What is it about?

The 4 x 100 m relay is an Olympic event, a typical human cooperative behavior. We observed a similar behavior in a Zn-LiFePO4 battery: a 2 x 1 cm relay system. The positive electrode of the Zn-LiFePO4 battery is LiFePO4, the negative electrode is Zn, the electrolyte is composed of Li+ and Zn2+, and the distance between the positive and negative electrodes can be varied between 0-1 cm. When charging, Li+ in LiFePO4 cathode enters the electrolyte, and Zn2+ in the electrolyte is deposited on the Zn anode. If Li+ is regarded as a runner, Zn2+ is its relay teammate. During the charging process, Li+ transfers the charge - similar to the baton - to Zn2+ which follows to release the charge on the negative electrode. And a completely symmetrical opposite process occurs during discharge. It can be seen that they cooperate to complete the task of charge transfer. So this is a typical ionic cooperating behavior. This behavior exists in any kind of battery that needs electrolytes, but is easier to be observed between heterogeneous cations. Of course, to be exact, the protagonists involved in this process are not only 2 ions, but more than n ions, and the distance is not limited to within 1 cm, but can be extended hundreds of times.

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Why is it important?

This work discovers a new phenomenon, in the inorganic world, there is a cooperative behavior between ions. Before this, only humans or a few species had cooperative behavior, at least, cooperation must exist in the organic world.

Perspectives

Three fields can be expected: The mechanism of ion conductivity can be further studied, since the apparent ion movement rate is very very fast, close to the light. And the battery system can also be applied in other fields that require a certain distance between the two electrodes, such as the extraction of Li from sea water, or maybe someday, you will may take an electric car, its left door is composed of a positive electrode and right door is negative electrode.

Hanping Zhang
Changzhou University

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This page is a summary of: Cooperation behavior between heterogeneous cations in hybrid batteries, Chemical Communications, January 2013, Royal Society of Chemistry, DOI: 10.1039/c3cc45895d.
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