Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin recently published a study on a group of metal oxides that exhibits a strange ability to store energy beyond their known theoretical limits. Should these materials become commercially viable, they could lead to batteries with capacities three times bigger than standard lithium-ion batteries.
Available in the peer-reviewed Nature Materials journal, the research helps explain why certain transition metal oxides have unexpectedly higher capacities. As explained by project leader Guihua Yu, these materials possess a “space charge storage mechanism” that allows them to store extra charge.
For comparison, today’s lithium-ion batteries are capable of power storage by moving lithium ions through materials or by converting their crystal structures.
The researchers were able to demonstrate the space charge storage mechanism through situ magnetometry. Commonly utilized by physicists, it is a method for magnetic monitoring in real-time to observe a material’s changes in its internal electronic structure and therefore quantify the material’s charge capacity.
While the research findings are promising, Yu said the transition metal oxides aren’t yet viable for commercial battery storage applications, as several aspects about them remain a mystery.