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Block Copolymer Cathode Binder to Simultaneously Transport Electronic Charge and Ions

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

A Berkeley Lab team led by Nitash Balsara has developed a highly efficient lithium ion battery in which a single inactive material—a polymeric binding agent—serves as a binder that holds active cathode materials together and as a two-lane conductor that simultaneously carries lithium ions and electronic charge.


Using click chemistry, a modular organic synthesis method, Balsara and his team synthesized a binding agent called poly(3-hexyl thiophene)-b-poly(ethylene oxide), or P3HT-PEO. As a binder, P3HT-PEO acts like a glue that holds the active particles of the cathode (e.g., LiFePO4) in place. It also performs as a highway for electronic charge and lithium ions. Chemically, P3HT-PEO is described as a block copolymer that has a sandwich-like structure with alternating P3HT and PEO domains that conduct electronic charge and ions, respectively. Thus, a single material performs all the supporting functions required in a battery electrode.

P3HT is a semiconductor that can only transport electronic charge under specific conditions (applied potentials) offering batteries a novel mechanism for shutdown by blocking the electronic charge. This is an important additional feature that, in principle, can be used to engineer an “intelligent” lithium battery designed to charge rapidly with a built-in mechanism; to protect against overcharging; or turn itself off to prevent catastrophic discharge.

  • Single material serves as cathode binder and conductor of electronic charge and ions
  • Lower cost
  • Semiconducting properties
  • Simpler battery assembly process
  • Lighter weight
Applications and Industries
  • Lithium ion battery manufacturing
  • Electric vehicles
  • Consumer electronics
  • Intelligent battery design
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
IB-3025Prototype - Bench scale.Available01/20/201201/20/2012

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To: Shanshan Li<>