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A Guide to Recent Battery Advances

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  • A Guide to Recent Battery Advances

    A Guide to Recent Battery Advances

    Battery breakthroughs could lower costs and improve performance for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage--but commercializing these new technologies will be challenging.

    Electric vehicles, hybrids, and renewable energy have at least one thing in common--if they're ever going to be more widely used, representing the majority of cars on the road or a large share of electricity supply, batteries need to get significantly better. Batteries will need to store more energy, deliver it faster and more reliably, and ultimately, cost far less. The specific ways batteries need to improve vary by the application, but in all these areas, researchers have been making significant headway.

    Last week, MIT researchers led by Yang-Shao Horn , a professor of materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering, and Paula Hammond, a professor of chemical engineering, announced a new approach to high-power lithium-ion batteries, the type that's useful for hybrid vehicles or for stabilizing the electricity grid. High-power batteries accept and deliver charge rapidly. In hybrids, the goal is to supplement the gasoline engine, allowing it to run at its most efficient. The battery drives the car at low speeds for short distances and boosts acceleration, lowering demand on the engine. It also captures energy from braking that would otherwise be lost as heat. For the electricity grid, such batteries could buffer changes in supply and demand of electricity--something that's becoming more important as more variable sources of electricity are introduced, such as wind and solar power.

    The MIT researchers demonstrated a new battery electrode, based on specially treated carbon nanotubes, that last for thousands of cycles without any loss in performance. Batteries made from these electrodes could deliver enough power to propel large delivery vans or garbage trucks, for example, without the batteries being too heavy to be practical. (The researchers need to increase the thickness of the electrodes for them to be practical in these applications.) Companies such as A123 Systems, based in Watertown, MA, have also developed very high-power lithium-ion batteries, and other academic groups and startups are developing carbon nanotube-based ultracapacitors, which store energy using a different mechanism than batteries that's particularly useful for high power and long life.

    While the new electrodes could eventually be useful for hybrids, and for stabilizing the grid, they aren't particularly good for other applications such as all-electric vehicles. For electric vehicles, the total amount of energy that batteries store is more important than how fast that energy can be delivered, since it's the total amount that determines how far these cars can travel between charges. The MIT researchers who developed the new carbon nanotube electrodes are also developing a different type of battery to store large amounts of energy. Called a lithum-air battery, where one of a battery's two electrodes is replaced by an interface with the air, the technology has recently attracted large amounts of government funding and interest from companies such as IBM. In theory, such batteries could store three times as much energy as conventional lithium-ion batteries. But the design has a number of problems that make it hard to commercialize, among the vulnerability of its active materials to moisture (the lithium metal it uses can catch fire if it gets wet) and the batteries' tendency to stop working after being recharged just a few times.
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    Video of the technology

    http://link.brightcove.com/services/...d=102828916001

    Also mentioned in the comments
    Ionic Liquids For Your Air Battery

    An Arizona State University spin off, Fluidic Energy in Scottsdale, AZ, was awarded a U.S. Department of Energy research grant of $5.13 million at the end of October 2009. Fluidic Energy says it can develop a metal-air battery that dramatically outperforms the best lithium-ion batteries on the market. Now the company has the cash coming it needs to prove it.

    The money goes to developing a metal-air battery that relies on ionic liquids, instead of an aqueous solution, as its electrolyte. Ionic liquids essentially are salts that are liquid at room temperature, and which often can remain a liquid in sub-zero temperatures or above the boiling point of water.

    The U.S. Air Force Academy about 25 years ago to work out the problem of water in the electrolytes can evaporate, causing the batteries to prematurely fail and that water also has a relatively low electrochemical window, meaning it will begin to decompose when the cell exceeds 1.23 volts. By the early 1980s the Academy experimented with ionic liquids.

    John Wilkes, an ionic liquids expert who heads the Academy’s chemistry department says in a quote from Tyler Hamilton’s article in Technology Review, “They’re wonder fluids. They’re remarkable. If you look at these liquids in a bottle, they look like water, except they’re viscous. They’re not volatile, they don’t evaporate, they’re physically stable and they conduct electricity fairly well.”



    Ionic Liquid In Mineral Oil. Click image for more information.

    That is a clue for the metal air battery community, both zinc and lithium that typically rely on water-based electrolytes. Oxygen from ambient air is drawn in through a porous “air” electrode (-cathode) and produces hydroxyl ions on contact with the electrolyte. These ions reach the anode and begin to oxidize the metal, a reaction that produces current through the release of the electrons. No evaporation and no oxidation would be a wonderful attribute.

