Old Battery Type to Compete with Li-ion

When it comes to battery research and technology, people are constantly looking toward the lithium-ion battery to see the next big breakthrough. However, researchers at the chemical company BASF are showcasing and older battery type as a strong competitor against the li-ion.

BASF researchers are taking the nickel-metal hydride battery (NiMH) and giving it a boost to lead to cheaper electric cars. The assumption for electric car makers it that improvements in the lithium-ion battery will make cars cheaper and extend their driving range. While that may be true, the NiMH may also be able to do this with a little improvement.

The chemical company has already been able to double the amount of energy these old battery types can store, thus making them comparable to the lithium-ion. Researchers also state that there is still much room for improvement – with the potential to increase energy storage by an additional eight times.

Further, the batteries are set to cost roughly half as much as the cheapest lithium-ion battery.

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Paper-like Material to Boost Li-ion Batteries

The newly developed silicon nanofiber structure allow the battery to be cycled hundreds of times without significant degradation.Image: Nature Scientific Reports

The newly developed silicon nanofiber structure allows the battery to be cycled hundreds of times without significant degradation.
Image: Nature Scientific Reports

Electric cars and personal electronics may get the battery boost they need with this new development in lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers from the University of California, Riverside have created silicon nanofibers that are 100 times thinner than human hair, which will provide the potential to boost the amount of energy that can be delivered per unit weight of the batteries.

The research has been detailed in the paper “Towards Scalable Binderless Electrodes: Carbon Coated Silicon Nanofiber Paper via Mg Reduction of Electrospun SiO₂ Nanofibers.”

This from University of California, Riverside:

The nanofibers were produced using a technique known as electrospinning, whereby 20,000 to 40,000 volts are applied between a rotating drum and a nozzle, which emits a solution composed mainly of tetraethyl orthosilicate (TEOS), a chemical compound frequently used in the semiconductor industry. The nanofibers are then exposed to magnesium vapor to produce the sponge-like silicon fiber structure.

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Goodenough’s Big Idea for the Li-Ion Battery

Many of the most influential people of our time are also the most obscure. Take John Goodenough, for example. While he may not be a household name, everyday devices such as laptops and smartphones exist because of his work on lithium-ion batteries.

But even in his 90s, Goodenough isn’t done yet. He’s already invented the lithium-ion’s nervous system, which houses the cobalt-oxide cathode. This is the most important part of every lithium-ion battery, but Goodenough isn’t satisfied with this major scientific feat. Now, he’s looking to go one step further.

This from Quartz:

Today, at 92, Goodenough still goes to his smallish office every day at the University of Texas at Austin. That, he says, is because he’s not finished. Thirty-five years after his blockbuster, the electric car still can’t compete with the internal combustion engine on price. When solar and wind power produce electricity, it must be either used immediately or lost forever—there is no economic stationary battery in which to store the power. Meanwhile, storm clouds are gathering: Oil is again cheap but, like all cyclical commodities, its price will go back up. The climate is warming and becoming generally more turbulent.

Essentially, Goodenough is looking to create a super-battery.

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Voltage profiles of charge-discharge cycles of the Li/Li3PS4/S battery.Image: Journal of The Electrochemical Society

Voltage profiles of charge-discharge cycles of the Li/Li3PS4/S battery.
Image: Journal of The Electrochemical Society

A team from Japan’s Samsung R&D has worked in collaboration with researchers from the University of Rome to fabricate a novel all solid state Lithium-sulfur battery.

The paper has been recently published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. (P.S. It’s Open Access! Read it here.)

The battery’s capacity is around 1,600 mAhg⁻¹, which denotes an initial charge-discharge Coulombic efficiency approaching 99 percent.

Additionally, the battery possesses such beneficial properties as the smooth stripping-deposition of lithium. In contrast to other Li-S cells, the new battery’s activation energy of the charge transfer process is much smaller.

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IMLB Focus Issue Now Online

The development and commercialization of Li-ion batteries in recent decades is without doubt the most important and impressive success of modern electrochemistry.

The development and commercialization of Li-ion batteries in recent decades is without doubt the most important and impressive success of modern electrochemistry.

The Journal of The Electrochemical Society (JES) is publishing focus issues related to IMLB (International Meeting on Lithium Batteries) beginning with the 2014 meeting. Important to note is that this focus issue is completely Open Access, enabling a much broader audience to read these papers than would have access with a subscription-only issue.

Go to the table of contents now!

Twenty-one papers have here been selected for this focus issue. These papers touch upon many important new aspects in the field and illustrate well the wide spectrum of topics that were discussed at the IMLB 2014 meeting.

The most important international conference event in the Li battery community is the biannual International Meeting on Lithium Batteries; a conference series founded by Bruno Scrosati which began 33 years ago. The IMLB meeting can, in fact, be seen as among the most important conferences related to power sources in general.

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Smaller, More Powerful Li-Ion Battery

Researchers around the world are in a scientific race to develop a near-perfect lithium-ion battery, and a startup from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may have just unlocked the secret.

In 2012, Qichao Hu founded SolidEnergy – a startup that grew out of research and academics from MIT. Qichao started with battery technology that he and ECS member Donald Sadoway developed.

Now, the company is claiming to have built a lithium-ion battery that could change battery technology as we know it.

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Deep-Fried Graphene for Energy Storage

The 5-µm-diameter graphene balls in these scanning electron microscope images contain graphene nanosheets radiating outward from the center.Credit: Chem. Mater.

The 5-µm-diameter graphene balls in these scanning electron microscope images contain graphene nanosheets radiating outward from the center.
Credit: Chem. Mater.

Materials scientists have developed a new technique that could provide a simpler and more effective way to produce electrode materials for batteries and supercapacitors, which could potentially lead to devices with improved energy and power densities.

The researchers have unlocked this new battery technology by exposing tiny bits of graphene to a process that is very similar to deep-frying.

Prior to this development, scientists had difficulty using graphene in electrodes due to the difficulty encountered when processing the material. However, the researchers out of Yonsei University have learned how to harness the material’s electrical and mechanical properties while retaining its high surface are by using an alternative technique.

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Safer, Thinner Lithium Rechargeables

New technology developed by researchers at the University of Michigan has been designed with the intention of preventing fires caused by lithium-ion battery malfunctions.

Researchers are making this possible by creating an advanced barrier between the electrodes in the lithium-ion battery. The barrier is made with nanofibers extracted from Kevlar – the material known for its use in bulletproof vests. The Kevlar nanofibers stifle the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current.

“Unlike other ultra strong material such as carbon nanotubes, Kevlar is an insulator,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering. “This property is perfect for separators that need to prevent shorting between two electrodes.”

Short-circuiting happens in these batteries when holes in the membranes are too big and dendrites poke through to the membrane. They create a path for electrons within the battery, shorting it out.

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A battery at the University of Oxford has been incessantly ringing two bells for 175 years—but no one knows exactly why it’s lasted so long.

A battery at the University of Oxford has been incessantly ringing two bells for 175 years—but no one knows exactly why it’s lasted so long.

The “world’s most durable battery” has been continuously functioning since 1840 – and no one knows why this mysterious battery, commonly referred to as the Oxford Electric Bell, has lasted s long.

It all begins at the London-based instrument-manufacturing firm Watkins and Hill, where the battery was manufactured with dry piles – one of the first forms of electric batteries developed by Giuseppe Zamboni in the early 19th century.

In the mid-1800s, a physics professor got his hands on the mysterious device and its bells have been incessantly ringing every since.

This from Smithsonian:

In the mid-1800s, Robert Walker, a physics professor at the University of Oxford, acquired an interesting device. It was a battery designed to propel a hanging metal ball quickly back and forth, between two small bells. Today, 175 years after it was manufactured, the Oxford Electric Bell, as it is often referred to, is still ringing – in fact, it is said to have rung over 10 billion times.

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Development in Lithium-Ion Batteries

You can thank “dendrites” when your smartphone battery goes from a solid 40 percent charge to completely dead in a matter of 20 minutes. Thankfully, researchers out of Purdue University are researching these dendrites – otherwise known as the slayer of lithium-ion batteries – and developing something that could greatly improve the li-ion.

Dendrites work to destroy lithium-ion batteries by forming an anode electrode and growing until they affect battery performance – potentially resulting in complete battery failure.

The new study out of Purdue University explores this issue with the intention of creating a safer and longer-lasting lithium-ion battery that could be charged within minutes instead of hours.

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