Two leading research teams have published work demonstrating that tin can push the envelope on making lithium-ion batteries perform to the demanding limits required for next-generation climate change technologies.

A multi-national research team including scientists from China, South Korea, Singapore and the US have published a paper in the leading journal ‘Nature’ showing that tin enabled lithium to move ‘ultrafast’ through a lithium electrode.

Lithium metal electrodes are the ‘holy grail’ for top performing lithium-ion batteries but they are typically too reactive and unstable. Huge R&D efforts are underway, most of which focus on the outside of the electrode, but this new approach deals with what happens inside. The team simply rolled lithium and tin alloy foils together to make lithium-tin alloy conducting ‘pathways’ for lithium ions to rapidly pass through.

At the same time another international collaboration between researchers from China and the GLABAT Solid-State Battery startup in Canada have done something very similar. This time though they added tin to the solid material between the electrodes, making lithium ions move 125 times faster. ‘Solid-state’ lithium-ion batteries are a much safer version of lithium-ion batteries but solids aren’t normally as conductive as the liquids typically used, especially at the gap between the solid and the lithium electrode.

GLABAT is based in the Research Park of Western University, Canada and was launched in 2017 as a five-year, $3.35-million partnership with the Beijing-based China Automotive Battery Research Institute.

Both of these developments add to the emerging story of tin as a important multi-functional performance additive for lithium-ion batteries. The International Tin Association is tracking this field closely and has published a detailed techno-economic review of the topic, available on the link below.

Nature Communications paper on lithium-tin alloy electrodes, February 2020

Wiley Online paper on tin in solid-state electrolytes, January 2020

GLABAT Solid State Battery Inc. Laboratory webpage

ITA Report on Tin in Lithium-ion Batteries

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