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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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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Catalysts

Image: MIT

The future of renewable energy heavily depends on energy storage technologies. At the center of these technologies are oxygen-evaluation reactions, which make possible such processes as water splitting, electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction, and ammonia production.

However, the kinetics of the oxygen-evolution reactions tend to be slow. But metal oxides involved in this process have catalytic activities that vary over several orders of magnitude, with some exhibiting the highest such rates reported to date. The origins of these activates are not well-understood by the scientific community.

A new study from MIT, led by 2016 winner of the Battery Division Research Award, Yang Shao-Horn, shows that in some of these catalysts, the oxygen does not only come from surrounding water molecules – some actually come from within the crystal lattice of the catalyst material itself.

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Renewable liquid fuelRenewable energy is on the rise, but how we store that energy is still up for debate.

“Renewable energy is growing, but it’s intermittent,” says Grigorii Soloveichik, program director at the United States Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency. “That means we need to store that energy and we have two ways to do that: electricity or liquid fuels.”

According to Soloveichik, electricity and batteries are sufficient for short term energy storage, but new technologies such as liquid fuels derived from renewable energy must be considered for long term storage.

During the PRiME 2016 meeting in October, Soloveichik presented a talk titled, “Development of Transformational Technologies,” where he described the advantages that carbon neutral liquid fuels have over other convention means – such as batteries – for efficient, affordable, long term storage for renewable energy sources.

Rise of renewables

In the United States, 16.9 percent of electricity generation comes from renewables – a 9.3 percent increase since 2015. Globally, climate talks such as the Paris Agreement help bolster the rise of renewable energy around the world. Soloveichik expects that growth to continue in light of the affordability of clean energy technologies and government mandates that aim at environmental protection and a reduction of the carbon footprint. However, the continued rise in renewable dependence will impact the current grid infrastructure.

“More renewables will result in more stress on the grid,” Soloveichik says. “All of these new sources are intermittent, so we need to be able to store huge amounts of energy.”

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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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Flow batteryA team of researchers at Case Western Reserve University is building a flow battery prototype to provide cleaner, cheaper power.

The team, co-led by ECS member Bob Savinell, is working to scale up the technology in order develop a practical, efficient energy storage device that can store excess electricity and potentially augment the grid in light of a shift toward renewables.

With a $1.17 million federal grant, the team has started to build a 1-kilowatt prototype with enough power to run various, high-powered household devices for six hours.

“Intermittent energy sources, such as solar and wind, combined with traditional sources of coal and nuclear power, are powering the grid. To meet peak demand, we often use less-efficient coal or gas-powered turbines,” says Savinell, ECS Fellow and editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. “But if we can store excess energy and make it available at peak use, we can increase the overall efficiency and decrease the amount of carbon dioxide emitted and lower the cost of electricity.”

One of the biggest barriers preventing the large-scale use of electrochemical energy storage devices has been the cost. To address this, Savinell and his team have been developing the flow battery with cheaper materials, such as iron and water.

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How to Make Solar Work

Solar energyGlobal energy demands are predicted to reach 46 terawatts by 2100. That number is a far reach from the 18 terawatts of energy currently generated around the world. According to one expert in the field, a major shift in the way we produce and consume energy is necessary in order to meet future demands.

Meng Tao, ECS member and Arizona State University professor, discussed how society could move toward meeting those demands at the PRiME 2016 meeting, where he presented his paper, “Terawatt Solar Photovoltaics: Roadblocks and Our Approaches.”

“We just cannot continue to consume fossil fuels the way we have for the last 200 years,” Tao told ECS. “We have to move from a fossil fuel infrastructure to a renewable infrastructure.”

For Tao, the world’s society cannot set on a path of “business as usual” by producing energy via coal, oil, and natural gas. And while solar energy has experienced a growth rate of nearly 45 percent in the last decade, it still only accounts for less than one percent of all electricity generated.

The shift to solar

Historically, solar technology soars when oil prices are at their highest. This is especially true during the oil embargo of the 1970s. During that time, private and public investments began to shift away from fossil fuels and toward solar and other renewable energies. That trend emerged again in the early 2000s when oil prices skyrocketed to a record-setting $140 per barrel.

“In the 1970s, the motivation to invest in solar and other forms of renewable energy was geopolitical,” Tao says. “Now, that motivation tends to focus more on the environment and sustainability.”

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