The Current State of Battery Research

By: Marca Doeff, ECS Battery Division Chair

Marca Doeff, a staff scientist in the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and chair of the ECS Battery Division, discusses the future of batteries. Doeff covers advancements and developments, notable contributors and leaders, corporate sponsors and supporters, upcoming meetings and awards, all within the battery field.

What are a few current areas of battery research the division is focusing on?
Anything having to do with lithium-ion batteries, since they are turning out to be the real workhorses of the battery world. While the chemistry is fairly mature at this point, there is still a lot of work going on in silicon anodes, trying to find better cathode materials, and improving electrolytes.

There are also intense efforts going into recycling, advanced manufacturing, and understanding and mitigating safety issues. The so-called “Beyond Li-ion” systems have been the focus of a lot of research in recent years. The ideas for many of these have been around for a while-like lithium metal batteries with sulfur cathodes, or sodium ion (one of my favorites), solid state batteries, or even multivalent chemistries, but the revolution in battery science over the past 25 years or so means that it is worthwhile taking a fresh look at these systems. (more…)

Have you ever picked up your cell, looked at the battery life, and go, “But I just charged this thing. What gives?” It’s not just you. According to The Washington Post, the smartphones battery life is getting worse. And, chances are, you’re new and upgraded 2018 smartphone’s battery life is actually worse than older models.

Phone makers have claimed to have tackled this battle by including more-efficient processors, low-power modes, and artificial intelligence to manage app drain, but it’s no secret to the battery industry that the lithium-ion batteries in smartphones have hit a plateau.

So, what gives? According to Nadim Maluf, CEO of a firm that optimizes batteries called Qnovos, batteries improve at a very slow pace, about 5 percent per year. (more…)

Q&A with George E. Blomgren

George BlomgrenGeorge E. Blomgren is the author of “The Development and Future of Lithium Ion Batteries,” the most-downloaded Journal of The Electrochemical Society paper since April 2017. To put this in perspective, Blomgren’s article has had 26,817 downloads this year. That is over 4.4 times the average amount received by the next nine most-downloaded JES papers for this year. Since its publication in December 2016, Blomgren’s paper has been downloaded a total of 53,575 times.

We decided to revisit the man with the incredible stats, and ask, how did you do it?

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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. (more…)

MRS Webinar with Shirley MengThe Electrochemical Society and Materials Research Society are co-presenting a webinar on Frontiers in Solid State Batteries on Wednesday, October 24, 2018, from 1200-1330h ET.

ECS fellow, Shirley Meng, will be a presenter during the webinar. Jagjit Nanda of Oak Ridge National Laboratory will serve as the host for the webinar.

Webinar description

The advantages of solid state batteries were not fully recognized until the 1960s, with the discovery of beta-alumina, which led to the development of the commercially relevant high-temperature Na-S battery in the 1960s and the ZEBRA battery in the 1980s. The October issue of MRS Bulletin focuses on recent developments in solid ion-conductors and the various surface and interfacial challenges needed to be overcome for enabling solid-state batteries. (more…)

A Carbon-Free California

According to The Conversation, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law committing to make the Golden State the state 100 percent carbon-free by 2045.

The new law is comprised of multiple targets, committing California to draw half its electricity from renewable sources by 2026, and then to 60 percent by 2030.

California’s mission to stop relying on fossil fuels for energy has been a longtime goal in the making. Since 2010, utility-scale solar and wind electricity in California increased from 3 percent to 18 percent in 2017, exceeding expected targets, due to solar prices drop in recent years. In 2011, Brown signed a law committing the state to derive a third of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2020. And in 2017, about 56 percent of the power California generated came from non-carbon emitting sources, placing state over halfway to their goal for 2045.

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Liquid Blue Dye in Liquid Batteries

Most take the world around them for granted, never expecting anything extraordinary out of what’s always proven to be, well, extra ordinary. According to Futurism, that’s what many felt about a methylene blue dye used to dye fabric in textile mills. Its remnants even considered a nuisance and a hazard, often making its way from the mill and into the environment, where it’s no easy task to clean up.

So researchers from the University at Buffalo began experimenting with the industrial dye, in an attempt to reuse the wasted material, turning the methylene blue wastewater into an environmentally safe material – in batteries.

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Robert F. SavinellLong-time ECS member, editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, and Distinguished University Professor at Case Western Reserve Robert Savinell has a new title to add to his list. Savinell will lead the U.S. Department of Energy’s new Energy Frontier Research Center at Case Western Reserve University, in support of a research endeavor that focuses on identifying new battery chemistries with the potential to provide large, long-lasting energy storage solutions for buildings or the power grid. The project is made possible by an EFRC grant, which awarded $10.75 million to Case Western Reserve University, allowing the school to establish a research center to explore Breakthrough Electrolytes for Energy Storage.

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Elizabeth BiddingerLithium-ion batteries play a major role in our everyday lives; they’re in our cell phones, solar panels, tablets, cars, and medical devices, to name a few. All these modern technologies are made possible because of batteries. Yet, they’re far from perfect. The Samsung Note 7 self-combusted on nightstands and planes in 2016, injuring customers and causing second-degree burns in one Florida man. Not to mention, the hoverboard’s explosion around the same time, causing a recall of roughly 16,000 hoverboards.

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Electric vehicles don’t only move people, they move companies too. And Volkswagen is making big moves when it comes to investing in battery-powered vehicles.

According to an article in AXIOS written by Eric Wachsman, director of the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute at the University of Maryland, founder of Ion Storage Systems, and 3rd vice president of the ECS board of directors, in June alone, Volkswagen invested $100 million in QuantumScape, a solid state battery startup. And now, the car company is considering building a factory in Europe to produce solid state batteries, a next-generation battery technology, to power their electric vehicles. Volkswagen isn’t alone. Solid-electrolyte batteries are getting international attention from companies like Toyota, Nissan, Dyson, and BMW, who’ve all made similar investments. (more…)

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