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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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.”

There’s a major player in the autonomous, electric car industry that may just outpace transportation mogul Tesla. Faraday Future, an American start-up focused on developing intelligent electric vehicles, just unveiled its first self-driving supercar called the FF91.

Faraday Future states that the vehicle’s 130 kWh battery delivers a range of 378 miles on a single charge. Additionally, 10 cameras, 13 radar sensors, and 12 ultrasonic sensors help power the vehicle’s autonomous abilities.

But Nick Samson, Faraday Future’s senior vice president of engineering, says that the FF91 is “more than just a car,” rather an “intelligent entity.”

In addition to the batter and self-driving tech, the FF91 boasts an infotainment system that allows passengers to watch TV based on your preferences, which are known by the car due to an online profile.

Battery Research for Higher Voltages

BatteryLithium-ion batteries supply billions of portable devices with energy. While current Li-ion battery designs may be sufficient for applications such as smartphones and tablets, the rise of electric vehicles and power storage systems demands new battery technology with new electrode materials and electrolytes.

ECS student member Michael Metzger is looking to address that issue by developing a new battery test cell that can investigate anionic and cationic reactions separately.

Along with Benjamin Strehle, Sophie Slochenbach, and ECS Fellow Hubert A. Gasteiger, Metzger and company published their new findings in the Journal of The Elechemical Society in two open access papers.

(READ: “Origin of H2 Evolution in LIBs: H2O Reduction vs. Electrolyte Oxidation” and “Hydrolysis of Ethylene Carbonate with Water and Hydroxide under Battery Operating Conditions“)

“Manufacturers of rechargeable batteries are building on the proven lithium-ion technology, which has been deployed in mobile devices like laptops and cell phones for many years,” says Metzger, the 2016 recipient of ECS’s Herbert H. Uhlig Summer Fellowship. “However, the challenge of adapting this technology to the demands of electromobility and stationary electric power storage is not trivial.”

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SmartphoneRecent safety concerns with lithium-ion batteries exploding in devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone and hoverboards have many energy researchers looking into this phenomenon for a better understanding of how batteries function when stressed.

A new open access paper published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society provides some insight into these safety hazards associated with the Li-ion battery by taking a look inside the battery as it is overworked and overcharged.

Overcharging or overheating Li-ion batteries causes the materials inside to breakdown and produce bubbles of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gases. As more of these gases are produced, they begin to buildup and cause the battery to swell. That swelling can lead to explosion.

“The battery can either pillow a small amount and keep operating, pillow a lot and cease operation, or keep generating gas and rupture the cell, which can be accompanied by an explosion or fire,” Toby Bond, co-author of the paper, told New Scientist.

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Electric vehicleJust over ten years ago, the number of electric vehicles on the road could be counted in the hundreds. Now, more than 1.3 million EVs have been deployed across the globe. But even as EVs become a stronger force in the transportation sector, many buyers still cite one major deterrent in going electric: range anxiety.

Range anxiety refers to the fear that during longer trips, the EV battery may run out of energy and leave drivers stranded without a charging station. However, Ford, BMW, and VW are planning to but this fear to rest in Europe where they’re planning to develop a networking of charging stations along major highways.

The car companies believe this implementation of these stations will help enable long-rage travel and facilitate the mass-market adoption of EVs. Because current EVs cannot exceed a 300 mile driving range on single charge, the establishment of ultra-fast charging stations will help take away some of the anxiety drivers feel behind the wheel.

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Powin Energy, a company focused on creating dynamic energy storage solutions, recently announced their plan to install a 30 kW/40 kW-hour battery system at the University of Washington’s Washington Clean Energy Testbeds. The testbed facility was developed by UW to scale-up, prototype, test, and validate new clean energy solutions. Powin Energy hopes to assist the researchers at the facility in their quest to develop clean energy innovation.

“We’re excited about this installation at the University of Washington because it will give our technology a more rigorous workout than most real-world installations that don’t approach the far ends of usage parameters,” Virgil Beaston, CTO of Powin Energy, said in a statement.

Venkat Subramanian, technical editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society and UW professor, discussed this energy storage opportunity, stating the he and his team could “use the Powin BESS to measure the performance of energy devices and algorithms when integrated into real and simulated system environments.”

Powin’s partnership with UW comes after the company’s development of its newly patented Battery Pack Operating system, which was designed to make its way into the utility-scale storage market. The company has already installed a 2MW/8MW-hour battery system in Irvine, CA.

Steve Martin

ECS member Steve Martin receives a $2.5M grant to pursue research in glassy solids.
Image: Christopher Gannon

The world relies on battery power. The smartphone market alone – which is powered by lithium-ion batteries – is expected to reach 1.5B units in 2016. ECS member Steve Martin believes he may be able to take those batteries to the next level through efforts in glassy solids.

Martin, a professor at Iowa State University and associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, has been in the field of battery research for over 30 years. Throughout that time, his main focus of research has shifted to measuring the basic properties of glassy solids and trying to understand how their ions move and the thermal and chemical stability.

Martin believes that using glass solids as the electrolytes in batteries would make them safer and more powerful. This is an effort to diverge from traditional liquid-electrolyte batteries, which have experienced issues with safety and energy capacity.

To push this research, Martin recently received a three-year, $2.5M grant from the DOE.

“This is my dream-come-true project,” Martin says. “This is what I’ve been working on for 36 years.”

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