The wide-scale use of green technologies such as electric vehicles has been slowed due to insufficient means of storing enough portable energy. Therefore it is critical that efficient storage mediums be developed in order to transform abundant renewable energy into an on-demand source of power. Lithium (Li) ion batteries are seeing a stream of improvements as they are introduced into many consumer electronics, electric vehicles and aircraft, and medical devices. Li-ion batteries are well suited for portable applications because of their high energy-to-weight ratios, high energy densities, and reasonable life cycles. Current research into Li-ion batteries is focused on enhancing its energy density, and by changing the electrode materials, greater energy capacities can be realized. Silicon (Si) is a very attractive option because it has the highest known theoretical charge capacity. Current Si anodes, however, suffer from early capacity fading caused by pulverization from the stresses induced by large volumetric changes that occur during charging and discharging. An innovative system aimed at resolving this issue is being developed. This system incorporates a thin Si film bonded to an elastomeric substrate which is intended to provide the desired stress relief. Non-linear finite element simulations have shown that a significant amount of deformation can be accommodated until a critical threshold of Li concentration is reached; beyond which buckling is induced and a wavy structure appears. When compared to a similar system using rigid substrates where no buckling occurs, the stress is reduced by an order of magnitude, significantly prolonging the life of the Si anode. Thus the stress can be released at high Li-ion diffusion induced strains by buckling the Si thin film. Several aspects of this anode system have been analyzed including studying the effects of charge rate and thin film plasticity, and the results are compared with preliminary empirical measurements to show great promise. This study serves as the basis for a radical resolution to one of the few remaining barriers left in the development of high performing Si based electrodes for Li-ion batteries.
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- Finite element analysis of silicon thin films on soft substrates as anodes for lithium ion batteries
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by Joseph Shaffer