Using freestanding Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes (SWCNT) in place of graphite coating on battery anodes has shown significant improvement in the energy density of lithium ion batteries, up to 50% improvement in lab tests. Lithium ion batteries, due to their high energy density and resultant small size and weight, are critical components in consumer electronics, residential, commercial and utility scale energy management and hybrid/electric vehicles.
SWCNTs are passive engineered nanostructures that work to increase the energy density by increasing the surface area of the battery anode. This increased surface area allows for reductions in the thickness of the anode to match the thickness of the cathode, thus resulting in maximized energy density. This innovation in lithium ion battery technology is a step in making lithium ion batteries smaller, more powerful and longer lasting.
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The benefit of this nanotechnology solution is the reduction in battery size while still maintaining similar storage capacity. This will lead to an increase in the storage capabilities of hybrid/electric vehicles and energy storage systems, thus increasing their scalability and applicability. In transportation applications, the result would be a potential reduction in localized emissions. Whether this will lead to a reduction in overall emissions is dependent on the electricity source for used to charge these hybrid electric and electric vehicles. In energy storage applications, lithium ion batteries with SWCNT anodes may enable more cost-effective renewable energy firm-up, and create a grid infrastructure conducive to distributed generation.
SWCNTs have the potential for the secondary release of hazardous materials into and in reaction with the human environment via the creation of hazardous waste in the recycling process. The recycling process for repurposing requires the use of acetone, deionized water, hydrochloric acid and nitric acid. Additionally, SWCNTs have potentially harmful pulmonary toxicology profiles similar to other Ultra-Fine Particles (UFP). Additionally, research is emerging that suggests SWCNTs produce mitochondrial DNA damage and increased cardiovascular plaque buildup in mice. This will likely drive more research into the effects of SWCNT exposure in SWCNT workplace environments.