    Cody Friesen a founder of Fluidic Energy and a professor of materials science at Arizona State says the use of ionic liquids overcomes many of the problems that have held back metal-air batteries in the past says, “I’m not claiming we have it yet, but if we do succeed, it really does change the way we think about storage,”

    Freisen’s ASU team has a few years under their belt experimenting with various ionic liquids. They’ve learned a metal-air battery using an ionic liquid as its electrolyte not only functions significantly longer, because drying out is no longer a problem, but ionic liquid batteries also get a big boost in energy density.

    Here is a gasp moment, Friesen says, “These liquids have electrochemical stability windows of up to five volts, so it allows you to go to much more energy-dense metals than zinc.” The team plans will target energy densities of at least 900 watt-hours per kilogram and up to 1,600 watt-hours per kilogram in the DOE-funded project. Now that’s rich battery energy density, very rich indeed.

    University of Alabama Professor of Chemistry Robin Rogers says the challenge is finding “commodity ionic liquids” with the right set of properties that can completely change the economic equation for metal-air batteries. “It’s not impossible,” he says. “I look at ionic liquids and say, take a step back, because you need to do it in a completely different way.”

    Wilkes also addresses the availability problem that Friesen’s team will need to work out. Ionic liquids are still made in small quantities, making them expensive compared to many other solvents used to dissolve salts. But Wilkes also know that, “But some people are making ionic liquids now out of things that are already known and produced in high quantities, like detergents.”

    Undeterred, Friesen downplays the cost concern, pointing out that the liquids become quite economical when developed in-house in large volumes.

    Covering the proprietary matters Friesen is careful not to say too much about the ionic liquids his team has developed, revealing only that there are “several contenders that seem to work well.”

    The other matter that haunts the metal air community is the problem of dendrite formation on the metal films. Friesen is hinting in the interview that their metal electrode structure overcomes the dendrite formation problem. Dendrite formation occurs in rechargeable batteries when the chemical reactions are reversed, limiting the number of charging cycles with branching structures that short circuit electrodes.

    Reports have it that Fluidic Energy has developed an electrode scaffold with multi-modal porosity, meaning the range of pore sizes is down to as small as 10 nanometers. The scaffold surrounds the metal, in the example of zinc, and can prevent dendrites from forming during charging.

    The DOE and Friesen know they’re on to something with the possible solutions to eliminate water and its evaporation, boost voltage by 3 fold and more, and eliminate the dendrite formation. Friesen says, “We’re working now on taking it to the next level. It’s about taking everything we’ve done over the last four years and leveraging that work into a battery that looks and feels just like a lithium battery, but has energy densities far beyond that.”

    Should these developments make it to market with the attributes in tact or better, energy storage in batteries would have much broader applications. The performance increases could take personal transport ranges out to perhaps 500 miles, reduce the weight and the cost. Friesen allows all that, “at a cost just a little over lead-acid batteries.”

    Its just enough progress to put a little well placed confidence in batteries. It’s just enough to serve notice to Eestor to get control of those prices before they hit the market with their ultra capacitor. The hint is also there that the batteries could work well across a wide range of climates and temperatures.

    The story so far also leaves a question – just what energy denser metals are they experimenting with?
    Last edited by Rajiv; 07-28-10, 10:36 AM. Reason: added ionic liquids link

  • #2
    Re: A Guide to Recent Battery Advances

    Excellent info, Rajiv - thanks.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: A Guide to Recent Battery Advances

      Originally posted by thriftyandboringinohio View Post
      Excellent info, Rajiv - thanks.
      I agree wholeheartedly. I look forward to digesting this tomorrow.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: A Guide to Recent Battery Advances

        Yes, keep us in the loop.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: A Guide to Recent Battery Advances

          A better battery changes the world.

          As part of our transformation from fossil fuels to Alt-E, research and startups need to be government assisted in this critical technology.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: A Guide to Recent Battery Advances

            Originally posted by we_are_toast View Post
            A better battery changes the world.

            As part of our transformation from fossil fuels to Alt-E, research and startups need to be government assisted in this critical technology.
            The fact is, that is exactly where we have been going wrong. What we need is a private savings institution that has a remit to provide the very assistance that government has traditionally been trying to provide. What is it about long term investment of savings to promote the long term prosperity of a nation that the present FIRE economy does not understand?

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: A Guide to Recent Battery Advances

              No, it won't be easy.

              Tesla shares skid hits 4th straight day

              Palo Alto electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. fell below the $17 price its shares sold for last week in the first initial public offering by a U.S. automaker in more than a half-century.

              The maker of the $109,000 electric Roadster retreated for a fourth straight day, losing 16 percent to $16.11 in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. The company has slid 33 percent since rising 41 percent on the first day of trading June 29.

