Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Energy storage


New energy industry including electric vehicles and large-scale energy storage in smart grids requires energy storage systems of good safety, high reliability, high energy density and low cost. Here a coated Li metal is used as anode for an aqueous rechargeable lithium battery (ARLB) combining LiMnO as cathode and 0.5 mol l LiSO aqueous solution as electrolyte. Due to the “cross-over” effect of Li ions in the coating, this ARLB delivers an output voltage of about 4.0 V, a big breakthrough of the theoretic stable window of water, 1.229 V. Its cycling is very excellent with Coulomb efficiency of 100% except in the first cycle. Its energy density can be 446 Wh kg, about 80% higher than that for traditional lithium ion battery. Its power efficiency can be above 95%. Furthermore, its cost is low and safety is much reliable. It provides another chemistry for post lithium ion batteries.

Concepts: Cathode, Battery, Rechargeable battery, Lithium-ion battery, Lithium, Lithium battery, Nanowire battery, Energy storage


Every year many tons of waste glass end up in landfills without proper recycling, which aggravates the burden of waste disposal in landfill. The conversion from un-recycled glass to favorable materials is of great significance for sustainable strategies. Recently, silicon has been an exceptional anode material towards large-scale energy storage applications, due to its extraordinary lithiation capacity of 3579 mAh g(-1) at ambient temperature. Compared with other quartz sources obtained from pre-leaching processes which apply toxic acids and high energy-consuming annealing, an interconnected silicon network is directly derived from glass bottles via magnesiothermic reduction. Carbon-coated glass derived-silicon (gSi@C) electrodes demonstrate excellent electrochemical performance with a capacity of ~1420 mAh g(-1) at C/2 after 400 cycles. Full cells consisting of gSi@C anodes and LiCoO2 cathodes are assembled and achieve good initial cycling stability with high energy density.

Concepts: Cathode, Electrochemistry, Waste management, Battery, Electrolysis, Rechargeable battery, Recycling, Energy storage


Solar energy storage is an emerging technology which can promote the solar energy as the primary source of electricity. Recent development of laser scribed graphene electrodes exhibiting a high electrical conductivity have enabled a green technology platform for supercapacitor-based energy storage, resulting in cost-effective, environment-friendly features, and consequent readiness for on-chip integration. Due to the limitation of the ion-accessible active porous surface area, the energy densities of these supercapacitors are restricted below ~3 × 10(-3) Whcm(-3). In this paper, we demonstrate a new design of biomimetic laser scribed graphene electrodes for solar energy storage, which embraces the structure of Fern leaves characterized by the geometric family of space filling curves of fractals. This new conceptual design removes the limit of the conventional planar supercapacitors by significantly increasing the ratio of active surface area to volume of the new electrodes and reducing the electrolyte ionic path. The attained energy density is thus significantly increased to ~10(-1) Whcm(-3)- more than 30 times higher than that achievable by the planar electrodes with ~95% coulombic efficiency of the solar energy storage. The energy storages with these novel electrodes open the prospects of efficient self-powered and solar-powered wearable, flexible and portable applications.

Concepts: Density, Volume, Sun, Electrochemistry, Integral, Solar energy, Energy density, Energy storage


Thermal energy storage offers enormous potential for a wide range of energy technologies. Phase-change materials offer state-of-the-art thermal storage due to high latent heat. However, spontaneous heat loss from thermally charged phase-change materials to cooler surroundings occurs due to the absence of a significant energy barrier for the liquid-solid transition. This prevents control over the thermal storage, and developing effective methods to address this problem has remained an elusive goal. Herein, we report a combination of photo-switching dopants and organic phase-change materials as a way to introduce an activation energy barrier for phase-change materials solidification and to conserve thermal energy in the materials, allowing them to be triggered optically to release their stored latent heat. This approach enables the retention of thermal energy (about 200 J g(-1)) in the materials for at least 10 h at temperatures lower than the original crystallization point, unlocking opportunities for portable thermal energy storage systems.

Concepts: Energy, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Kinetic energy, Heat transfer, Energy storage, Thermodynamic system


Short-term transients, including those related to wind and solar sources, present challenges to the electrical grid. Stationary energy storage systems that can operate for many cycles, at high power, with high round-trip energy efficiency, and at low cost are required. Existing energy storage technologies cannot satisfy these requirements. Here we show that crystalline nanoparticles of copper hexacyanoferrate, which has an ultra-low strain open framework structure, can be operated as a battery electrode in inexpensive aqueous electrolytes. After 40,000 deep discharge cycles at a 17 C rate, 83% of the original capacity of copper hexacyanoferrate is retained. Even at a very high cycling rate of 83 C, two thirds of its maximum discharge capacity is observed. At modest current densities, round-trip energy efficiencies of 99% can be achieved. The low-cost, scalable, room-temperature co-precipitation synthesis and excellent electrode performance of copper hexacyanoferrate make it attractive for large-scale energy storage systems.

Concepts: Cathode, Electrochemistry, Battery, Electrolyte, Electrode, Anode, Wind power, Energy storage


While lithium-sulfur batteries are poised to be the next-generation high-density energy storage devices, the intrinsic polysulfide shuttle has limited their practical applications. Many recent investigations have focused on the development of methods to wrap the sulfur material with a diffusion barrier layer. However, there is a trade-off between a perfect preassembled wrapping layer and electrolyte infiltration into the wrapped sulfur cathode. Here, we demonstrate an in situ wrapping approach to construct a compact layer on carbon/sulfur composite particles with an imperfect wrapping layer. This special configuration suppresses the shuttle effect while allowing polysulfide diffusion within the interior of the wrapped composite particles. As a result, the wrapped cathode for lithium-sulfur batteries greatly improves the Coulombic efficiency and cycle life. Importantly, the capacity decay of the cell at 1000 cycles is as small as 0.03% per cycle at 1672 mA g(-1).To suppress the polysulfide shuttling effect in Li-S batteries, here the authors report a carbon/sulfur composite cathode with a wrapping layer that overcomes the trade-off between limiting polysulfide diffusion and allowing electrolyte infiltration, and affords extraordinary cycling stability.

