Could a Composite of Minerals Including Silver Replace Lithium in Batteries?

From Silver News 30 June 2023

Although lithium batteries are the current choice for many applications

– including electric automobiles – because of their ease of recharging

and longer life than traditional batteries, they suffer from several

drawbacks including incidents of combustion and explosion.

Silver may provide some relief, according to researchers at Duke

University in Durham, North Carolina. They have been experimenting

with replacing lithium with argyrodite, a mineral that contains silver as

well as other elements. In fact, the group is using ‘machine learning,’

a branch of artificial intelligence (AI), to quickly simulate other, new

compounds in their quest to find the best mix of chemicals.

The main advantage to using argyrodite is that it allows a battery to be

‘solid state’ meaning there are no electrolyte liquids in the battery as

there is with lithium cells. The liquids make batteries sensitive to high

temperatures which not only cause gradual degradation but can also

produce what engineers classify as ‘thermal catastrophes’ – fire and


Olivier Delaire, associate professor of mechanical engineering and

materials science at Duke, quoted in, said: “Every electric

vehicle manufacturer is trying to move to new solid-state battery

designs, but none of them are disclosing which compositions they’re

betting on. Winning that race would be a game changer because cars

could charge faster, last longer and be safer all at once.” Delaire and his

group are publicly disclosing their compositions.

He noted that a material made of silver, selenium and tin, a type of

argyrodite, provides a stable structure to which silver atoms move

around, which, in turn helps to produce electric current. They also

found, unexpectedly, that the structure bends its shape to let the silver

atoms move even more freely. Delaire said, “It’s sort of like the silver

atoms are marbles rattling around about the bottom of a very shallow

well, moving about like the crystalline scaffold isn’t solid.”

Now that AI has become more commonplace in research, researchers

like Delaire expect his group’s experiments using computer simulations

to move forward faster than were previously thought possible.