A porous silicon based material comprising porous crystalline elemental silicon formed by reducing silicon dioxide with a reducing metal in a heating process followed by acid etching is used to construct negative electrode used in lithium ion batteries. Gradual temperature heating ramp(s) with optional temperature steps can be used to perform the heating process. The porous silicon formed has a high surface area from about 10 m.sup.2/g to about 200 m.sup.2/g and is substantially free of carbon. The negative electrode formed can have a discharge specific capacity of at least 1800 mAh/g at rate of C/3 discharged from 1.5V to 0.005V against lithium with in some embodiments loading levels ranging from about 1.4 mg/cm.sup.2 to about 3.5 mg/cm.sup.2. In some embodiments, the porous silicon can be coated with a carbon coating or blended with carbon nanofibers or other conductive carbon material.
Development of the inventions described herein was at least partially funded with government support through U.S. Department of Energy grant ARPA-E-DE-AR0000034, and the U.S. government has certain rights in the inventions.