Current lithium-ion batteries normally use graphite anodes. University of Waterloo researchers have created lighter, long-lasting batteries from silicon. The silicon anode materials have a much higher capacity for lithium and are capable of producing batteries with almost 10 times more energy.

The most critical challenge that the Waterloo researchers faced when they began producing the silicon batteries was the loss of energy that occurs when silicon contracts and then expands (by as much as 300 percent) with each charge cycle. The resulting increase and decrease in silicon volume forms cracks that reduce battery performance, create short circuits, and eventually cause the battery to stop operating.

To overcome the problem, the engineering team developed a flash heat treatment for fabricated silicon-based lithium-ion electrodes that minimizes volume expansion while boosting the performance and cycle capability of lithium-ion batteries.