The increased demand for portable electronic devices, including mobile phones, laptops and new ‘wearables’, has required advances in battery technology to provide a low-cost, lightweight, long-lasting and stable power source. With fossil fuels dwindling and CO2 regulations becoming more stringent, battery technology is increasingly being used in applications such as renewable energy storage and electric vehicles, which require ever more lightweight, safe, high-power and fast-charging batteries.
Schematic of a Li-ion battery. During discharge, lithium ions (Li+) move from the anode to the cathode, conducted via the electrolyte, with flow in the reverse direction occurring when the battery is charged. Anodes are typically graphite-based, while cathodes are often manufactured using lithium iron phosphate, lithium cobalt oxide, lithium-manganese oxide, lithium-nickel cobalt manganese oxide, etc.
The cornerstones of battery performance are power, which impacts current and discharge characteristics, and energy storage capacity. Battery power is determined by the rate of reaction between the electrodes and the electrolyte, while storage capacity is a function of the volume of electrolyte within the cell. These properties are intrinsically linked to the intercalation structure and primary particle size of the electrode particles, which determine how well the mobile ions are taken up and released by the electrode1. Particle size distribution and particle shape also influence particle packing and hence the volume of electrolyte that can be accommodated within the interstitial voids of the electrode, which affects storage capacity.
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