Niobium-graphene batteries developed with 30-year lifecycles

Thursday, 25 May, 2023

Niobium-graphene batteries developed with 30-year lifecycles

Batteries play a crucial role in powering many modern devices, such as mobile phones, pacemakers and electric vehicles; however, lithium-ion batteries pose limitations such as safety risks, short life cycles and long charging times. Niobium-graphene batteries, developed by the Centre for Advanced 2D Materials (CA2DM) and CBMM, a global leader in niobium products and technology, address these problems.

The batteries are being tested at the new CBMM-CA2DM Advanced Battery Laboratory; the facility will provide researchers with advanced equipment to create new solid electrolytes, fabricate various cell forms and eventually put their innovations to the test. “We have made significant progress in our development of niobium-graphene batteries which are proving to be a game changer in safety, efficiency and sustainability,” said Professor Antonio H. Castro Neto, Director of CA2DM.

The niobium-graphene batteries reportedly have greater performance and safety compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries. In addition, volatile and flammable liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries will be replaced by niobium-containing solid electrolytes, further enhancing the batteries’ safety and energy density.

The performance of niobium-graphene batteries is approximately 10 times longer (estimated to be around 30 years) than lithium-ion batteries, making them more durable and reliable. The niobium-graphene batteries also operate at a safe voltage window and safely discharge without overheating in case of accidental damage. Niobium also enhances conductivity and stabilises the host structure, leading to improved battery rate performance and long cycling stability. Niobium is also a relatively abundant and environmentally friendly material, making the batteries a more sustainable alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

Niobium is the primary active material in the negative electrode of the batteries while also being used as an additive in the positive electrode. Graphene, on the other hand, is utilised in negative and positive electrodes to boost electronic conductivity and structural stability. In the negative electrode, the unique crystal structure of niobium materials facilitates rapid charging without damaging the structure. In the positive electrode, niobium materials can increase ionic conductivity and safeguard the active material from degradation. The low-density nature of graphene also improves the electronic conductivity of both electrodes without compromising the overall energy density of the battery.

The final prototype of the niobium-graphene battery is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2024.

“As they have a longer lifespan, the new graphene-niobium batteries reduce total cost of ownership compared to existing lithium-ion batteries and have ultrafast charging capabilities. In addition, they offer higher safety as they do not risk explosion even in high temperatures,” said Rogerio Ribas, CBMM Global Head of Batteries.

The batteries also have other advantages, such as higher input and output power, a wider temperature operating range and higher state of charge and can thus be developed for specific markets such as commercial and industrial applications including regenerative braking systems for hybrid vehicles, heavy-duty applications, intralogistics and cordless power tools.

Due to their high-performance capabilities, the niobium-graphene batteries have wide-ranging potential applications, including medical devices and aerospace equipment, all of which require long cycle life and high safety standards. Other potential applications include electric vehicles and consumer electronics.

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