Published online in the journal Nano Letters last week, the study includes videos of the electrodes being charged at nanometer-scale resolution. Watching them in use can help researchers understand the strengths and weaknesses of the material.
"The electrodes expand as they get charged, and that shortens the lifespan of the battery," said lead researcher Chongmin Wang at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "We want to learn how to improve their lifespan, because silicon-carbon nanofiber electrodes have great potential for rechargeable batteries."
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Chong-Min Wang, Xiaolin Li, Zhiguo Wang, Wu Xu, Jun Liu, Fei Gao, Libor Kovarik, Ji-Guang Zhang, Jane Howe, David J. Burton, Zhongyi Liu, Xingcheng Xiao, Suntharampillai Thevuthasan, Donald R. Baer. In Situ TEM Investigation of Congruent Phase Transition and Structural Evolution of Nanostructured Silicon/Carbon Anode for Lithium Ion Batteries. Nano Letters, 2012; 12 (3): 1624 DOI: 10.1021/nl204559u