              The $260 million IPO, the first by an American car company since Ford Motor Co. in 1956, is funding a startup that expects to lose more money in the next two years as it tries to build a $57,400 battery-powered sedan.

              Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who made almost $300 million selling PayPal Inc. and Zip2 Corp., brought Tesla public as the Standard & Poor's 500 index posted its worst quarterly drop since 2008.

              "The company is a great concept with relatively weak fundamentals," said Josef Schuster, the Chicago-based founder of Ipox Capital Management LLC and manager of the Direxion Long/Short Global IPO Fund. "Markets are weak, and in a weak market right now this is hurting the company even more."

              The automaker, which now has a market capitalization of $1.5 billion, sold 15.3 million shares at $17 each after an over-allotment option was exercised, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company will use proceeds for factories and possible acquisitions.

              The decline in the shares erased Musk's paper gains of at least $361 million from the remaining 26.89 million shares he owns in Tesla, the company's regulatory filings and data compiled by Bloomberg show. His stake is now valued at about $433 million, less than the $457 million after the IPO.

              Tesla raised 27 percent more than it originally sought after boosting the number of shares it was offering to 13.3 million from 11.1 million. Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. of New York, along with Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank AG, led Tesla's offering.

              The stock rallied on the first day of trading even as the S&P 500 slid 3.1 percent on concern over growth in China and lower-than-estimated U.S. consumer confidence. The sale also came after at least 35 companies worldwide postponed or withdrew IPOs since the start of May as the European debt crisis sent the S&P 500 down as much as 14 percent from its 2010 high.

              The first-day advance was the second-biggest for a U.S. IPO this year after Financial Engines Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Palo Alto investment adviser co-founded by Nobel laureate William Sharpe increased 44 percent on March 16.

              Electric-car technology has been supported by U.S. policymakers including President Obama as a way to reduce the nation's oil use and dependence on foreign energy sources. Obama set a goal of getting 1 million plug-in hybrids and electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015 and subsidized Tesla with a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy to develop its cars.

              Tesla's net loss in the first quarter almost doubled to $29.5 million from a year earlier. The deficit is more than half the $55.7 million the carmaker lost in all of 2009.

              "They brought this thing into a market that was not rewarding hype," said Michael Holland, who oversees more than $4 billion as chairman of Holland & Co. in New York. "The stock did get its pop, and now it's plagued by the reality of the marketplace. The reality of the marketplace is that people aren't paying for dreams and visions."

              http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cg...BUK11EABC3.DTL

              Comment


              • #8
                New "Ultra-Battery" as Energy-Dense as High Explosives

                New "Ultra-Battery" as Energy-Dense as High Explosives

                Metallized xenon difluoride heralds a new class of solid fuels.
                By Christopher Mims

                The energy density of batteries is tremendously important as an enabler of new technologies. Meanwhile, the scramble to create ever more powerful batteries has even led some manufacturers to contemplate powering cell phones with energy-dense hydrocarbons like propane.

                This is why the claims made for an extremely early-stage "ultra-battery" recently announced in the journal Nature Chemistry are so remarkable.

                "If you think about it, [this] is the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy," said inventor Choong-Shik Yoo of Washington State University. Yoo's ultra-battery consists of "xenon difluoride (XeF2), a white crystal used to etch silicon conductors," compressed to an ultra-dense state inside a diamond vice exerting a pressure of more than two million atmospheres.

                Applying this level of pressure to XeF2 "metallizes" the substance, pushing all of its atoms closer together, into a new stable state.



                This figure shows how the crystal changes color as it changes states, from a relatively soft transparent crystal to a "reddish two-dimensional graphite-like hexagonal layered structure," and then, above 70 Gigapascals of pressure, to a "black three-dimensional fluorite-like structure," which is a metal.

                In its ultra-dense state, the mechanical energy transmitted to the metallized XeF2 is now stored in the substance itself as a kind of chemical energy. All it takes to release it is a perturbation of a single atom in the crystal, which will cause the entire metallized substance to spontaneously "unzip," says Yoo.

                The reaction would be, quite literally, explosive. In an instant the XeF2 would turn its stored energy into thermal energy with almost 100% efficiency. The XeF2 stores about 1 kilajoule of energy per gram, or "about 10% of the energy stored in a rocket fuel of liquid H2 and O2 mixtures, or about 20% of [the energy stored in] one of the most powerful explosives, HMX," says Yoo. When viewed as a potential energy storage medium, this discovery qualifies as "a new class of energetic molecules or solid fuels," he adds.

                Until we figure out how to build rocket-powered consumer electronics, the trick to turning XeF2 into a viable means for storing and releasing energy is to figure out what sort of impurities to add to make it "metastable," just like all the combustible fossil fuels we are surrounded by, which we call plastics.

