By: Venkat Subramanian, University of Washington

This article refers to a recently published open access paper in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, “Direct, Efficient, and Real-Time Simulation of Physics-Based Battery Models for Stand-Alone PV-Battery Microgrids.”

Renwable grid controlTesla engineered a good electric car successfully by engineering a car design that can accommodate large battery stacks. Our hypothesis is that the current grid control method, which is a derivative of traditional grid control approaches, cannot utilize batteries efficiently.

In the current microgrid control, batteries are treated as “slaves” and are typically expected to be available to meet only the power needs. Typically, if grid optimization is done at the higher level, and then batteries are used as slaves, including models that predict fade can be used in a bi-level optimization mode (optimize grid operations and at every point in time, optimize battery operation). This way of optimization will not yield the best possible outcome for batteries.

In a recently published paper, we show that real-time simulation of the entire microgrid is possible in real-time. We wrote down all of the microgrid equations in mathematical form, including photovoltaic (PV) arrays, PV maximum power point tracking (MPPT) controllers, batteries, and power electronics, and then identified an efficient way to solve them simultaneously with battery models. The proposed approach improves the performance of the overall microgrid system, considering the batteries as collaborators on par with the entire microgrid components. It is our hope that this paper will change the current perception among the grid community.

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Battery

Source: iStock

Today’s electronics consumers all have one thing in common: a desire for smartphones and other portable devices to have longer battery lives. Researchers from the University College Cork are looking to deliver just that with a new development that extends the cycle life of the lithium-ion battery to near record-length by using a key ingredient found in sunscreen.

The method, developed by ECS member and vice chair of the Society’s Electronics and Photonics Division, Colm O’Dwyer, and past members David McNulty and Elaine Carroll, uses titanium dioxide, which is a naturally occurring material capable of absorbing ultraviolet light.

When titanium dioxide is made into a porous substance, it can be charged and discharged over 5,000 times – or 13.5 years – without a drop in capacity.

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CellphoneA new paper published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, “Mixed Conduction Membranes Suppress the Polysulfide Shuttle in Lithium-Sulfur Batteries,” describes a new battery membrane that makes the cycle life of lithium-sulfur batteries comparable to their lithium-ion counterparts.

The research, led by ECS Fellow Sri Narayan, offers a potential solution to one of the biggest barriers facing next generation batteries: how to create a tiny battery that packs a huge punch.

Narayan and Derek Moy, co-author of the paper, believe that lithium-sulfur batteries could be the answer.

The lithium-sulfur battery has been praised for its high energy storage capacity, but hast struggled in competing with the lithium-ion battery when it comes to cycle life. To put it in perspective, a lithium-sulfur battery can be charged between 50 and 100 times; a lithium-ion battery lasts upwards of 1,200 cycles.

To address this issue, the researchers devised the “Mixed Conduction Membrane” (MCM).

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BatteryIn an effort to develop an eco-friendly battery, researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) have created a battery that can store and produce electricity by using seawater.

The research is expected to dramatically improve cost and stability issues over the next five years, with researchers confident about commercialization.

The driving force behind the battery is the sodium found in seawater. Because sodium is so abundant, the researchers believe that this new system will be an attractive supplement to existing battery technologies. Because the seawater battery is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than lithium-ion batteries, the team says the seawater battery could provide an alternative option in large-scale energy storage.

This from UNIST:

Seawater batteries are similar to their lithium-ion cousins since they store energy in the same way. The battery extracts sodium ions from the seawater when it is charged with electrical energy and stores them within the cathode compartment. Upon electrochemical discharge, sodium is released from the anode and reacts with water and oxygen from the seawater cathode to form sodium hydroxide. This process provide energy to power, for instance, an electric vehicle.

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By: Jackie Flynn, Stanford University

UreaA battery made with urea, commonly found in fertilizers and mammal urine, could provide a low-cost way of storing energy produced through solar power or other forms of renewable energy for consumption during off hours.

Developed by Stanford chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell, the battery is nonflammable and contains electrodes made from abundant aluminum and graphite. Its electrolyte’s main ingredient, urea, is already industrially produced by the ton for plant fertilizers.

“So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance,” said Dai. “Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?”

