Lithium-ion batteries use toxic, heavy metals that can impact the environment when they are extracted from the ground and are difficult to dispose of safely. Cobalt is one of those heavy metals used in battery electrodes. Part of the problem is that lithium and cobalt are not abundantly available and supplies are dwindling.
Organic electrode materials are considered to be extremely promising materials for sustainable batteries with high power capabilities. Researchers have created a new carbon-based organic molecule that can replace the cobalt now used in cathodes or positive electrodes in lithium-ion batteries. The material addresses the shortcomings of the inorganic material while maintaining performance.
Electrodes made with organic materials can make large scale manufacturing, recycling, or disposing of toxic elements more environmentally friendly. With the new class of molecules, the electroactive component is very suitable for batteries since it can store electrical charges and provides long-term stability.
The researchers optimized the electroactive component and put it in a battery that has voltage up to 3.5 volts, which is where current batteries are now.
They demonstrated that the material is stable in long-term operation with the ability to charge and discharge for 500 cycles. One of the downsides of inorganic electrodes is that they generate significant heat when charging and require limited discharging rates for safety reasons. This new molecule addresses that shortcoming.
The next step is to improve the capacity further by developing the next generation of molecules that shows promise in increasing current capacity.