Energy storage devices are becoming an integral part of sustainable energy technology adoption, particularly, in alternative transportation (electric vehicles) and renewable energy technologies (solar and wind which are intermittent). The most prevalent technology exhibiting near-term impact are lithium ion batteries, especially in portable consumer electronics and initial electric vehicle models like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf. However, new technologies need to consider the full life-cycle impacts from material production and use phase performance to the end-of-life management (EOL). This dissertation investigates the impacts of nanomaterials in lithium ion batteries throughout the life cycle and develops strategies to improve each step in the process. The embodied energy of laser vaporization synthesis and purification of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) was calculated to determine the environmental impact of the novel nanomaterial at beginning of life. CNTs were integrated into lithium ion battery electrodes as conductive additives, current collectors, and active material supports to increase power, energy, and thermal stability in the use phase. A method was developed to uniformly distribute CNT conductive additives in composites. Cathode composites with CNT additives had significant rate improvements (3x the capacity at a 10C rate) and higher thermal stability (40% reduction in exothermic energy released upon overcharge). Similar trends were also measured with CNTs in anode composites. Advanced free-standing anodes incorporating CNTs with high capacity silicon and germanium were measured to have high capacities where surface area reduction improved coulombic efficiencies and thermal stability. A thermal stability plot was developed that compares the safety of traditional composites with free-standing electrodes, relating the results to thermal conductivity and surface area effects. The EOL management of nanomaterials in lithium ion batteries was studied and a novel recycling technique, referred to as refunctionalization, for lithium ion cathode materials was developed. Refunctionalization is the treatment of active materials in order to regain electrochemical performance at EOL which eliminates the need to recycle to the elemental level and can lead to greater environmental and economic savings. The lithium ion capacity of EOL lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) nanomaterial cathode was regained through chemical and electrochemical re-lithiation techniques. The embodied energy of refunctionalized LiFePO4 was calculated to be 50% less than cathode synthesized from virgin materials. Overall, these results contribute to an improved understanding of the life cycle impacts for nanomaterials in batteries. The CNT embodied energy calculation established the first life cycle inventory for laser vaporization CNTs, whereas the novel refunctionalization strategies established a new EOL pathway to recover cathodes at a higher value state than traditional recycling. At the same time, CNT enhanced battery electrodes increased power and energy in the use phase while demonstrating the unique ability to engineer electrodes to control thermal stability, which enables better performing and safer batteries.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Lithium ion batteries--Materials; Nanostructured materials; Product life cycle; Remanufacturing
Department, Program, or Center
Ganter, Matthew, "Sustainability impact of nanomaterial enhanced lithium ion batteries" (2013). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus
Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: TK2945.L58 G36 2013
2014 RIT Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation Award