Faster thin film devices for energy storage and electronics

August 01, 2023

An international team finds new single-crystalline oxide thin films with fast and dramatic changes in electrical properties via Li-ion intercalation through engineered ionic transport channels.

An international research team from the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics, Halle (Saale), Germany, the University of Cambridge, UK and the University of Pennsylvania, USA reported the first realization of single-crystalline T-Nb2O5 thin films having two-dimensional (2D) vertical ionic transport channels, which results in a fast and colossal insulator-metal transition via Li ion intercalation through the 2D channels.

Since the 1940s, scientists have been exploring the use of niobium oxide, specifically a form of niobium oxide known as T-Nb2O5, to create more efficient batteries. This unique material is known for its ability to allow lithium ions, the tiny charged particles that make batteries work, to move quickly within it. The faster these lithium ions can move, the faster a battery can be charged.

The challenge, however, has always been to grow this niobium oxide material into thin, flat layers, or 'films’ that are of high enough quality to be used in practical applications. This problem stems from the complex structure of T-Nb2O5 and the existence of many similar forms, or polymorphs, of niobium oxide.

Now, in a paper published in Nature Materials, researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics, University of Cambridge and the University of Pennsylvania have successfully demonstrated the growth of high-quality, single-crystal thin films of T-Nb2O5, aligned in such a way that the lithium ions can move even faster along vertical ionic transport channels.

Read more in the press release of the MPI Halle

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