Improving Lead Batteries

Photo Credit: Essential Energy Everyday

Lead batteries have been around 1859. They’ve changed our lives, giving us car batteries, standby batteries in case power outages, electric vehicles, and more. Still, despite all this progress, no one really understands the inner workings of lead batteries. According to Essential Energy Everyday, for the last century, lead battery manufacturers have invested much of their research in creating function and production, without fully understanding the underlying chemistry. However, that’s soon said to change as lead batteries are headed for a “high-tech makeover.”

A team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium, and Electric Applications have joined forces to realize the potential of a venerable battery technology.

Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science and ECS member, says this is a beautiful example of how synergy between industry and science can drive innovation.

“These leading companies of the lead battery industry want to do pre-competitive R&D using some of the most advanced tools, techniques, and capabilities at Argonne to help improve the longevity of lead batteries. Every company faces this problem. Once you understand the complex chemical interactions inside these batteries, you can start to propose solutions to further extend their life,” says Srinivasan.

The team will work on understanding the mechanics of the battery during its operation, while also exploring the behavior of materials at the atomic scale to reveal the structure-function relationships responsible for lead battery operation.

Srinivasan says this research can help unlock the potential for the next generation of batteries, as today’s technology allows researchers to see things they couldn’t have seen even 10 years ago.

Once Argonne researchers better understand these processes, their next goal is to analyze how the addition of various additives may improve lead battery performance.

Tim Ellis, Chairman of ALABC, and President of RSR Technologies says, “Lead batteries are a critical foundation technology underpinning everything from the cars we drive to the cell phone networks they back up. This new project, with Argonne’s scientists, will help make the leap to the next generation of advanced lead batteries, as well as supporting efforts to meet the growing demand for reliable, safe and effective rechargeable battery energy storage. This is cutting edge research employing techniques not previously utilized for lead batteries, and we are confident the results will prove ground-breaking.”

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