Electronics and Semiconductors

Cobalt-free batteries based on organic materials

25 January 2024
Instead of cobalt or nickel, a new MIT battery material offers a lithium-ion battery with a cathode based on organic materials. In this artistic photo, the lithium molecules are shown in glowing pink. Source: MIT

Demand for electric vehicles (EVs) is growing due to consumer demand as well as regional incentives to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

However, the batteries that power these EVs typically contain cobalt, a metal that carries not just high costs but environmental and social issues.

MIT researchers have developed a more sustainable way to power EVs through a lithium-ion battery that includes a cathode based on organic materials instead of cobalt or nickel.

The development could be produced at a much lower cost than cobalt-containing batteries but conduct electricity at similar rates as cobalt batteries. Additionally, the battery has a comparable storage capacity and can be charged up faster than these traditional lithium-ion batteries, MIT said.

“I think this material could have a big impact because it works really well,” said Mircea Dincă, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT. “It is already competitive with incumbent technologies, and it can save a lot of the cost and pain and environmental issues related to mining the metals that currently go into batteries.”

Testing the batteries

Researchers at MIT tested the material for conductivity and storage capacity and found the cobalt-free batteries can be charged and discharged faster than existing batteries, which could speed up how fast EVs are charged.

To stabilize the organic materials and increase its ability to adhere to the battery’s current collector, which is made of copper or aluminum, MIT added filler materials like cellulose and rubber, which make up less than one-tenth of overall cathode composite. These do not reduce the battery’s storage capacity, MIT said.

Over the lifetime of the battery, the fillers will help to prevent the battery from cracking when the lithium ions flow into the cathode as the battery changes.

The full research can be found in the journal ACS Central Science.

To contact the author of this article, email PBrown@globalspec.com


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