lab we try our new strategic plan to synthesise the new battery materials. What we do, is we assemble all the atoms into (what we) call the layered materials. In this kind of layered materials, each of the layer is only a single atom thick. And between the layer, there is a huge space to accomodate a lot of ions.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds So this means more and more of ions can be stored in this material and because layers of structures they can move very fast means they can charge very fast. So by increasing our charging speed and also increased capacities

Skip to 1 minute and 10 seconds so we can design a lot of new materials for the lithium battery, for the sodium battery and other types of batteries. So this is our battery testing lab. So this is our battery testing platform. This is a full electricity drive car in this university. So we use our new materials, assembled as different ion batteries and then we put this battery in the package and installed in this car. We can test how fast the car can run and how long the distance car can run and what is all the overall weight of the car. All these kind of parameters we can evaluate the performance of battery.

Skip to 1 minute and 50 seconds In other words, we know the performance of the new battery materials and then after all these evaluations, we can redesign our materials. We reassemble our materials and then to recreate some new materials for the future batteries and less battery costs without any pollutions without any carbon dioxide and then make our life sustainable.

Batteries and atoms

In this video, you will meet Dr. Yi Du who specialises in making materials by controlling individual atoms and how these atomic changes affect the makeup and function of materials.

In this video, he talks about new batteries being developed, how these are created and how they are tested by scientists. One of the challenges that he and other scientists are still working on is how to make batteries operate for longer and make them more durable.

How can we make batteries become more powerful and longer lasting?

The anodes and cathodes of batteries are made up of groups of metal atoms and ions that are able to move from the electrodes into the electrolyte, by losing or gaining electrons as we discussed in the Basics of Batteries. In order to make this movement easier during charging and discharging of the battery, the anode and cathode can be made of layered materials, which provide space between the layers to accommodate the atoms and ions, as can be seen in the image below.

Battery Basics_anode and cathode_battery in use_process of discharging_layers

In his lab, Dr. Du and his colleagues are trying to create new layered battery materials in which the layers are as thin as possible, only a single atom layer thick, which provides a “huge” space to accommodate the atoms and ions, potentially allowing many more ions to be stored in the material.

Because there is a layered structure the atoms/ions can move in and out of the anode/cathode very fast, which means the battery can be charged very fast. Based on their work controlling the atomic structure of the layered materials, they are able to design exciting new materials for the lithium battery, for the sodium battery, and other types of batteries.

Battery testing lab

Image of UOW car being adjusted prior to testing the battery in race conditions

The best way to test a battery is when it is being used. Dr. Du and his colleagues use a fully electric car to test their new batteries.

A racecar is a great way to push the batteries to their limit - especially in terms of delivering large amounts of energy rapidly and with sudden increases/decreases in draw. These are harsher conditions than would likely be experienced by a typical household battery or even the one in your laptop and is an example of ‘accelerated testing’.

They can now test the effect of the speed of the car, the distance it travels and its weight on the battery. All of these kinds of parameters can help them evaluate the performance of their batteries and new battery materials.

The evaluation of these kinds of battery measurements in turn helps them to redesign their materials to make them even better.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

How to Survive on Earth: Energy Materials for a Sustainable Future

University of Wollongong

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: