BatteryA novel compound called 3Q conducts electricity and retains energy better than other organic materials currently used in batteries, researchers report.

“Our study provides evidence that 3Q, and organic molecules of similar structures, in combination with graphene, are promising candidates for the development of eco-friendly, high capacity rechargeable batteries with long life cycles,” says Loh Kian Ping, professor in the chemistry department at NUS Faculty of Science.

Rechargeable batteries are the key energy storage component in many large-scale battery systems like electric vehicles and smart renewable energy grids. With the growing demand of these battery systems, researchers are turning to more sustainable, environmentally friendly methods of producing them. One option is to use organic materials as an electrode in the rechargeable battery.

Organic electrodes leave lower environment footprints during production and disposal which offers a more eco-friendly alternative to inorganic metal oxide electrodes commonly used in rechargeable batteries.

The structures of organic electrodes can also be engineered to support high energy storage capabilities. The challenge, however, is the poor electrical conductivity and stability of organic compounds when used in batteries. Organic materials currently used as electrodes in rechargeable batteries—such as conductive polymers and organosulfer compounds—also face rapid loss in energy after multiple charges.

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Safer Batteries with Nanodiamonds

BatterySafety concerns regarding lithium-ion batteries have been making headlines in light of smartphone fires and hoverboard explosions. In order to combat safety issues, at team of researchers from Drexel University, led by ECS member Yury Gogotsi, has developed a way to transform a battery’s electrolyte solution into a safeguard against the chemical process that leads to battery fires.

Dendrites – or battery buildups caused by the chemical reactions inside the battery – have been cited as one of the main causes of lithium-ion battery malfunction. As more dendrites compile over time, they can breach the battery’s separator, resulting in malfunction.

(MORE: Read more research by Gogotsi in the ECS Digital Library.)

As part of their solution to this problem, the research team is using nanodiamonds to curtail the electrochemical deposition that leads to the short-circuiting of lithium-ion batteries. To put it in perspective, nanodiamond particles are roughly 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a single hair.

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Juan Pablo EsquivelIn its first Science for Solving Society’s Problems Challenge, ECS partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to leverage the brainpower of electrochemists and solid state scientists, working to find innovative research solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues in water and sanitation. A total of seven projects were selected, resulting in a grand total of $360,000 in funding.

The researchers behind one of those projects recently published an open access paper in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society discussing their results in pursuing a single-use, biodegradable and sustainable battery that minimizes waste. The paper, “Evaluation of Redox Chemistries for Single-Use Biodegradable Capillary Flow Batteries,” was published August 18 and authored by Omar Ibrahim, Perla Alday, Neus Sabaté, Juan Pablo Esquivel (pictured with prototype at right), and Erik Kjeang.

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Lithium-ionResearchers have found a new method for finding lithium, used in the lithium-ion batteries that power modern electronics, in supervolcanic lake deposits.

While most of the lithium used to make batteries comes from Australia and Chile, but scientists say there are large deposits in sources right here in America: supervolcanoes.

In a recently published study, scientists detail a new method for locating lithium in supervolcanic lake deposits.

The findings represent an important step toward diversifying the supply of this valuable silvery-white metal, since lithium is an energy-critical strategic resource, says study coauthor Gail Mahood, a professor of geological sciences at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

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Bacteria-powered Paper Battery

Batteries made of lemons and oranges have been gracing grade school laboratories for years. In addition to fruit-based batteries, now you can make a battery using spit.

The new paper-based bacteria-powered battery can be activated with a single drop of saliva, generating enough power to power an LED light for around 20 minutes.

“The battery includes specialized bacterial cells, called exoelectrogens, which have the ability to harvest electrons externally to the outside electrode,” Seokheun Choi, co-author of the new study, tells Nexus Media. “For the long-term storage, the bacterial cells are freeze-dried until use. This battery can even be used in challenging environmental conditions like desert areas. All you need is an organic matter to rehydrate and activate the freeze-dried cells.”

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BatteryLithium-ion batteries power a vast majority of the world’s portable electronics, from smartphones to laptops. A standard lithium-ion batteries utilizes a liquid as the electrolyte between two electrodes. However, the liquid electrolyte has the potential to lead to safety hazards. Researchers from MIT believe that by using a solid electrolyte, lithium-ion batteries could be safer and able to store more energy. However, most research in the area of all-solid-state lithium-ion batteries has faced significant barriers.

