Evolution of Strategies for Modern Rechargeable Batteries

Acc Chem Res. 2013 May 21;46(5):1053-61. doi: 10.1021/ar2002705. Epub 2012 Jul 2.


This Account provides perspective on the evolution of the rechargeable battery and summarizes innovations in the development of these devices. Initially, I describe the components of a conventional rechargeable battery along with the engineering parameters that define the figures of merit for a single cell. In 1967, researchers discovered fast Na(+) conduction at 300 K in Na β,β''-alumina. Since then battery technology has evolved from a strongly acidic or alkaline aqueous electrolyte with protons as the working ion to an organic liquid-carbonate electrolyte with Li(+) as the working ion in a Li-ion battery. The invention of the sodium-sulfur and Zebra batteries stimulated consideration of framework structures as crystalline hosts for mobile guest alkali ions, and the jump in oil prices in the early 1970s prompted researchers to consider alternative room-temperature batteries with aprotic liquid electrolytes. With the existence of Li primary cells and ongoing research on the chemistry of reversible Li intercalation into layered chalcogenides, industry invested in the production of a Li/TiS2 rechargeable cell. However, on repeated recharge, dendrites grew across the electrolyte from the anode to the cathode, leading to dangerous short-circuits in the cell in the presence of the flammable organic liquid electrolyte. Because lowering the voltage of the anode would prevent cells with layered-chalcogenide cathodes from competing with cells that had an aqueous electrolyte, researchers quickly abandoned this effort. However, once it was realized that an oxide cathode could offer a larger voltage versus lithium, researchers considered the extraction of Li from the layered LiMO2 oxides with M = Co or Ni. These oxide cathodes were fabricated in a discharged state, and battery manufacturers could not conceive of assembling a cell with a discharged cathode. Meanwhile, exploration of Li intercalation into graphite showed that reversible Li insertion into carbon occurred without dendrite formation. The SONY corporation used the LiCoO2/carbon battery to power their initial cellular telephone and launched the wireless revolution. As researchers developed 3D transition-metal hosts, manufacturers introduced spinel and olivine hosts in the Lix[Mn2]O4 and LiFe(PO4) cathodes. However, current Li-ion batteries fall short of the desired specifications for electric-powered automobiles and the storage of electrical energy generated by wind and solar power. These demands are stimulating new strategies for electrochemical cells that can safely and affordably meet those challenges.