Power up: UBC Okanagan to design battery that packs more punch

It’s a collaboration between the university and B.C.-based tech companies

A battery that is smaller and more powerful is being designed and developed at UBC Okanagan.

University researchers, along side Fenix Advanced Material from Trail, B.C., are collaborating to create a tellurium-based cathode, a small device that will make all-solid-state, lithium-tellurium batteries which will have both high energy density and a high safety rating.

Rapidly expanding use of portable electronics and the evolution of electric vehicles is driving a global demand for smaller but more powerful battery technology, explains Jian Liu, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan.

“Improvements are necessary thanks to many other emerging devices such as medical implants, wireless sensors and radio-frequency identification,” said Liu.

“Due to the limited space and high reliability requirements in these new devices, researchers are exploring technologies that possess high-energy density and more stable configurations.”

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The batteries will be made using raw materials from B.C.-based companies such as Fenix, Teck Metals, Retriev Technologies, Eagle Graphite and Deer Horn Capital.

The new type batteries, where one tellurium atom can store two lithium ions and two electrons make it a potent material for storing and releasing electricity.

“Due to its high density, tellurium provides a much higher volumetric capacity than other cathode materials, such as sulfur and selenium,” said Liu.

“With the advantages of high volumetric energy density and excellent safety, all-solid-state lithium-tellurium batteries have the potential to power high-end electronic applications where a smaller size, but higher energy output is required.”

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The project and future spin-off projects aim to integrate the supply of raw materials with the development and manufacture of next-generation lithium-tellurium batteries in the B.C. Interior.

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