Designing Selective Membranes for Batteries Using a Drug Discovery Toolbox.
Researchers have designed a polymer membrane with molecular cages built into its pores that hold positively charged ions from a lithium salt. These cages, called "solvation cages," comprise molecules that together act as a solvent surrounding each lithium ion—much like how water molecules surround each positively charged sodium ion in the familiar process of table salt dissolving in liquid water. The team, led by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), found that solvation cages increased the flow of lithium ions through the membrane by an order of magnitude compared to standard membranes. The membrane could allow high-voltage battery cells to operate at higher power and more efficiently, important factors for both electric vehicles and aircraft.
Their findings have been reported in Nature.