SmartphoneRecent safety concerns with lithium-ion batteries exploding in devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone and hoverboards have many energy researchers looking into this phenomenon for a better understanding of how batteries function when stressed.

A new open access paper published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society provides some insight into these safety hazards associated with the Li-ion battery by taking a look inside the battery as it is overworked and overcharged.

Overcharging or overheating Li-ion batteries causes the materials inside to breakdown and produce bubbles of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gases. As more of these gases are produced, they begin to buildup and cause the battery to swell. That swelling can lead to explosion.

“The battery can either pillow a small amount and keep operating, pillow a lot and cease operation, or keep generating gas and rupture the cell, which can be accompanied by an explosion or fire,” Toby Bond, co-author of the paper, told New Scientist.

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Electric vehicleJust over ten years ago, the number of electric vehicles on the road could be counted in the hundreds. Now, more than 1.3 million EVs have been deployed across the globe. But even as EVs become a stronger force in the transportation sector, many buyers still cite one major deterrent in going electric: range anxiety.

Range anxiety refers to the fear that during longer trips, the EV battery may run out of energy and leave drivers stranded without a charging station. However, Ford, BMW, and VW are planning to but this fear to rest in Europe where they’re planning to develop a networking of charging stations along major highways.

The car companies believe this implementation of these stations will help enable long-rage travel and facilitate the mass-market adoption of EVs. Because current EVs cannot exceed a 300 mile driving range on single charge, the establishment of ultra-fast charging stations will help take away some of the anxiety drivers feel behind the wheel.

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Powin Energy, a company focused on creating dynamic energy storage solutions, recently announced their plan to install a 30 kW/40 kW-hour battery system at the University of Washington’s Washington Clean Energy Testbeds. The testbed facility was developed by UW to scale-up, prototype, test, and validate new clean energy solutions. Powin Energy hopes to assist the researchers at the facility in their quest to develop clean energy innovation.

“We’re excited about this installation at the University of Washington because it will give our technology a more rigorous workout than most real-world installations that don’t approach the far ends of usage parameters,” Virgil Beaston, CTO of Powin Energy, said in a statement.

Venkat Subramanian, technical editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society and UW professor, discussed this energy storage opportunity, stating the he and his team could “use the Powin BESS to measure the performance of energy devices and algorithms when integrated into real and simulated system environments.”

Powin’s partnership with UW comes after the company’s development of its newly patented Battery Pack Operating system, which was designed to make its way into the utility-scale storage market. The company has already installed a 2MW/8MW-hour battery system in Irvine, CA.

Steve Martin

ECS member Steve Martin receives a $2.5M grant to pursue research in glassy solids.
Image: Christopher Gannon

The world relies on battery power. The smartphone market alone – which is powered by lithium-ion batteries – is expected to reach 1.5B units in 2016. ECS member Steve Martin believes he may be able to take those batteries to the next level through efforts in glassy solids.

Martin, a professor at Iowa State University and associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, has been in the field of battery research for over 30 years. Throughout that time, his main focus of research has shifted to measuring the basic properties of glassy solids and trying to understand how their ions move and the thermal and chemical stability.

Martin believes that using glass solids as the electrolytes in batteries would make them safer and more powerful. This is an effort to diverge from traditional liquid-electrolyte batteries, which have experienced issues with safety and energy capacity.

To push this research, Martin recently received a three-year, $2.5M grant from the DOE.

“This is my dream-come-true project,” Martin says. “This is what I’ve been working on for 36 years.”

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Lithium-ion

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has recently been in the headlines for safety concerns pertaining to its lithium-ion battery. Now, a lawsuit filed in California claims that the issues extend beyond the Note 7, and that many other generations of Samsung smartphones “pose a risk of overheating, fire, and explosion.”

While Samsung claims that the Li-ion safety issues are isolated to only the Note 7, researchers in the field of energy storage are still looking for a way to develop an efficient, non-combustible battery. CBS recently stopped by the University of Maryland to discuss just that with ECS member Erich Wachsman.

Watch the full CBS interview.

In an effort to build safer batteries, Wachsman and his group at the University of Maryland are focusing their research efforts on lithium conducting ceramic discs, which can handle thousands of degrees without any issues.

