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Fool's Gold Could Boost Batteries


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Many people have been tricked by thinking that iron pyrite, or fool's gold is the rare precious metal. Instead they have a material of less value, but it could be finding new use soon. Researchers at Vanderbilt University have discovered that quantum dots of iron pyrite could improve lithium ion batteries.

It has already been found that quantum dots of different materials can speed up the charging of lithium ion batteries, but the effect only lasts for a few cycles. However, quantum dots made of iron pyrite, if they are the proper size, can provide the rapid-charging effect while also lasting for dozens of cycles. This is because the iron pyrite becomes directly involved in the electrochemistry of the battery. Instead of the lithium entering the electrode to store energy, the fool's gold breaks down into iron and sulfur, and the lithium combines with the sulfur to store energy. Normally it is just the lithium that has to diffuse in a battery, but in this scenario, the iron must also diffuse, which is why the size of the quantum dots is important. By keeping the size beneath the diffusion length of iron, the iron atoms can more easily diffuse, increasing energy storage.

More work needs to be done before fool's gold enters our batteries, but we could see this being one way to create batteries capable of charging in just seconds. The researchers believe a deeper study of the chemical storage mechanisms involved will significantly help with developing these batteries.

Source: Vanderbilt University

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