According to the team from MIT, a reason why research into solid electrolytes has been so challenging is due to incorrect interpretation of how these batteries fail.

This from MIT:

The problem, according to this study, is that researchers have been focusing on the wrong properties in their search for a solid electrolyte material. The prevailing idea was that the material’s firmness or squishiness (a property called shear modulus) determined whether dendrites could penetrate into the electrolyte. But the new analysis showed that it’s the smoothness of the surface that matters most. Microscopic nicks and scratches on the electrolyte’s surface can provide a toehold for the metallic deposits to begin to force their way in, the researchers found.

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EnergyIn an effort to expand South Australia’s renewable energy supply, the state has looked to business magnate Elon Musk to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery. The goal of the project is to deliver a grid-scale battery with the ability to stabilize intermittency issues in the area as well as reduce energy prices.

An energy grid is the central component of energy generation and usage. By changing the type of energy that powers that grid in moving from fossil fuels toward more renewable sources, the grid itself changes. Traditional electrical grids demand consistency, using fossil fuels to control production for demand. However, renewable sources such as wind and solar provide intermittency issues that traditional fossil fuels do not. Researchers must look at how we can deliver energy to the electrical grid when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing. This is where energy storage systems, such as batteries, play a pivotal role.

In South Australia, Musk’s battery is intended to sustain 100 megawatts of power and store that energy for 129 megawatt hours. To put it in perspective, that is enough energy to power 30,000 homes and, according to Musk, will be three times as powerful as the world’s current largest lithium-ion battery.

Musk hopes to complete the project by December, stating that “It’s a fundamental efficiency improvement to the power grid, and it’s really quite necessary and quite obvious considering a renewable energy future.”

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Instead of batteries, a new cell phone harvests the few microwatts of power it needs from a different source: ambient radio signals or light.

Researchers were also able to make Skype calls using the battery-free phone, demonstrating that the prototype—made of commercial, off-the-shelf components—can receive and transmit speech and communicate with a base station.

“We’ve built what we believe is the first functioning cell phone that consumes almost zero power,” says Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor of computer science & engineering at the University of Washington and coauthor of the paper.

“To achieve the really, really low power consumption that you need to run a phone by harvesting energy from the environment, we had to fundamentally rethink how these devices are designed.”

Researchers eliminated a power-hungry step in most modern cellular transmissions—converting analog signals that convey sound into digital data that a phone can understand. This process consumes so much energy that it’s been impossible to design a phone that can rely on ambient power sources.

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BatteryIn an effort to develop a more affordable, plentiful alternative to lithium-ion batteries, researchers from Purdue University are pursuing rechargeable potassium based batteries, demonstrating a way to derive carbon for battery electrodes from old tires.

“With the growth of rechargeable batteries for electronic devices, electric vehicles and power grid applications, there has been growing concern about the sustainability and cost of lithium,” says Vilas G. Pol, an associate professor in the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering at Purdue University and former member of ECS. “In the last decade, there has been rapid progress in the investigation of metal-ion batteries beyond lithium, such as sodium and potassium.”

Researchers in the field believe that potassium based batteries show potential for large-scale grid storage due to their low cost and the abundance of the element itself.

“The intermittent energy generated from solar and wind requires new energy storage systems for the grid,” Pol says. “However, the limited global availability of lithium resources and high cost of extraction hinder the application of lithium-ion batteries for such large-scale energy storage. This demands alternative energy storage devices that are based on earth-abundant elements.”

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Ultra-low Temperature Batteries

BatteryA new development in electrolyte chemistry, led by ECS member Shirley Meng, is expanding lithium-ion battery performance, allowing devices to operate at temperatures as low as -60° Celsius.

Currently, lithium-ion batteries stop operating around -20° Celsius. By developing an electrolyte that allows the battery to operate at a high efficiency at a much colder temperature, researchers believe it could allow electric vehicles in cold climates to travel further on a single charge. Additionally, the technology could allow battery-powered devices, such as WiFi drones, to function in extreme cold conditions.

(MORE: Read ECS’s interview with Meng, “The Future of Batteries.”)

This from UC San Diego:

The new electrolytes also enable electrochemical capacitors to run as low as -80 degrees Celsius — their current low temperature limit is -40 degrees Celsius. While the technology enables extreme low temperature operation, high performance at room temperature is still maintained. The new electrolyte chemistry could also increase the energy density and improve the safety of lithium batteries and electrochemical capacitors.

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