Materials scientists at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, together with colleagues at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), have been selected to receive a US$900,000 grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to demonstrate a new design and 3D-printing process for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries. The grant forms part of a US$57.9million programme announced in June to fund research into clean-energy technologies.
The team’s eventual goal is to improve lithium-ion batteries by increasing the available power, speeding up charging time and making them cheaper to manufacture while wasting less material in the process. 3D printing allows for the creation of a more intricate interior battery structure that can store more power, a development that’s critical to the new manufacturing process.
Lithium-ion batteries, with their excellent energy-to-weight ratios, are already ubiquitous in phones, laptops, electric vehicles and a range of other consumer products. However, there are limits to the power that they can provide and how rapidly they can be charged. More powerful lithium-ion batteries could lead to the development and adoption of more electric vehicles, as well as new energy-storage technologies for the electric grid.
The new project builds on a previous collaboration between UCLA and LLNL that led to the development of several cathode ink compositions and demonstrated excellent performance in 3D-printed cathodes, which are the part of the battery that contains lithium ions. The UCLA group has been developing and characterising 3D battery materials that offer high energy and power density, while researchers from LLNL have made several advances in 3D-printed materials that offer more design freedom without employing expensive and wasteful fabrication processes.