BatteryResearchers from Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science recently developed a method that could result in safer, longer-lasting, bendable lithium-ion batteries. To do this, the team applied ice-templating to control the structure of the solid electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries.

Recent reports of cell phones and hoverboards bursting into flames have made people aware of the safety concerns related to the lithium-ion battery’s liquid electrolyte. The researchers behind this new work decided to confront the safety issues by exploring the use of a solid electrolyte, therefore developing an all-solid-state lithium battery.

[The researchers] were interested in using ice-templating to fabricate vertically aligned structures of ceramic solid electrolytes, which provide fast lithium ion pathways and are highly conductive. They cooled the aqueous solution with ceramic particles from the bottom and then let ice grow and push away and concentrate the ceramic particles. They then applied a vacuum to transition the solid ice to a gas, leaving a vertically aligned structure. Finally, they combined this ceramic structure with polymer to provide mechanical support and flexibility to the electrolyte.

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BatteryA new mathematical model may help researchers design new materials for use in high-power batteries. According to the research team, the model could benefit chemists and materials scientists who typically rely on a trial and error method when developing new materials for batteries and capacitors.

“The potential here is that you could build batteries that last much longer and make them much smaller,” says Daniel Tartakovsky, co-author of the study. “If you could engineer a material with a far superior storage capacity than what we have today, then you could dramatically improve the performance of batteries.”

Demand for affordable, efficient energy storage continues to increase as more entities transition toward renewable energy. While there are many researchers working in the area of energy storage, the team behind this development is looking at the field in a new light.

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BatteryOne of the keys to developing a successful electric vehicle relies on energy storage technology. For an EV to be successful in the marketplace, it must be able to travel longer distances (i.e. over 300 miles on a single charge).

A team of researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, including ECS fellow Meilin Liu, has recently created a nanofiber that they believe could enable the next generation of rechargeable batteries, and with it, EVs. The recently published research describes the team’s development of double perovskite nanofibers that can be used as highly efficient catalysts in fast oxygen evolution reactions. Improvements in this key process could open new possibilities for metal-air batteries.

“Metal-air batteries, such as those that could power electric vehicles in the future, are able to store a lot of energy in a much smaller space than current batteries,” Liu says. “The problem is that the batteries lack a cost-efficient catalyst to improve their efficiency. This new catalyst will improve that process.”

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By: Jonathan Coopersmith, Texas A&M University

EVImagine if you could gas up your GM car only at GM gas stations. Or if you had to find a gas station servicing cars made from 2005 to 2012 to fill up your 2011 vehicle. It would be inconvenient and frustrating, right? This is the problem electric vehicle owners face every day when trying to recharge their cars. The industry’s failure, so far, to create a universal charging system demonstrates why setting standards is so important – and so difficult.

When done right, standards can both be invisible and make our lives immeasurably easier and simpler. Any brand of toaster can plug into any electric outlet. Pulling up to a gas station, you can be confident that the pump’s filler gun will fit into your car’s fuel tank opening. When there are competing standards, users become afraid of choosing an obsolete or “losing” technology.

Most standards, like electrical plugs, are so simple we don’t even really notice them. And yet the stakes are high: Poor standards won’t be widely adopted, defeating the purpose of standardization in the first place. Good standards, by contrast, will ensure compatibility among competing firms and evolve as technology advances.

My own research into the history of fax machines illustrates this well, and provides a useful analogy for today’s development of electric cars. In the 1960s and 1970s, two poor standards for faxing resulted in a small market filled with machines that could not communicate with each other. In 1980, however, a new standard sparked two decades of rapid growth grounded in compatible machines built by competing manufacturers who battled for a share of an increasing market. Consumers benefited from better fax machines that seamlessly worked with each other, vastly expanding their utility.

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25 Years of Lithium-ion Batteries

Focus IssuesIn June 2016, the International Meeting on Lithium Batteries (IMLB) in Chicago successfully celebrated 25 years of the commercialization of lithium-ion batteries. According to Doron Aurbach, technical editor of the Batteries and Energy Storage topical interest area of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, research efforts in the Li-battery community continues to provide ground-breaking technological success in electromobility and grid storage applications. He hopes this research will continue to revolutionize mobile energy supply for future advances in ground transportation.

ECS has published 66 papers for a new IMLB focus issue in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. All papers are open access at no charge to the authors and no charge to download thanks to ECS’s Free the Science initiative!

(READ: Focus Issue of Selected Papers from IMLB 2016 with Invited Papers Celebrating 25 Years of Lithium Ion Batteries)

The focus issue provides important information on the forefront of advanced battery research that appropriately reflects the findings from the symposium.

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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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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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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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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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