Speedy ion conduction clears road for energy storage

Speedy ion conduction clears road for energy storage

An ORNL-led research team found the key to fast ion conduction in a solid electrolyte. Tiny features maximize ion transport pathways, represented by red and green. Image credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Organic liquid electrolytes used in commercial lithium-ion batteries are flammable and subject to leakage, making their large-scale application potentially problematic. Solid electrolytes, in contrast, overcome these challenges, but their ionic conductivity is typically low. Now, a team led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has used state-of-the-art microscopy to identify a previously undetected feature, about 5 billionths of a meter (nanometers) wide, in a solid electrolyte and experimentally verify the importance of that feature to fast ion transport. The new mechanism the researchers report points toward a new strategy for the design of highly conductive solid electrolytes.

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