Stanford researchers develop self-healing battery

Nov. 19, 2013, 2:00 a.m.

A team of researchers from Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has developed a self-healing battery electrode, the first of its kind for lithium ion batteries.

The self-renewing battery contains a silicon electrode that is protected by a stretchy polymer, which not only holds the battery together but also fills in the tiny cracks that may develop during battery operation, essentially allowing the battery to heal itself.

A flexible battery coating is particularly important for batteries with silicon electrodes—which have a high capacity for capturing and storing energy from lithium battery fluid—because silicon electrodes expand and shrink each time the battery charges and discharges. The brittle material that coats these high-capacity batteries therefore cracks and falls apart with use. With a self-healing coating, these batteries can last longer and lose performance less quickly.

The self-healing material—originally developed by third-year postdoctoral researcher Chao Wang in the lab of Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford—breaks easily to accommodate for a growing electrode. Its broken ends quickly bond together again, in a manner similar to the process that allows biological molecules such as DNA to reassemble.

Catherine Zaw was formerly the Managing Editor of News for Vol. 245 and Vol. 246. To contact her, please email [email protected].

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