BatteryWater-based rechargeable batteries could be one step closer to commercial viability, thanks to research from Empa. According to a new report, a team of researchers has successfully doubled the electrochemical stability of water with a special saline solution.

Energy storage is the backbone of many technological innovations. As researchers explore new ways to develop low-cost, safe batteries, the research team from Empa is looking to water to function as a battery electrolyte.

While a water-electrolyte offers many potential benefits such as low cost and high availability, it does have at least one major drawback: low chemical stability. At a voltage of 1.23 volts, a water cell supplies three times less voltage than a typical lithium-ion cell. While water-based batteries may not see an application in such technologies as electric vehicles, the team of researchers at Empa believe they could be utilized for stationary electricity storage applications.

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BatteryNew research from Sandia National Laboratory is moving toward advancing solid state lithium-ion battery performance in small electronics by identifying major obstacles in how lithium ions flow across battery interfaces.

The team of researchers, including ECS member Forrest Gittleson, looked at the nanoscale chemistry of solid state batteries, focusing on the area where the electrodes and electrolytes make contact.

“The underlying goal of the work is to make solid-state batteries more efficient and to improve the interfaces between different materials,” says Farid El Gabaly, coauthor of the recently published work. “In this project, all of the materials are solid; we don’t have a liquid-solid interface like in traditional lithium-ion batteries.”

According to El Gabaly, the faster the lithium can travel from one electrode to the other, the more efficient the batteries could be.

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BatteryA team of researchers from the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research is taking a potential major step toward developing energy dense, safe solid state magnesium-ion batteries.

This research marks another step in pursing batteries that utilize solid electrolytes, which could offer significant safety benefits over conventional lithium-ion batteries.

The work was developed out of efforts to create a magnesium battery with a liquid electrolyte. While magnesium has promising properties for energy storage, the researchers had trouble finding a viable liquid electrolyte for the technology that wouldn’t corrode.

“Magnesium is such a new technology, it doesn’t have any good liquid electrolytes,” said Gerbrand Ceder, co-author of the research and member of ECS. “We thought, why not leapfrog and make a solid state electrolyte?”

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A new bendable lithium-ion battery prototype continues delivering electricity even when cut into pieces, submerged in water, or struck with force.

“We are very encouraged by the feedback we are receiving,” says Jeffrey P. Maranchi, manager of the materials science program at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “We are not that far away from testing in the field.”

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Renewable gridJust a few months ago, business magnate Elon Musk announced that he would spearhead an effort to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in an effort to deliver a grid-scale battery to expand South Australia’s renewable energy supply. Now, reports state that Musk is delivering on his promise, stating that the battery is already half complete.

The battery is set to sustain 100 megawatts of power and store that energy for 129 megawatt hours. That roughly translates to enough energy to power 30,000 homes. On top of this large technological order, Musk stated that if his team could not develop the battery in 100 days or less, it would be free for the Australian transmission company.

“This serves as a great example to the rest of the world of what can be done,” Musk told an audience in Australia, as reported by ABC news. “To have that [construction] done in two months; you can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time.”

The battery is expected to cost $39 million (USD). The operational deadline, as decided by the Australian government, is December 1, 2017.

BatteryLithium batteries made with asphalt could charge 10 to 20 times faster than the commercial lithium-ion batteries currently available.

The researchers developed anodes comprising porous carbon made from asphalt that show exceptional stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles.

A high-current density of 20 milliamps per square centimeter demonstrates the material’s promise for use in rapid charge and discharge devices that require high-power density.

“The capacity of these batteries is enormous, but what is equally remarkable is that we can bring them from zero charge to full charge in five minutes, rather than the typical two hours or more needed with other batteries,” says James Tour, the chair in chemistry and a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University.

The Tour lab previously used a derivative of asphalt—specifically, untreated gilsonite, the same type used for the battery—to capture greenhouse gases from natural gas. This time, the researchers mixed asphalt with conductive graphene nanoribbons and coated the composite with lithium metal through electrochemical deposition.

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BatteryA novel compound called 3Q conducts electricity and retains energy better than other organic materials currently used in batteries, researchers report.

“Our study provides evidence that 3Q, and organic molecules of similar structures, in combination with graphene, are promising candidates for the development of eco-friendly, high capacity rechargeable batteries with long life cycles,” says Loh Kian Ping, professor in the chemistry department at NUS Faculty of Science.

Rechargeable batteries are the key energy storage component in many large-scale battery systems like electric vehicles and smart renewable energy grids. With the growing demand of these battery systems, researchers are turning to more sustainable, environmentally friendly methods of producing them. One option is to use organic materials as an electrode in the rechargeable battery.

Organic electrodes leave lower environment footprints during production and disposal which offers a more eco-friendly alternative to inorganic metal oxide electrodes commonly used in rechargeable batteries.

The structures of organic electrodes can also be engineered to support high energy storage capabilities. The challenge, however, is the poor electrical conductivity and stability of organic compounds when used in batteries. Organic materials currently used as electrodes in rechargeable batteries—such as conductive polymers and organosulfer compounds—also face rapid loss in energy after multiple charges.

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Safer Batteries with Nanodiamonds

BatterySafety concerns regarding lithium-ion batteries have been making headlines in light of smartphone fires and hoverboard explosions. In order to combat safety issues, at team of researchers from Drexel University, led by ECS member Yury Gogotsi, has developed a way to transform a battery’s electrolyte solution into a safeguard against the chemical process that leads to battery fires.

Dendrites – or battery buildups caused by the chemical reactions inside the battery – have been cited as one of the main causes of lithium-ion battery malfunction. As more dendrites compile over time, they can breach the battery’s separator, resulting in malfunction.

(MORE: Read more research by Gogotsi in the ECS Digital Library.)

As part of their solution to this problem, the research team is using nanodiamonds to curtail the electrochemical deposition that leads to the short-circuiting of lithium-ion batteries. To put it in perspective, nanodiamond particles are roughly 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a single hair.

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Juan Pablo EsquivelIn its first Science for Solving Society’s Problems Challenge, ECS partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to leverage the brainpower of electrochemists and solid state scientists, working to find innovative research solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues in water and sanitation. A total of seven projects were selected, resulting in a grand total of $360,000 in funding.

The researchers behind one of those projects recently published an open access paper in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society discussing their results in pursuing a single-use, biodegradable and sustainable battery that minimizes waste. The paper, “Evaluation of Redox Chemistries for Single-Use Biodegradable Capillary Flow Batteries,” was published August 18 and authored by Omar Ibrahim, Perla Alday, Neus Sabaté, Juan Pablo Esquivel (pictured with prototype at right), and Erik Kjeang.

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Carbon dioxideWhile pursing work on the highly desirable but technically challenging lithium-air battery, researchers unexpectedly discovered a new way to capture and store carbon dioxide. Upon creating a design for a lithium-CO2 battery, the research team found a way to isolate solid carbon dust from gaseous carbon dioxide, all while being able to separate oxygen.

As global industry, technology, and transportation grows, the consumption of fossil fuels has increased. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the burning of petroleum-based products has resulted in 6,587 million of metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the environment in 2015. The emission of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere, which researches have linked the global warming. Because of this, capturing and converting carbon emissions has become a highly researched area.

“The problem with most physical and chemical pathways for CO2 fixation is that their products are gases and liquids that need to be further liquefied or compressed, and that inevitably leads to additional energy consumption and even more CO2 emissions,” says Haoshen Zhou, senior author of the recently published research. “Instead, we are demonstrating an electrochemical strategy for CO2 fixation that yields solid carbon products, as well as a lithium-CO2 battery that can provide the energy necessary for that process.”

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