New materials engineering research led by Western could translate into significant real-world benefits like greater range for electric vehicles and longer battery life for cell phones.
Researchers from Western Engineering, Western's department of chemistry and Soochow University-Western University Center for Synchrotron Radiation Research collaborated with the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan on a pair of studies to determine if they could harness the might of phosphorene while mitigating its two main deterrents—cost and durability—and they've done it.
The theoretical capacity of phosphorene—a two-dimensional material, which consists of a single layer of black phosphorus—is almost seven times that of anode materials currently used in lithium-ion batteries. Currently, commercially-available black phosphorus is costly, at roughly $1,000 per gram and it also breaks down quickly when it is exposed to air.
In the first paper, the research team applied a novel process to produce a low-cost black phosphorus from inexpensive (approximately $0.10/gram), low-purity red phosphorus—reducing the cost by almost 300 percent. The resulting black phosphorus had nearly the same purity and electronic properties as that made using traditional methods and high-purity red phosphorus, which is worth around $40/gram.
Drastically slashing the cost of manufacturing black phosphorus means their results are scalable, according to lead researcher Weihan Li from Western.
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