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Lithium battery operating at record low temperature

- Apr 13, 2018 -

With batteries having limits in operating in relatively cold climates, most perform at only 50% of their optimal level when the temperature hits -20 degrees Celsius, and by -40 degrees Celsius, lithium-ion batteries only have about 12% of their room temperature capacity. This can be severely limiting when it comes to operating batteries in space, where temperatures can dip to -157 degrees Celsius, or even in parts of Canada and Russia, where temperatures can be lower than -50 degrees Celsius.


A team of battery researchers have found a design that can function even where other batteries might fail. "It is well known that both the electrolyte (the chemical medium that carries ions between electrodes) and electrodes (the positively charged cathode and negatively charged anode) have great influence on the battery performance". When it gets cold, the ester-based conventional electrolytes that lithium-ion batteries often use become sluggish conductors and the electrochemical reactions that occur at the interface of the electrolyte and the electrode struggle to continue -- meaning that lithium-ion batteries don't hold up too well in ultra-chilly climates. It's a problem that has consistently vexed researchers.

Benefitting from the ethyl acetate-based electrolyte and organic polymers electrodes, the rechargeable battery can work well at the ultra-low temperature of -70 degrees Celsius.

 The battery will still require some tweaking before it is ready to leave the lab. It's believed the specific energy (the energy per unit mass) of the battery is still low compared with commercialized lithium-ion batteries, and the assembly process needs to be further optimized. But even though it has low specific energy, it provides the most promising potential in special field applications.