Ground-breaking research headed by scientists at the University of Kent could lead to the development of a new generation of higher-powered batteries for cameras and phones.
A recipe to increase the rate at which a solid material - an artificial mineral - can conduct charge has been formulated by researchers from the University's School of Physical Sciences (SPS) in collaboration with scientists from other European institutions.
The researchers discovered the possibility of using a phenomenon called geometric frustration in this process in order to increase the charge transport rate in the solid material in a manner that is comparable with heating that material.
The team used this phenomenon to 'tune' materials to be used in future fuel cells and batteries in order to speed up ionic conductivity.
Dr Dean Sayle, lead researcher, and his team in SPS discovered that geometric frustration broke up the regimented formation of atoms present in the material, resulting in a pattern that is more disordered. With this disordered pattern, the charge was allowed to pass through the material at a much higher rate.
Disorder can be created by geometric frustration which might be understood as randomly giving two kinds of differently sized umbrellas to a regimented parade of people and telling them to put them up and come as close together as the size of the umbrellas allow. Naturally, this will lead to a destruction of the former formation towards a disordered formation exhibiting a large number of gaps. Similarly, we used geometric frustration to make the atoms disordered by mixing two differently sized atoms together which increased charge transport by 100,00.
Dr Dean Sayle, Lead Researcher, School of Physical Sciences, University of Kent
Besides leading to the development of more powerful batteries, the new technique may help to produce new energy materials with zero- emissions.