Concepts: Battery, Electrode, In situ, Cycle, Energy storage, British Columbia Interior, Polysulfide, Diffusion barrier


We report a simple approach based on a chemical reduction method to synthesize aqueous inorganic ink comprised of hexagonal MnO2 nanosheets. The MnO2 ink exhibits long-term stability and continuous thin films can be formed on various substrates without using any binder. To obtain a flexible electrode for capacitive energy storage, the MnO2 ink was printed onto commercially available A4 paper pretreated with multiwalled carbon nanotubes. The electrode exhibited a maximum specific capacitance of 1035 F g(-1) (91.7 mF cm(-2) ). Paper-based symmetric and asymmetric capacitors were assembled, which gave a maximum specific energy density of 25.3 Wh kg(-1) and a power density of 81 kW kg(-1) . The device could maintain a 98.9 % capacitance retention over 10 000 cycles at 4 A g(-1) . The MnO2 ink could be a versatile candidate for large-scale production of flexible and printable electronic devices for energy storage and conversion.

Concepts: Energy, Fundamental physics concepts, Battery, Capacitor, Energy density, Manganese, Energy storage, Alkaline battery


Two-dimensional (2D) transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) have emerged as promising capacitive materials for supercapacitor devices owing to their intrinsically layered structure and large surface areas. Hierarchically integrating 2D TMDs with other functional nanomaterials have recently been pursued to improve electrochemical performances; however, it often suffers from limited cyclic stabilities and capacitance losses due to the poor structural integrity at the interfaces of randomly assembled materials. Here, we report high-performance core/shell nanowire supercapacitors based on an array of one-dimensional (1D) nanowires seamlessly integrated with conformal 2D TMD layers. The 1D and 2D supercapacitor components possess “one-body” geometry with atomically sharp and structurally robust core/shell interfaces as they were spontaneously converted from identical metal current collectors via sequential oxidation/sulfurization. These hybrid supercapacitors outperform previously developed any stand-alone 2D TMD-based supercapacitors; particularly, exhibiting an exceptional charge-discharge retention over 30,000 cycles owing to their structural robustness, suggesting great potential for unconventional energy storage technologies.

Concepts: Energy, Structure, Hierarchy, Manifold, Capacitor, Flywheel energy storage, Energy storage, Plug-in hybrid


Rechargeable batteries using organic electrodes and sodium as a charge carrier can be high-performance, affordable energy storage devices due to the abundance of both sodium and organic materials. However, only few organic materials have been found to be active in sodium battery systems. Here we report a high-performance sodium-based energy storage device using a bipolar porous organic electrode constituted of aromatic rings in a porous-honeycomb structure. Unlike typical organic electrodes in sodium battery systems, the bipolar porous organic electrode has a high specific power of 10 kW kg(-1), specific energy of 500 Wh kg(-1), and over 7,000 cycle life retaining 80% of its initial capacity in half-cells. The use of bipolar porous organic electrode in a sodium-organic energy storage device would significantly enhance cost-effectiveness, and reduce the dependency on limited natural resources. The present findings suggest that bipolar porous organic electrode provides a new material platform for the development of a rechargeable energy storage technology.

Concepts: Electrochemistry, Battery, Electrode, Electrolysis, Rechargeable battery, Energy density, Primary cell, Energy storage


The ability to store energy on the electric grid would greatly improve its efficiency and reliability while enabling the integration of intermittent renewable energy technologies (such as wind and solar) into baseload supply. Batteries have long been considered strong candidate solutions owing to their small spatial footprint, mechanical simplicity and flexibility in siting. However, the barrier to widespread adoption of batteries is their high cost. Here we describe a lithium-antimony-lead liquid metal battery that potentially meets the performance specifications for stationary energy storage applications. This Li||Sb-Pb battery comprises a liquid lithium negative electrode, a molten salt electrolyte, and a liquid antimony-lead alloy positive electrode, which self-segregate by density into three distinct layers owing to the immiscibility of the contiguous salt and metal phases. The all-liquid construction confers the advantages of higher current density, longer cycle life and simpler manufacturing of large-scale storage systems (because no membranes or separators are involved) relative to those of conventional batteries. At charge-discharge current densities of 275 milliamperes per square centimetre, the cells cycled at 450 degrees Celsius with 98 per cent Coulombic efficiency and 73 per cent round-trip energy efficiency. To provide evidence of their high power capability, the cells were discharged and charged at current densities as high as 1,000 milliamperes per square centimetre. Measured capacity loss after operation for 1,800 hours (more than 450 charge-discharge cycles at 100 per cent depth of discharge) projects retention of over 85 per cent of initial capacity after ten years of daily cycling. Our results demonstrate that alloying a high-melting-point, high-voltage metal (antimony) with a low-melting-point, low-cost metal (lead) advantageously decreases the operating temperature while maintaining a high cell voltage. Apart from the fact that this finding puts us on a desirable cost trajectory, this approach may well be more broadly applicable to other battery chemistries.

Concepts: Density, Water, Electrochemistry, Temperature, Battery, Electrode, Renewable energy, Energy storage