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CARBON NANOTUBES Carbon nanotubes bring huge gains in battery performance

Author / Editor: Luke James / Johanna Erbacher

NAWA Technologies, a French energy storage specialist, has unveiled a new carbon nanotube-based battery electrode design that they claim brings huge gains in battery performance as the fastest of its kind.

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Multi-functional electrode for the next-generation of lithium batteries.
Multi-functional electrode for the next-generation of lithium batteries.
(Source: NAWA Technologies)

Today, one of the biggest challenges in and limitations of battery power is the design and material used for the electrode. Existing electrodes have low electrical, thermal, and ionic conductivity, along with poor mechanical behavior when going through charging cycles. They can also suffer from degradation problems, such as dendrite formation in lithium-ion batteries, which can lead to safety and lifecycle issues.

Now, a French company claims that it has developed what it’s calling an “ultra-fast electrode” which improves power by a factor of 10, energy storage by up to a factor of three, and lifecycle by up to a factor of five, all while reducing charge time down to a mere few minutes.

Vertically-Aligned Carbon Nanotube (VACNT) design

NAWA’s new electrode, which is based on its patented Vertically-Aligned Carbon Nanotube (VACNT) IP, combines ionic conductivity with high electrical and thermal conductivity. This is enabled thanks to its 3D fully accessible nanostructure and arrangement of 100 billion nanotubes per square centimeter, all of which are aligned vertically.

With the total cost of electrodes accounting for almost 25 percent of total battery cost and the $35 billion value of today’s lithium-ion battery market, NAWA believes that its new Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode could bring significant cost savings.

According to NAWA, the electrode is a universal system that’s available as both a primer for existing electrodes - where the VACNT increases electrical conduction - and as a full 3D-electrode where it acts as a framework upon which lithium insertion material can be coated. At present, NAWA is developing different concepts of coatings with different chemistries and partners. By 2023, the company hopes that the technology will have entered production.

It also brings significant environmental advantages—the Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode is easily recyclable and eco-disposable at the end of its lifecycle, offering potential CO2 footprint reductions as high as 60 percent in applications.

A leap in performance for the automotive sector

A side-by-side comparison of current lithium electrodes made from powders (left) and NAWA’s Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode based on a VACNT design (right).
A side-by-side comparison of current lithium electrodes made from powders (left) and NAWA’s Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode based on a VACNT design (right).
(Source: NAWA Technologies)

While all batteries can benefit from the Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode, according to NAWA, the automotive industry could see huge gains in performance. With the industry now accounting for 75 percent of lithium-ion battery production and constantly demanding ever-improved metrics such as range, lifecycle, and charging time, NAWA sees it as a major target market.

NAWA says that an advanced lithium-ion battery using the Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode could double the kWh stored, meaning that Electric Vehicles (EVs) could draw on more power to travel further or faster, making ranges of 1,000 km or more commonplace in the mass market. Charging time could also be reduced dramatically to as little as five minutes for an 80 percent charge, all the while benefitting from an improved lifecycle by a factor of up to five.

NAWA’s CEO, Ulrik Grape, said: “NAWA’s Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode will allow us to charge batteries faster, go further and for longer – and all with a product based on one of the world’s most abundant and green materials: carbon.

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