“There is nothing wrong with the current technology used in batteries,” says Dr. Rabin Bissessur, Professor of Chemistry at UPEI. “But there is always demand for more power in a smaller package. And if you can do it with less expensive, non-toxic material, well, you’ve made things better, haven’t you?”
Bissessur’s research looks to improve the current technology in Lithium ion batteries—the same batteries found in your computer, mobile device, and thousands of other products.
“Lithium is the one part of the battery we’ll leave alone,” explains Bissessur. “Lithium gives up electrons very easily. It’s also very lightweight, which makes it a good choice of material for an anode—the part of the battery that supplies electrons.”
A battery also requires a material to accept electrons once they’ve flowed through the load, or powered device. This is called the cathode, and is commonly made of expensive materials such as cobalt dioxide.
“We’re experimenting with layered materials containing iron metal,” says Bissessur. “Iron is much less expensive, and is readily available. We are working to create sandwiched compounds of layered structures containing iron with solid polymer electrolytes.
“In order to have a complete circuit, there must be an electrical connection and yet a physical separation between the anode and cathode, and this is usually achieved by using a liquid electrolyte material. In our case, we’re using a solid polymer electrolyte, and we’re increasing its mechanical strength by layering it with iron.”
Bissessur recently received funding for this research under the Innovation PEI Pilot Fund. Future steps in the research involve measuring how well the new materials conduct ions, as well as battery performance.