3D Printing of Batteries to Enhance Charging Rates

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Technology to be used in wider applications including consumer electronics and aerospace applications due to low weight and high capacity

The researchers have developed a method of 3D printing battery electrodes that creates a 3D micro-lattice structure with controlled porosity. It is said that 3D printing of this micro-lattice structure can improve the capacity and charge-discharge rates for lithium-ion batteries.

This printing method is important for consumer electronics, medical devices industry as well as aerospace applications. This research will integrate with the biomedical electronic devices, where miniaturised batteries are required. Non-biological electronic micro-devices will also benefit from this work. On a bigger scale, electronic devices, small drones and aerospace applications themselves can use this technology as well, due to the low weight and high capacity of the batteries printed using this method.

What makes lithium-ion batteries different?

In the case of lithium-ion batteries, the electrodes with porous architectures can lead to higher charge capacities. This is because such architectures allow the lithium to penetrate through the electrode volume leading to very high electrode utilisation thereby, higher energy storage capacity.

In normal batteries, 30 per cent to 50 per cent of the total electrode volume is unutilised. The researchers come up with a solution to overcome this issue by using 3D printing. They create a micro-lattice electrode architecture that allows the transport of lithium through the entire electrode which also increases the battery charging rates. They also estimated that this technology will be ready to translate to industrial applications in about 2-3 years.

Changed structure, improved performance

The micro-lattice structure (Ag) used as lithium-ion batteries’ electrodes was shown to improve battery performance in several ways such as a fourfold increase in specific capacity and a twofold increase in areal capacity when compared to a solid block (Ag) electrode.

Furthermore, the electrodes retained their complex 3D lattice structures after forty electrochemical cycles demonstrating their mechanical robustness. The batteries can thus have a high capacity for the same weight or alternately, for the same capacity, a vastly reduced weight which is an important attribute for transportation applications.