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Li-ion batteries contain toxic halogens

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:halogen? lithium-ion battery? Puru Jena?

Lithium-ion batteries have had their share of making the headlines for the wrong reasons, with some overheating and a few catching fire. Moreover, they have been found to contribute substantially to environmental pollution and impact human health due to potentially toxic materials such as lead.

Recently, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have discovered that most of the electrolytes used in Li-ion batteries contain toxic halogens. At the same time, the electrolytes could be replaced with halogen-free ones that are both nontoxic and environmentally friendly.

"The significance [of our findings] is that one can have a safer battery without compromising its performance," said the study's lead author Puru Jena, Ph.D., distinguished professor in the Department of Physics of the College of Humanities and Sciences. "The implication of our research is that similar strategies can also be used to design cathode materials in Li-ion batteries."

Puru Jena

Jena: The implication of our research is that similar strategies can also be used to design cathode materials in Li-ion batteries.

Jena said he hopes that the article's findings will lead to production of safer, less toxic batteries.

"We hope that our theoretical prediction will stimulate experimentalists to synthesise halogen-free salts which will then lead manufacturers to use such salts in commercial applications," he said.

The researchers also found that the procedure outlined for Li-ion batteries is equally valid for other metal-ion batteries, such as sodium-ion or magnesium-ion batteries.

Jena became interested in the topic several months ago when he saw a flyer on Li-ion batteries that mentioned the need for halogen-free electrolytes.

"I had not done any work on Li-ion batteries at the time, but I was curious to see what the current electrolytes are," he said. "I found that the negative ions that make up the electrolytes are large and complex in nature and they contain one less electron than what is needed for electronic shell closure."

Jena had already been working for more than five years on superhalogens, a class of molecules that mimic the chemistry of halogens but have electron affinities that are much larger than that of the halogen atoms.

"I knew of many superhalogen molecules that do not contain a single halogen atom," he said. "My immediate thought was first to see if the anionic components of the current electrolytes are indeed superhalogens. And, if so, do the halogen-free superhalogens that we knew serve the purpose as halogen-free electrolytes? Our research proved that to be the case."





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