News Release

Novel use of iron-laced carbon nanofibers yields high-performance energy storage

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Tsinghua University Press

Iron-laced carbon nanofibers yields high-performance energy storage

image: The atomic Fe sites with coordination unsaturated electronic configuration are revealed to be favorable for Li+ bonding and diffusion and the atomic Fe decorated carbon nanofibers afford essentially improved lithium storage performance at high-mass loading. view more 

Credit: Nano Research

A new study by Chinese researchers demonstrates a novel approach to enhancing the storage performance of batteries and capacitors. The researchers developed a simple yet efficient way to produce a material with excellent performance for use in devices that rely on lithium-ion storage.


They published their findings in Nano Research on April 1.


Why lithium?


Energy storage technologies are increasingly important as the world shifts toward carbon neutrality, looking to further electrify the automotive and renewable energy sectors. Lithium-ion technology is critical to powering this shift. “Among all the available candidates, the energy storage devices employing lithium storage chemistry, such as lithium-ion batteries and lithium-ion capacitors, could deliver the best performance at the current stage,” says study author Han Hu, a researcher at the Institute of New Energy, China University of Petroleum.


However, the utilization of lithium-ion technology in energy storage is limited by its efficiency relative to size. A 2021 study cited by the authors asserts that to improve the market competitiveness of electric vehicles lithium-ion batteries must become more efficient by both weight and volume.  Further improvement in storage capacity may, therefore, be key to achieving carbon neutrality goals, rendering research on lithium-ion battery and capacitor performance via use of novel materials of paramount importance.


Constructing a novel material


Carbonaceous materials doped with nitrogen are the current dominant choice in lithium storage batteries and capacitors, with electron and ion transfer the fundamental processes for electrochemical energy storage. However, because carbonaceous materials are nonpolar – with charges distributed equally across their molecules – the charged lithium (Li+) does not adhere easily to the materials, despite its unsaturated configuration that gives it suitable bonding energy.


The researchers, therefore, laced carbon nanofibers with iron (Fe) to regulate their surface chemistry towards facilitating increased electron and ion transfer. Using electrospinning, they produced a series of carbon nanofiber samples with Fe contents. They then evaluated the Li+ storage performance of the samples using a variety of electrochemical test methods. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy revealed a 3D interconnected network of smooth fibers with no clumps of iron particles, indicating that they were well dispersed.


The results revealed that adding atomic Fe changed the electronic structure of the carbon materials to promote more electrical conductivity as well as reduce the diffusion resistance of the Li+. The researchers explain that the electrochemical performance was enhanced mainly through a synergistic effect of the atomic Fe and the formation of an Fe-N bond that exposed more active sties to which Li+ could adhere. The outcome was improvement in lithium storage performance. The manufactured anode delivered sustained electric power through 5000 cycles of high current density, providing both high energy and large power density. Its interlaced fiber structure conferred structural stability and improved conductivity.


Study author Yanan Li, also a researcher at the China University of Petroleum, explains how the materials conformation pioneered in this study “achieved kinetically accelerated Li+ storage and decent performance at high mass loadings,” using “a simple method to produce atomic Fe decorated carbon nanofibers.”


Looking forward


The study authors emphasize that the use of carbon nanofibers could bridge the gap between basic research and practical applications. They anticipate adoption of the novel material for use in a range of energy storage devices. “The electrospun carbon nanofiber mats are highly flexible, suggesting their possibility of constructing flexible and wearable energy storage devices,” says Hu. The carbon nanofiber mats would serve as the electrodes. Also, say the researchers, they aim to explore the use of other single atom metals sodium, potassium, and zinc for augmenting storage of electrochemical energy.


Authors of the paper include Han Hu, Mingbo Wu, Qian Xu, Yanan Li, Chenghao Wu, Xitong Sun, Yujuan Wang, Shiwei Guo, Mengdi Zhang, Qiang Li, Yuanyuan Pan, Huabin Zhang, and Le Yu.


The National Natural Science Foundation of China, China University of Petroleum (East China), and Shandong Provincial Natural Science Foundation funded this research.


The paper is also available on SciOpen ( by Tsinghua University Press.




About Nano Research 


Nano Research is a peer-reviewed, international and interdisciplinary research journal, sponsored by Tsinghua University and the Chinese Chemical Society. It offers readers an attractive mix of authoritative and comprehensive reviews and original cutting-edge research papers. After more than 10 years of development, it has become one of the most influential academic journals in the nano field. Rapid review to ensure quick publication is a key feature of Nano Research. In 2020 InCites Journal Citation Reports, Nano Research has an Impact Factor of 8.897 (8.696, 5 years), the total cites reached 23150, and the number of highly cited papers reached 129, ranked among the top 2.5% of over 9000 academic journals, ranking first in China's international academic journals.


About SciOpen 


SciOpen is a professional open access resource for discovery of scientific and technical content published by the Tsinghua University Press and its publishing partners, providing the scholarly publishing community with innovative technology and market-leading capabilities. SciOpen provides end-to-end services across manuscript submission, peer review, content hosting, analytics, and identity management and expert advice to ensure each journal’s development by offering a range of options across all functions as Journal Layout, Production Services, Editorial Services, Marketing and Promotions, Online Functionality, etc. By digitalizing the publishing process, SciOpen widens the reach, deepens the impact, and accelerates the exchange of ideas.


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