NTU Associated Professor Chen Xiaodong with his invention

Titanium dioxide to cut Li-ion battery charging times to minutes

A lithium-ion battery that could be recharged within minutes has been developed, promising a major breakthrough in battery technology for electric vehicles.

An invention of Singaporean scientists, the battery's anode part consists of innovative titanium dioxide nanotubes instead of traditionally used graphite, which speeds up chemical reactions in the battery, allowing for extremely fast charging.

While conventional lithium-ion batteries require up to four hours to fully charge, the innovative titanium dioxide device could be charged by 70 per cent in only two minutes.

The invention, presented in the latest issue of the Advanced Materials journal, could lead to construction of lithium ion batteries that not only do charge 20 times faster, but also offer 20 times greater lifespan, lasting for 10,000 charging cycles instead of today’s 500.

“With our nanotechnology, electric cars would be able to increase their range dramatically with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars,” said Chen Xiaodong, inventor of the battery and Associate Professor at the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore.

“Equally important, we can now drastically cut down the waste generated by disposed batteries, since our batteries last ten times longer than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries.”

The increased lifespan of the titanium dioxide Li-ion batteries would help save electric car drivers considerable amounts of money as changing current Li-ion batteries at the end of their lifetime costs £3,000 per each replacement.

The rather low cost of titanium dioxide, an abundant material to be commonly found in soil, is another major advantage of the innovative concept. The material is commonly used as a food additive or in sunscreen lotions to absorb harmful radiation. 

To produce the anode material, the researchers developed a simple method to turn titanium dioxide into a gel consisting of nanotubes 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.

“Manufacturing this new nanotube gel is very easy,” Chen said. “Titanium dioxide and sodium hydroxide are mixed together and stirred under a certain temperature. Battery manufacturers will find it easy to integrate our new gel into their current production processes.”

The team plans to apply for a Proof-of-Concept grant that would allow them to build a prototype. Their ultimate goal is to make the technology market-ready in two years.

The researchers say the new technology could also help simplify manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries usually use additives to bind the electrodes to the anode, which affects the speed in which electrons and ions can transfer in and out of the batteries.

However, the new cross-linked titanium dioxide nanotube-based electrodes eliminate the need for these additives and can pack more energy into the same amount of space.

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