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Gao Liu and Mike Tucker from EETD win R& D 100 Awards
(Stories from the Berkeley Lab Newscenter)
Better Batteries with a Conducting Polymer Binder
In an effort to make smaller, lighter, and cheaper batteries, a team led by Berkeley Lab scientist Gao Liu focused on improving the negative electrode, or anode. Their invention, the Conducting Polymer Binder, is a new material for use in rechargeable batteries. It can boost power storage capacity by 30 percent, a dramatic improvement in a field marked by little progress for more than a decade. The binder is literally a kind of flexible plastic glue that holds electrode materials together while facilitating the shuttling of electrons and positively charged lithium ions.
The new binder is unusually attractive for battery designers: it is strong, elastic, porous, and highly conductive. The elastic material stretches during the expansion of silicon particles as the battery charges, and contracts during discharge — giving silicon anodes the flexibility to “breathe.” The team used a soft X-ray beamline at the Advanced Light Source to analyze materials. Liu worked with Berkeley Lab scientists Wanli Yang, Lin-Wang Wang, and Vincent Battaglia and postdoctoral fellows Sang-Jae Park, Mingyan Wu, and Shidi Xun.
Cheap, Rugged Fuel Cells Can Provide Electricity Where None Exists
Point Source Power and Berkeley Lab won an R&D 100 award for the company’s Voto product. The innovative device is based on a solid oxide fuel cell that is powered by burning charcoal, wood or other types of biomass—even cow dung—the types of fuel that many in the developing world use for cooking. The fuel cell sits in the fire and is attached to circuitry in a handle that is charged as the fuel cell heats up to temperatures of 700 to 800 degrees Celsius. The handle, which contains an LED bulb, can then be detached and used for lighting or to charge a phone.
Craig Jacobson, CEO and co-founder of Point Source Power, based in Alameda, California, co-invented the fuel cell in his 13 years as a materials scientist at Berkeley Lab. Working with Steve Visco, Mike Tucker and Lutgard DeJonghe, all still affiliated with the Lab, their breakthrough was in finding a way to replace most of the ceramics in the fuel cell with stainless steel, a far cheaper and more durable material.