“Because it’s ceramic, it’s actually not flammable,” says Wachsman, director of the university’s Energy Research Center. “You cannot burn ceramic.”

(MORE: Listen to Wachsman discuss his work in water and sanitation.)

Since the rise of Li-ion battery safety in the news, Wachsman’s research has received more attention from industry. He and his group are currently working on scaling up the technology.

A team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, led by ECS member Joseph Wang, recently developed new magnetic ink that can be used to make self-healing batteries, electrochemical sensors, and wearable, textile-based electrical circuits.

The ink is made up of microparticles set up in a certain configuration by a magnetic field. The particles on each respective side of the tear in a circuit are then attracted towards each other, resulting in the self-healing effect. The devices have the ability to repair tears as wide as 3 millimeters, which is a record in the field of self-healing systems.

“Our work holds considerable promise for widespread practical applications for long-lasting printed electronic devices,” Wang says.

While there are other self-healing materials in the field, they require an external trigger to start the process, which takes anywhere from a few min to days. The new work does not require any outside catalyst and works in 0.05 seconds

ECS Podcast – The Battery Guys

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the commercialization of the lithium-ion battery. To celebrate, we sat down with some of the inventors and pioneers of Li-ion battery technology at the PRiME 2016 meeting.

Speakers John Goodenough (University of Texas at Austin), Stanley Whittingham (Binghamton University), Michael Thackeray (Argonne National Laboratory), Zempachi Ogumi (Kyoto University), and Martin Winter (Univeristy of Muenster) discuss how the Li-ion battery got its start and the impact it has had on society.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher.

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Electric VehiclesIn 2005, the number of electric vehicles on the road could be measured in the hundreds. Over the years, researchers have made technological leaps in the field of EVs. Now, we’ve exceeded a global threshold of one million EVs, and the demand continues to grow.

However, the ultimate success and growth of the EV hinges on battery technology. With some scientists stating that convention Li-ion batteries are approaching their theoretical energy density limits, researchers have begun exploring new energy storage technologies.

ECS member Qiang Zhang is one researcher focusing on technologies beyond Li-ion, specifically focusing on lithium sulfur batteries in a recently published paper.

“The lithium sulfur battery is recognized as a promising alternative for its intercalation chemistry counterparts,” Zhang says. “It possesses a theoretical energy density of ~2600 Wh kg-1 and provides a theoretical capacity of 1672 mAh g−1 through multi-electron redox reactions. Additionally, valuable characteristics like high natural abundance, low cost and environmental friendliness of sulfur have lent competitive edges to the lithium sulfur battery.”

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John B. Goodenough

Goodenough was recently named Fellow of ECS at the PRiME 2016 meeting.

John B. Goodenough is recognized internationally as one of the key minds behind the development of the lithium-ion battery; a device that is used to power a huge percentage of today’s electronics and a technology that helped shape the technological frontier.

In a recent interview with the BBC’s Today program’s John Humphrys, the man who helped make the mobile phone possible discusses battery safety in light of exploding Samsung batteries, the Nobel Prize, and his why he doesn’t like cellphones.

“I see the students running around, punching these little tablets, and not talking with one another,” Goodenough says. “I see people going out to dinner and not talking to their partner, rather sitting there talking to someone on their phone, I say, ‘Well, that’s not the way to live.’ Technology is morally neural, it’s what we do with technology that judges us.”

Listen to the full interview here.

Deadline for Submitting Abstracts
Dec. 16, 2016
Submit today!

ECS StudentsTopic Close-up #1

Symposium A06: Battery Student Slam 1

Symposium Focus on the first ever Battery Student Slam is meant to provide lively and engaging presentations by students early in their research careers. The symposium is only open to submissions from students pursuing degrees at the undergraduate or graduate levels. Students will give 10 minute presentations about their research followed by 2 minutes of questions and discussion from the audience. All topics of relevance to battery research and in areas previously sponsored by the Battery Division are welcome.

Featuring the top three presentations will be recognized with cash prizes and awards as judged by the symposium organizers!

Learn about all the New Orleans topics!

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