Paperlike ceramic electrode viable at last, suitable for extreme conditions

Original news release was issued by Kansas State University News and Communications Services.

A rechargeable electrode that is paper-thin, 10% lighter than what we are used to, and can function properly in disagreeable conditions? All but reality at this point. Team of researchers, led by Gurpreet Singh from Kansas State University, has developed an electrode with a unique silicon oxycarbide-glass and graphene architecture. Their findings may bring strong benefits to tools for unmanned aircraft vehicles and space exploration.

In addition to being significantly lighter than its counterparts, the electrode has almost absolute cycle efficiency for more than a 1000 discharge cycles. It can even function at a temperature as low as -15 °C, enabling a wide range of high altitude aerial, and potentially space applications. The fact that its parts are made out of liquid resin – an inexpensive byproduct of the silicone industry – is a nice bonus to say the least.

Singh’s team has been battling issues with volumetric capacity, poor cycling efficiency, and chemical-mechanical instability, that have until now stunted the development of batteries that use graphene and silicon. They have cracked these problems by developing a piece of glassy ceramic, called silicon oxycarbide, stuck between sheets of chemically modified graphene. Their electrode has high capacity of 600 miliampere-hours per gram, a significant improvement from standard graphite electrodes that reach 372 mAh/g.

“The paperlike design is markedly different from the electrodes used in present day batteries because it eliminates the metal foil support and polymeric glue — both of which do not contribute toward capacity of the battery,” Singh said.

Singh and his team now wish to carry on with their work at the scale of full battery units, and in largers dimensions, as well as with mechanical bending tests. Singh has also hinted at the possibility of 3D-printing silicon oxycarbide, allowing for even more efficient production.

Research available in Nature Communications article.