The battery builder

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Science  27 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6289, pp. 1046-1049
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6289.1046

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Yi Cui, a materials scientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, is trying to take lithium-ion batteries to the next level. He's not alone: Massive corporations are also attempting to make batteries smaller, lighter, and more powerful. But unlike others who focus on tweaking the chemical composition of a battery's electrodes or its charge-conducting electrolyte, Cui—and his startup, Amprius—are marrying battery chemistry with nanotechnology. He is building intricately structured battery electrodes that can soak up and release charge-carrying ions in greater quantities, and faster, than standard electrodes can, without producing troublesome side reactions. The nanoscale architectures he is exploring have already led to phone batteries that store 10% more energy than the best conventional lithium-ion batteries on the market, and better ones are in the works. If the technologies live up to their promise, Amprius could one day supply car batteries able to store up to 10 times more energy than today's top performers.

  • * in Palo Alto, California; Photography by Noah Berger