US researchers have developed a paperlike battery electrode that is ready to beat all the others ever produced. With a combination of silicon and graphene, this electrode is more efficient, more powerful, more economical and more lightweight.

Many of the things we own and see today require batteries. Even space needs them. However, while we're making huge strides in battery development, it still possesses many limitations including intolerance to low temperatures. Scientists have been toying on using silicon and graphene, either individually or as a combination, to replace graphite in lithium-ion batteries. The problem is it hasn't been done before due to constraints like "low capacity per volume."

To resolve that, Kansas State University researchers led by associate professor Gurpreet Singh decided to make a totally different electrode made of silicon oxycarbide, which features "sharp glasslike particles" made from decomposed liquid resin, placed in between chemically modified graphene (CMG) platelets, which make up 20 percent of the specially designed electrode.

The final product is a paperlike design that possesses better cycling efficiency and flexibility than the regular batteries. What further sets it apart is that it's over 10 percent more lightweight, especially since "it eliminates the metal foil support and polymeric glue - both of which do not contribute toward capacity of the battery," said Singh.

The electrode is also believed to be economical since its liquid resin is easy to obtain and cheap, as well as flexible because it may be produced using 3D printers, in which exact dimensions can be specified.

The silicon-graphene electrode works at extremely low temperatures like minus 15 degrees Celsius. Current lithium-ion batteries are efficient in temperatures ranging 5 to 45 degrees Celsius, or otherwise, charge current must be decreased so it can continue to work at 0 to 5 degrees Celsius.

Because of this characteristic, the battery with this electrode may be used for "unmanned aerial vehicles flying at high altitudes, or maybe even space applications," he added.

The team, whose paper is now published in Nature Communications, has big dreams for the electrode such as using it for more practical applications. In the future, they may be come up with a full cell of lithium-ion battery or electrodes with bigger dimensions.

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