The dream of environmentally friendly electric cars is a step closer to reality thanks to work by scientists in the UK and China.
The favourites for the power source in such cars are nickel metal hydride batteries, currently used to power MP3 players and laptop computers. However, until recently, the use of this type of battery for large-scale applications (like electric vehicles) has been hampered, not by a lack of resources, but by inadequate or expensive manufacturing technologies.
"the same materials can be made directly by a one-step electrolysis process from mixtures of the metal oxides"
The traditional method for preparing these materials involves a multi-step high-energy input process, whose monetary and environmental cost may have outweighed any potential benefit. Now, George Chen from the University of Nottingham and Dihua Wang from Wuhan University have shown that the same materials can be made directly by a one-step electrolysis process from mixtures of the metal oxides.
'I am fascinated by the elegance of this work, it shows that the electrochemical approach can be applied to the preparation of advanced battery materials from relatively inexpensive components,' said Viktor Balema, product manager in the materials science team of Sigma-Aldrich.
'The collaboration with Chinese scientists is important as China has some of the best resources of the raw materials,' said George Chen. 'The next step in the research will be to get the chemical engineers involved to help transfer this process from a laboratory scale to an industrial process.'