Indian American boosts lithium battery performance

February 10th, 2009 - 12:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 10 (IANS) A team led by an Indian American materials scientist is working to boost lithium battery performance by creating hybrid carbon nanotubes.

Pulickel Ajayan said his team is growing nanotubes to look and act like the coaxial conducting lines used in cables. The coax tubes consist of a manganese oxide shell and a highly conductive nanotube core.

“It’s a nice bit of nanoscale engineering,” said Ajayan, Rice University professor in mechanical engineering and materials science.

“We’ve put in two materials - the nanotube, which is highly electrically conducting and can also absorb lithium, and the manganese oxide, which has very high capacity but poor electrical conductivity,” said Arava Leela Mohana Reddy, Rice postdoctoral researcher.

“But when you combine them, you get something interesting.” That would be the ability to hold a lot of juice and transmit it efficiently. The researchers expect the number of charge/discharge cycles such batteries can handle will be greatly enhanced, even with a larger capacity.

“Although the combination of these materials has been studied as a composite electrode by several research groups, it’s the coaxial cable design of these materials that offers improved performance as electrodes for lithium batteries,” said Ajayan.

“At this point, we’re trying to engineer and modify the structures to get the best performance,” said Manikoth Shaijumon, also a Rice postdoc.

The hybrid nanocables grown in a Rice-developed process could also eliminate the need for binders, materials used in current batteries that hold the elements together but hinder their conductivity, said a Rice release.

Ajayan’s early education was in Kerala, India. Till the sixth standard, he studied in a government school in Kodungallur, after which he moved to Loyola School, Thiruvananthapuram, a high school he has credited for making a strong impact on him, and for making him “realise that learning is the most exciting thing one can ever befriend”.

He graduated from Loyola in 1977. In 1985, Ajayan graduated with a B.Tech. degree in Metallurgical Engineering from the Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University.

He topped his class, thereby winning the department’s gold medal. In 1989, he earned a Ph.D in Materials Science and Engineering from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

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