                "If you think about all materials we know, 95% or more are in a metastable state," says Yoo.

                Metastability is a fundamental problem in materials research, and is common to many other substances that metallize and acquire exotic properties after being compressed to an extreme degree, including CO2, N2, O2 etc. If Yoo and his colleagues can conquer this issue for a common substances that can acquire a new molecular configuration at high pressures, they will have created an entirely new means of storing energy.

                That goal is a long way off, however - so far Yoo's discovery has only been synthesized in the lab, in amounts so tiny that when it "unzips" it poses no hazard.

                Comment


                • #9
                  New technology could make Li Ion batteries last for 50 years

                  A Boost for Battery Life and Capacity

                  A Boost for Battery Life and Capacity
                  Electric cars could benefit from a new manufacturing method.


                  By Kevin Bullis

                  A new chemical trick for making nanostructured materials could help increase the range and reliability of electric cars and lead to better batteries that could help stabilize the power grid.

                  Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, WA, have developed the technique, which can turn a potential electrode material that cannot normally store electricity into one that stores more energy than similar battery materials already on the market.

                  In work published in the journal Nano Letters, the PNNL researchers show that paraffin wax and oleic acid encourages the growth of platelike nanostructures of lithium-manganese phosphate. These "nanoplates" are small and thin, allowing electrons and ions (atoms or molecules with a positive or negative charge) to move in and out of them easily. This turns the material--which ordinarily doesn't work as a battery material because of its very poor conductivity--into one that stores large amounts of electricity.

                  When the researchers measured the performance of the material, they discovered that it could store 10 percent more energy than the theoretical maximum energy capacity of a comparable commercial electrode material--lithium-iron phosphate, which is used in power tools and some hybrid and electric vehicles.

                  The approach could open the door to using a wide range of candidate battery materials that are now limited by their ability to conduct electricity and lithium ions. Research in the area has reached the point at which most of the battery materials left to be studied have bad conductivity, says Daiwon Choi, an energy materials researcher at PNNL. The new method provides a simple way to increase their conductivity. He says the method could also be compatible with conventional battery-manufacturing techniques.

                  Both lithium-iron phosphate and lithium-manganese phosphate are attractive at battery electrodes because they have a stable atomic structure. This crystalline structure--called olivine--is far more stable than the crystal structure of electrode materials used in laptop and cell-phone batteries. As a result, olivine materials can last much longer than the three years that cell-phone battery materials typically last. Some manufacturers claim that lithium-iron phosphate batteries could last for over 30,000 complete charge and discharge cycles without losing much of their capacity to store energy--enough for the battery to last 50 years, Choi says.

                  In theory, lithium-manganese phosphate could last for a similar number of cycles, because it has a similar crystalline structure. But it has the added advantage of potentially being able to store 20 percent more energy than lithium-iron phosphate, since it operates at a higher voltage. However, it has been particularly hard to modify lithium-manganese phosphate to overcome the fact that it's an electrical insulator.

                  Previous attempts have required processing precursor materials in a liquid solution before creating solid battery materials--a process that's too expensive for commercial production. The new method developed at PNNL eliminates this separate liquid-processing step, simplifying the process and making it compatible with existing manufacturing techniques.

                  To prepare the material, the researchers mix chemical precursors with paraffin wax and oleic acid. The wax and acid work together to cause the precursor materials to form crystals of a well-controlled size and shape without clumping up. The wax liquefies at the high temperatures used to process the material and acts as a solvent that replaces the separate liquid processing step used in earlier research.

                  So far, the material can only be charged at low rates (although it delivers power fast enough for many applications). Choi says one of the next steps is to develop a better process for coating the nanoplates with carbon, which should improve conductivity.

                  Although lithium-manganese phosphate is attractive because it stores more energy than lithium-iron phosphate, both take up a relatively large amount of volume compared to other types of electrodes for lithium ion batteries. Jeff Dahn, professor of physics and chemistry at Dalhousie University, says this could ultimately make them more attractive for stationary applications--such as storing power on the electricity grid to help smooth out variability from renewable sources--than for electric vehicles.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: New technology could make Li Ion batteries last for 50 years

                    Thanks for sharing that Rajiv. There's no question that this is a field to watch closely going forward.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: New technology could make Li Ion batteries last for 50 years

                      Originally posted by Fiat Currency View Post
                      Thanks for sharing that Rajiv. There's no question that this is a field to watch closely going forward.
                      Yes, thanks.
                      Is there a way to prevent that video from automatically running when you come to this thread? Not only is it annoying, but it eats up bandwidth and usage limitations for some of us who don't have unlimited access to the internet.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: New technology could make Li Ion batteries last for 50 years

                        I took it off the iframe. That should do it.

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