Could Electrolyte Genome accelerate search for battery winners?

April 17, 2015 // By Paul Buckley
Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are aiming to take some of the guesswork out of the discovery process facing global battery technology developers with what they described as their Electrolyte Genome.

Berkeley Lab scientist Kristin Persson and her electrolyte genome team has created a Google-like database of molecules. A battery scientist looking for a new electrolyte would specify the desired parameters and properties, and the Electrolyte Genome would return a short list of promising candidate molecules, thereby speeding up the discovery timeline.

The Berkeley Lab team reason that any breakthrough battery which has significantly higher energy, lasts longer, and is cheaper and safer will only be possible  as the result of a new material discovery. The problem is that any new material discovery could take years, if not decades, because so far trial and error has proven to be the best available approach.

“Electrolytes are a stumbling block for many battery technologies, whether the platform is designed for electric vehicles or a flow battery for grid applications,” Persson said. “What we can do is calculate the properties of a large number of molecules and give experimentalists a much better set of materials to work with than if they were to explore all possible combinations.”

Persson’s Electrolyte Genome uses high-throughput computer screening to calculate the properties not only of these three components but also their interactions with each other.

“If we can come up with an electrolyte that has a higher electrochemical window for multivalent batteries, or with larger solubility for certain redox molecules, if we can solve either of these, you suddenly enable the whole industry,” Persson said. “It could be a game-changer.”