Nanocables Promise Better Batteries

When combined, the storage capacity of TiO2 is four times higher than usual and the nanotubes hold three times as many ions.

Published: 30-Jan-2010

Nano-sized cables made with titanium dioxide (TiO2)-coated carbon nanotubes could hold the key to developing new high-capacity batteries, report chemists in Germany and China.

Lithium-ion batteries are in great demand for applications from laptops to hybrid cars - but the list of requirements is long. They need to be lightweight, cheap and environmentally friendly, but also store enormous charge.

As lithium-ion batteries are charged, large amounts of lithium ions are held in the anode, which is typically made from graphite. When the battery is used, these ions migrate to the cathode, sending electrons through the circuit. However, graphite has a fairly low storage capacity and release rate, so finding alternatives is key to making batteries that last longer and produce more power.
Carbon nanotubes and TiO2 have both been investigated for use as electrodes, but have been deemed impractical until now. 'Titanium dioxide on its own is totally unsuitable for electrodes,' says Joachim Maier of the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany, who collaborated on the research.

'Although it can hold lithium ions effectively, they are slow to diffuse through the structure - and it can take years to fill a millimetre-thick crystal. However, if the TiO2 is only 10nm thick, it is filled in milliseconds,' he says.

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