This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 14, 2012

Batteries May Fade, but Research Can Revitalize

Old batteries, like old soldiers, never seem to die; they just fade away.

But why?

A team of researchers, led by Chongmin Wang at the Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL), recently reached part of that answer for one type of high-performance battery. Lithium-ion batteries are used in essential everyday electronics like cell phones and laptops, and adding the element nickel to their electrodes further improves their performance. However, over time, their performance fades.

Dr. Wang and his colleagues wondered why—and knew where to go for the tools to find out. They tapped into world-class user facilities to take a closer look at what was happening at the molecular level. Specifically, they scoped out tiny particles—nanoparticles—with the same composition. The particles were so small, about 200 nanometers in size, that it would take some 300 of them together to form a particle the size of an average speck of dust. They were created by researchers at the Argonne National Lab (ANL) using a variety of different methods. For the complete story, see the Energy Blog.