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Low-cost designer material extends Li-ion battery life

23 August 2012

Dr Saravanan mass producing the new material in the laboratory

Comparison between lab-scale production (4 g) and mass production (80 g) of mesoporous titanium oxide

With the world's growing concern about the depletion of resources, there is increasing research focusing on sustainable sources. However, most of the sustainable sources have time or space limitations, especially in storage.

An NUS researcher, Dr Kuppan Saravanan from the Departments of Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering, has come up with an innovative way to cleverly harness the power of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Thanks to their compactness, design flexibility, lightweight, longer lifespan and high operating voltages, Li-ion batteries hold the most promise as a sustainable energy provider.

For his PhD project, Dr Saravanan searched for new environmentally friendly electrode materials with superior energy and power density for potential application in future Li-ion batteries. Through systematic investigation, he managed to create a mesoporous titanium oxide (meso TiO2) material with excellent energy storage with low-cost production.

Mesoporous materials are micron-sized particles containing nanopores which, when employed as electrode materials in Li-ion batteries, enable easy access of electric energy stored.

Meso TiO2 shows storage capacity 50 per cent higher than current Li-ion batteries, but costing 5 to 10 times lower. Furthermore, the novel material is environmentally friendly as it has already been used in skincare products and paints.

With funding from the National Research Foundation in Singapore, Dr Saravanan and his team members have scaled up the production of meso TiO2. They collaborated with Taiwanese battery manufacturer E-One Moli to develop a new Li-ion battery for electric vehicle application.

For this achievement, Dr Saravanan won the 2012 World Future Foundation PhD Prize in Environmental and Sustainability Research that recognises excellence in doctoral-level environmental and sustainability research.