A new generation of higher-powered batteries for phones and cameras could result from ground-breaking research led by scientists at the University of Kent.
Researchers from the University's School of Physical Sciences (SPS), working with scientists from other European institutions, formulated a recipe to increase the rate at which a solid material - an artificial mineral - can conduct charge.
The team found that a phenomenon known as geometric frustration can be used in this process to increase the charge transport rate in the solid material in a way that is comparable with heating that material.
Making use of this phenomenon, the team was able to 'tune' materials to be used in future batteries and fuel cells to speed up ionic conductivity.
Lead researcher Dr Dean Sayle and his team in SPS found that geometric frustration broke up the regimented formation of atoms in the material, leading to a more disordered pattern. This disordered pattern allowed the charge to pass through the material at a much higher rate.
Dr Sayle said: 'Disorder can be created by geometric frustration which might be understood as randomly giving two kinds of differently sized umbrellas to a regimented parade of people and telling them to put them up and come as close together as the size of the umbrellas allow.
'Naturally, this will lead to a destruction of the former formation towards a disordered formation exhibiting a large number of gaps. Similarly, we used geometric frustration to make the atoms disordered by mixing two differently sized atoms together which increased charge transport by 100,000'.
As well as more powerful batteries, the new technique may lead to the development of new energy materials with zero- emissions.
The paper, entitled Is Geometric Frustration-Induced Disorder a Recipe for High Ionic Conductivity? (Dean Sayle, Andre Duvel, Alan Chadwick, David Pickup, Silvia Ramos, Lewis Sayle, Emma Sayle, Thi Sayle, all University of Kent; Paul Heitjans, Leibniz Universita?t Hannover Germany; Pavel Fedorov, General Physics Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia; Gudrun Scholz, Humboldt-Universita?t zu Berlin Germany; Giannantonio Cibin, Diamond Light Source UK) is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. See: http://pubs.
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Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome. It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.
In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.
Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.
Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.
The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.
In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.