ASU researchers explore longer life cycle for batteries

March 5, 2015

Lithium-ion batteries are common in consumer electronics. They are one of the most popular types of rechargeable batteries for portable electronics, with a high energy density, no memory effect and only a slow loss of charge when not in use. Beyond consumer electronics, lithium-ion batteries have also grown in popularity for military, electric vehicle and aerospace applications.

Now, researchers at Arizona State University are exploring new energy storage technology that could give the battery an even longer life cycle. professor Dan Buttry and Tylan Watkins Download Full Image

Led by Dan Buttry, professor and chair of ASU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the research also involves former undergraduate researcher Jarred Olsen and current graduate student Tylan Watkins. Olsen joined Buttry’s group as an undergraduate researcher to work in the ionic liquids area. The work he contributed to this study was performed while he was on an internship at Boulder Ionics working at both Boulder and ASU with Watkins. Olsen is currently a doctoral student at the University of Washington, Seattle.

The research, just published in Nature Communications, brings together scientists from Arizona State University, University of Colorado at Boulder, Sandia National Laboratories, Boulder Ionics Corporation and Seoul National University, Korea.

Prolonging the life cycle

Room temperature ionic liquids have attracted a great deal of interest in recent years due to their remarkable physicochemical properties, including high thermal stability, wide electrochemical window and low vapor pressure.

“We used a device called a quartz crystal microbalance to measure very tiny mass changes in thin films at the surface of the battery material during charging and discharging,” said Buttry. “One of the key features of successful lithium battery materials is that they develop thin films that protect the surface of the battery electrodes, which prolongs the life of the battery. This study documents the development of just such a film in a new type of battery formulation that has many more attractive features than existing commercial lithium batteries."

Buttry added: "The hope is that this new formulation will find its way into commercial use.”

The work is part of a larger effort in Buttry’s lab that has included funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) and now from the Army Research Office.

“These were not trivial measurements to make because composite films (meaning a film of the active material in a polymer matrix) are often difficult to use with a quartz crystal microbalance,” said Watkins. “Most, if not all, quartz crystal microbalance studies of this sort use very thin films of the active material alone, which means specialty deposition methods must be used. What was cool here is that we were able to make the measurement on a more practical film, something you might realistically see in a commercial battery.”

This work provides new science related to the interfacial stability of silicon-based materials while bringing positive exposure to ionic liquid electrochemistry.

By combining a high-performance silicon electrode architecture with a room temperature ionic liquid electrolyte containing the new bis-fluorosulfonylamide anion, the researchers demonstrate a highly energy-dense lithium-ion cell with an impressively long cycling life, maintaining over 75 percent capacity over 500 charge/discharge cycles with almost perfect current efficiency (no wasted electrons).

“This study brings home the fact that energy storage technology still has a lot of room to run, with new technological changes coming at a fast pace,” says Buttry. “This is important when considering areas where storage is important, such as grid storage and electric vehicles.”

According to Watkins, there are a multitude of reasons why modern society demands more energy dense batteries.

“For some time, silicon anodes have been proposed as replacements for the carbon based anodes found in current state-of-the-art devices as they could potentially give energy densities almost 10 times that of modern anodes," Watkins said. "This exciting collaboration could bring us one step closer to realizing more energy dense batteries with silicon anodes.”

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences


Thunderbird School launches US version of program for women entrepreneurs

March 5, 2015

In conjunction with the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, the Thunderbird School of Global Management will launch an English-language version of the Freeport-McMoRan DreamBuilder program.

Designed for women entrepreneurs who want to start or grow a small business, the online learning program will be available throughout the United States in association with the Small Business Administration beginning immediately.
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The 13-module program, funded and initiated by the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation and supported by Bluedrop Performance Learning, is the second version of DreamBuilder. The program was initially launched in Spanish and has helped thousands of women in Latin America. Both versions of the program are built on Thunderbird’s extensive 10-year history of training women entrepreneurs.

“DreamBuilder has been tremendously successful in Latin America, and we are excited about what it can do to help women throughout the United States," said Allen Morrison, CEO and director general of the Thunderbird School of Global Management. "We take pride that it is a program advanced through our social impact initiative, Thunderbird For Good. It is just one example of how Thunderbird leverages our expertise and builds partnerships with industry leaders to address global challenges.”

DreamBuilder guides students through a program augmented by animation, interactive exercises and video testimonials of successful entrepreneurs. Embedded in the program is a business plan generator, which creates a personalized, editable business plan, individually crafted by each student as a part of her graduation.

The program is not only relevant for women who are thinking of starting a small business, but also those who already own small or medium-sized businesses and simply need additional support to increase their success and income. While anyone can access the program online, women who choose to engage in it through a local non-profit organization will find additional support.

“One of the aims of DreamBuilder is to reach women entrepreneurs in rural and underserved communities, including mining communities, with an opportunity to turn their aspirations of starting or growing their own business into reality and ultimately increase their economic prosperity,” said Tracy Bame, director of Social Responsibility and Community Development for Freeport-McMoRan and president of the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation. “We believe investing in women in general, and in this program specifically, is an accelerator to overall community economic development. When women own businesses and increase their incomes, the overall economy of a region grows, creating healthier, more prosperous and sustainable communities,” Bame added.

ASU President Michael M. Crow said the university’s support for the program and its partnership with Freeport-McMoRan, Inc. and the Small Business Administration is another example of the potential of ASU’s union with Thunderbird.

“This is the correct mission leveraging the unique skills of Thunderbird, the scope and focus of Arizona State University, the commitment of a global private sector partner like Freeport-McMoRan and the realization that our common goal to educate the world includes a focus at home,” said Crow. “It also reflects a shared commitment to the potential of women across the globe, who do more than half of the world’s work but account for only about 10 percent of the world’s income. Continuing education helps close that gap, and we are pleased to help support and advance the vision.”

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership will serve as a point of coordination for the program. The office oversees a network of Women’s Business Centers throughout the United States and its territories assisting women who are economically or socially disadvantaged. Women are offered comprehensive training and counseling on a vast array of topics in many languages to help them start and grow their own businesses.

“DreamBuilder is a tremendous asset for the more than 100 Women’s Business Centers and women entrepreneurs across the United States,” said Bruce Purdy, deputy assistant administrator, Office of Women’s Business Ownership, Small Business Administration. “We are thrilled to partner with Thunderbird School of Global Management on this innovative program.”

DreamBuilder organizers believe the training program that has been so beneficial to women entrepreneurs abroad will be equally embraced in the United States.

“Taking something we’ve had success with internationally and putting it to use in the United States is the logical extension of an effective educational program, and it is exactly what we should be doing,” said Kellie Kreiser, executive director of Thunderbird for Good. “This is an innovative program focused on a category of learners who need engaging, practical tools. When they complete our program, not only do they have the knowledge of how to start a business, but they also walk away with a business plan they can implement.”

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Lisa Robbins

Editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications