BatteryWhen a battery is used, electrically charged ions travel between electrodes, causing those electrodes to shrink and swell. For some time, researchers have wondered why the electrode materials – which are fairly brittle – don’t crack in the expansion and contraction styles.

Now, a team of researchers from MIT, led by ECS member Yet-Ming Chiang, may have found the answer to this mystery.

This from MIT:

While the electrode materials are normally crystalline, with all their atoms neatly arranged in a regular, repetitive array, when they undergo the charging or discharging process, they are transformed into a disordered, glass-like phase that can accommodate the strain of the dimensional changes.

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BatteryJoint research from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and the Council for Scientific Research reports the development of a new ceramic electrode for lithium-ion batteries that can lead to cheaper, more efficient, and safer conventional batteries.

“What we have patented are new ceramic electrodes that are much safer and can work in a wider temperature interval,” says Alejandro Varez, co-author of the research.

To achieve this result, the researchers made ceramic sheets by way of thermoplastic extrusion molds.

“This technique allows making electrodes that are flat or tube-shaped, and these electrodes can be applied to any type of lithium-ion battery,” Varez says.

According to the researchers, the cost of production is low and it could easily be adapted into current lithium-ion battery production, making this an easy technology to move quickly to industrialization.

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BatteryReports of a woman’s headphones catching fire while on a flight from Bejing to Melbourne has once again heightened interest in lithium-ion battery safety. According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the incident occurred while the woman was sleeping mid-flight wearing battery-powered headphones.

Early in 2016, battery expert and ECS fellow, K.M. Abraham, talked to ECS about lithium-ion battery safety concerns amidst reports of exploding hoverboards. Below are some excerpts of what he had to say.

“It is safe to say that these well-publicized hazardous events are rooted in the uncontrolled release of the large amount of energy stored in lithium-ion batteries as a result of manufacturing defects, inferior active and inactive materials used to build cells and battery packs, substandard manufacturing and quality control practices by a small fraction of cell manufacturers, and user abuses of overcharge and over-discharge, short-circuit, external thermal shocks and violent mechanical impacts,” Abraham told ECS. “All of these mistreatments can lead lithium-ion batteries to thermal runaway reactions accompanied by the release of hot combustible organic solvents which catch fire upon contact with oxygen in the atmosphere.”

Read Abraham’s full article.

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BatteryTaking a detailed look inside energy storage systems could help solve potential issues before they arise. A team of researchers from Brookhaven National Laboratory are doing just that by imaging the inner workings of a sodium-metal sulfide battery, leading them to understand the cause of degraded performance.

“We discovered that the loss in battery capacity is largely the result of sodium ions entering and leaving iron sulfide—the battery electrode material we studied—during the first charge/discharge cycle,” says Jun Wang, co-author of the study. “The electrochemical reactions involved cause irreversible changes in the microstructure and chemical composition of iron sulfide, which has a high theoretical energy density. By identifying the underlying mechanism limiting its performance, we seek to improve its real energy density.”

Performance degradation in charge/discharge cycles has been the main problem researchers encounter when pursuing sodium-ion battery research. While the battery’s performance points to degradation issues, not much was previously known about what caused this degradation.

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John Goodenough may be 94-years old, but he shows no sign of slowing down. Now, the co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could result in safer, longer-lasting batteries for everything from electric cars to grid energy storage.

“Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted,” Goodenough says in a statement. “We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries.”

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New Options for Grid Energy Storage

Energy storageResearchers from Oregon State university have developed the first battery that uses only hydronium ions as the charge carrier, which the team believes could yield promising results for the future of sustainable energy storage.

Particularly, the researchers are interested in the area of stationary storage. This type of energy storage primarily refers to on-grid storage to harness power from intermittent sources, such as wind or solar, for later use in general distribution. Stationary energy storage is vital for the energy landscape to transition to more renewable types of energy because it will allow the electrical grid to continue to function when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing.

This from Oregon State University:

Hydronium, also known as H3O+, is a positively charged ion produced when a proton is added to a water molecule. Researchers in the OSU College of Science have demonstrated that hydronium ions can be reversibly stored in an electrode material consisting of perylenetetracarboxylic dianhydridem, or PTCDA.

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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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