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The potential of silicon anode based lithium ion batteries

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Lithium ion batteries (LIBs) have been successfully deployed in a myriad numbers of consumer electronics and are increasingly adopted in electric vehicles. The development of high energy density LIBs is critical for meeting the existing and anticipated energy requirements of consumer electronics and electric vehicles. In that regard, silicon (Si) is considered as a potential next-generation anode material for LIBs and is projected to provide large increase in energy density. Despite over 5000 journal articles on Si anode in the past decade, there is a lack of clarity on the extent of practical improvement in energy density that can be accomplished by switching the anode from graphite to Si in LIBs. Issues related to initial loss of capacity and cyclability of Si anode have been reported extensively in these articles. Experimental data have shown that up to 40% increase in gravimetric energy density can be achieved using Si anode. However, such increase in energy density is achieved when you allow the LIBs to swell beyond permissible limits. Unlike graphite which expands only ∼10% when charged, Si expands 300–400% when charged. Such large volume change of Si will lead to swelling of LIBs if the amount of Si in Si-carbon composite (SCC) exceeds a threshold level that is required to avoid external dimensional change of the anode. The porosity of anode should be adjusted according to amount of Si in the SCC anode. Swelling of LIBs is an important practical issue and has major safety and performance implications.

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