In 2015, Dai’s lab was the first to make a rechargeable aluminum battery. This system charged in less than a minute and lasted thousands of charge-discharge cycles. The lab collaborated with Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to power a motorbike with this older version, earning Dai’s group and ITRI a 2016 R&D 100 Award. However, that version of the battery had one major drawback: it involved an expensive electrolyte.

The newest version includes a urea-based electrolyte and is about 100 times cheaper than the 2015 model, with higher efficiency and a charging time of 45 minutes. It’s the first time urea has been used in a battery. According to Dai, the cost difference between the two batteries is “like night and day.” The team recently reported its work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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BatteryMost of today’s batteries are made up of two solid layers, separated by a liquid or gel electrolyte. But some researchers are beginning to move away from that traditional battery in favor of an all-solid-state battery, which some researchers believe could enhance battery energy density and safety. While there are many barriers to overcome when pursing a feasible all-solid-state battery, researchers from MIT believe they are headed in the right direction.

This from MIT:

For the first time, a team at MIT has probed the mechanical properties of a sulfide-based solid electrolyte material, to determine its mechanical performance when incorporated into batteries.

Read the full article.

“Batteries with components that are all solid are attractive options for performance and safety, but several challenges remain,” says Van Vliet, co-author of the paper. “[Today’s batteries are very efficient, but] the liquid electrolytes tend to be chemically unstable, and can even be flammable. So if the electrolyte was solid, it could be safer, as well as smaller and lighter.”

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ToyotaThe ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship kicked off in 2014, establishing a partnership between The Electrochemical Society and Toyota Research Institute of North America, aimed at funding young scholars pursuing innovative research in green energy technology.

The proposal deadline for the year’s fellowship is Jan. 31, 2017. Apply now!

While you put together your proposals, check out what Patrick Cappillino, one of the fellowship’s inaugural winners, says about his experience with the fellowship and the opportunities it presented.


The Electrochemical Society: Your proposed topic for the ECS Young Investigator Toyota Fellowship was “Mushroom-derived Natural Products as Flow Battery Electrolytes.” What inspired that work?

Patrick Cappillino: This research was inspired by a conversation with a colleague. I was relating the problem of redox instability in flow battery electrolytes. He told me his doctoral work had focused on an interesting molecule called Amavadin, produced by mushrooms, that was extremely stable and easy to make. The lightbulb really went off when we noticed that the starting material was the decomposition product of another flow battery electrolyte that has problems with instability.

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LI-SM3ECS is sponsoring the Lithium Sulfur Batteries: Mechanisms, Modelling and Materials (Li-SM3) 2017 Conference, taking place April 26-27 in London.

This year marks the second Li-SM3 conference, which will bring together top academics, scientists, and engineers from around the world to discuss lithium sulfur rechargeable batteries, among other related topics.

The conference will include four keynote speakers, including ECS member Ratnakumar Bugga, who will deliver a talk entitled “High Energy Density Lithium-Sulfur Batteries for NASA and DoD Applications.” Learn more about the speakers in the conference agenda.

There’s still time to submit a poster abstract. Deadline for posters is March 3.

Register for Li-SM3 today!

The Search for a Super Battery

From electric vehicles to grid storage for renewables, batteries are key components in many of tomorrow’s innovations. But current commercialized batteries face problems of price, efficiency, safety, and life-cycle. The television series, NOVA, is exploring many of those issues in the upcoming episode, “Search for the Super Battery.”

A preview of the episode by CBS News explores two innovators who are working toward the next big thing in battery technology.

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Battery fires led to the recall of nearly 2 million Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones. In order to address this safety concern, researchers at Stanford University have identified 21 solid electrolytes for solid state batteries that could power the next-generation of electronics.

“Electrolytes shuttle lithium ions back and forth between the battery’s positive and negative electrodes,” says lead author of the study Austin Sendek, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University, who worked with ECS member Yi Cui on this research. “Liquid electrolytes are cheap and conduct ions really well, but they can catch fire if the battery overheats or is short-circuited by puncturing.”

As demands from the electronics industry grow and consumers become more suspicious of lithium-ion technology, researchers have started focusing efforts on creating an all-solid-state battery.

“The main advantage of solid electrolytes is stability,” Sendek says. “Solids are far less likely to blow up or vaporize than organic solvents. They’re also much more rigid and would make the battery structurally stronger.”