In a world where complexity often reigns, a research team at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) took a different approach to solving the inherent issues of solid-state batteries. Led by Professor Byoungwoo Kang and Dr. Abin Kim, the team developed a solid electrolyte with unique properties that paved the way for an ultra-thin lithium metal solid-state battery platform with exceptional stability and energy density.

Solid-state batteries, which utilize solid electrolytes instead of liquids, offer the promise of enhanced energy density and safety, positioning them as the next generation of batteries. Among these, the garnet-type oxide solid electrolyte (Li7La3Zr2O12, or LLZO) stands out for its high ionic conductivity. However, LLZO is plagued by high reactivity, leading to the formation of a contamination layer (Li2CO3) on its surface when exposed to air. This layer acts as a barrier in cell construction, impacting the contact and interfacial properties of the electrolyte and reactants, particularly with the lithium metal anode.

Instead of resorting to complex coating or post-synthesis treatment processes, the research team took a step back to focus on the essence of the issue—LLZO itself. By doing so, they developed an air-handleable LLZO (AH-LLZO) technology that enhances both the surface and internal properties of LLZO, preventing the formation of contaminant layers from the outset. Through the creation of a new hydrophobic compound (Li-Al-O) on the surface and inside the material, the garnet-type solid electrolyte inhibits contamination layer formation, even if one were to form, by minimizing its reaction with moisture in the air.

The impact of this research cannot be understated. By enabling the preparation of ultra-thin lithium metal layers through a simple wetting process, the team achieved a remarkable reduction in the amount of lithium metal used in solid-state batteries. This not only decreases the overall battery weight and volume but also greatly enhances energy density. Furthermore, this technology allows for storage in air without the need for special handling or facilities, streamlining the process and improving the practical usability of garnet-type solid electrolytes.

The breakthrough achieved by Professor Byoungwoo Kang and his team exemplifies the power of simplicitiy in innovation. By focusing on the core essence of the issue at hand, they were able to develop a groundbreaking technology that revolutionizes solid-state battery technology. This research serves as a reminder that sometimes, the most effective solutions are the simplest ones.


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