Breaking a Major Deadlock to Enhance the Prospects of Our Electronic Devices Industry

Human beings are known for many different things, but most importantly, they are known for getting better on a consistent basis. This tendency to improve, no matter the circumstances, has brought the world some huge milestones, with technology emerging as quite a major member of the group. The reason why we hold technology in such a high regard is, by and large, predicated upon its skill-set, which guided us towards a reality that nobody could have ever imagined otherwise. Nevertheless, if we look beyond the surface for a second, it will become abundantly clear how the whole runner was also very much inspired from the way we applied those skills across a real world environment. The latter component, in fact, did a lot to give the creation a spectrum-wide presence, and as a result, initiate a full-blown tech revolution. Of course, this revolution eventually went on to scale up the human experience through some outright unique avenues, but even after achieving a feat so notable, technology will somehow continue to bring forth the right goods. The same has turned more and more evident in recent times, and assuming one new discovery ends up with the desired impact, it will only put that trend on a higher pedestal moving forward.

The researching teams at University of California San Diego and University of Chicago have successfully collaborated to develop a method, which can be used for producing the potentially game-changing thin-film solid-state electrolyte called lithium phosphorus oxynitride (LiPON). In case you aren’t aware, LiPON is a thin-film solid-state electrolyte that conducts lithium ions and has strong promise in regards to pairing with a broad range of electrode materials for our lithium battery industry. Now, as you can see it’s not essentially a new concept, what is so different about this new development? Well, to answer that, we must acknowledge how existing methods for producing LiPON have prevented researchers from fully understanding the material, thus greatly limiting its potential impact. The stated struggle is a result of many factors, including LiPON is an amorphous material which gives little structural information by regular diffraction-based techniques. Next up, it’s the material’s sensitivity to ambient air and electron beams, which further confines the available tools for study. Furthermore, as traditional LiPON synthesis is conducted on solid substrates, it conceives an approach inadequate for generating conclusive signals in the context of spectroscopic measurements. Talk about what helped the teams overcome all these obstacles, they found a way to manufacture LiPON film in a free-standing form. This little maneuver would create a flexible and transparent free-standing LiPON (FS-LiPON) film compatible with a broad range of spectroscopic techniques, techniques that have greater chances of shedding light upon the unique LiPON properties in comparison to diffraction-based techniques. Moving on to what insights we have gleaned through the move so far, solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance measurement exposed a quantitative view of interface formation between lithium metal and LiPON. Then, differential scanning calorimetry measurements showed a well-defined glass-transition temperature of LiPON around 207 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, nanoindentation measurement gave a Young’s modulus of LiPON around 33 GPa.

Apart from revealing various crucial insights on LiPON, the team also implemented the new free-standing version of the solid-state electrolyte in functional battery tests. Here, they learned that the thin-film FS-LiPON promotes a uniformly dense lithium metal electrochemical deposition under zero external pressure, and it does so using internal compressive stress and a gold seeding layer. As for what these findings can spell in downright layman terms, the beneficiaries of LiPON-based thin film batteries will be our wearables and other compact electronic devices that will hope to use it for achieving better overall performance.

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