Photo Credit: www.HydroQuebec.com

Hydro-Québec (an ECS institutional member) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory have announced a breakthrough in the lithium-ion battery materials field, publishing their research results in the Journal of Power Sources. Using a cathode made with new high voltage safe materials, the researchers have achieved a world first: building a 1.2 Ah lithium-ion cell with a voltage of 5 V.

“With the high voltage of this new cell, we can reach a very high energy density,” says Karim Zaghib, General Director of the Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage. “This highly desirable property can improve batteries used in a wide range of applications.” Army Research Laboratory scientists Jan Allen and Richard Jow, also inventors of this high voltage cathode material, believe that the high cell voltage can, in addition to enabling high energy density, improve the design of devices.

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used to power many electronic devices, including smartphones, medical devices and electric vehicles. Their high energy density, excellent durability and lightness make them a popular choice for energy storage. In response to the growing demand for their use in a wide range of products, there are many teams working to improve their storage capacity. In particular, there is great interest in developing new compounds that could increase energy storage capacity, stability and lifespan. That is why the innovation announced today has such a strong commercial potential.

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By: Bob Marcotte, University of Rochester 

Electric GridIn order to power entire communities with clean energy, such as solar and wind power, a reliable backup storage system is needed to provide energy when the sun isn’t shining and the wind doesn’t blow.

One possibility is to use any excess solar- and wind-based energy to charge solutions of chemicals that can subsequently be stored for use when sunshine and wind are scarce. At that time, the chemical solutions of opposite charge can be pumped across solid electrodes, thus creating an electron exchange that provides power to the electrical grid.

The key to this technology, called a redox flow battery, is finding chemicals that can not only “carry” sufficient charge, but also be stored without degrading for long periods, thereby maximizing power generation and minimizing the costs of replenishing the system.

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Focus IssueThe Journal of The Electrochemical Society Focus Issue on Lithium-Sulfur Batteries: Materials, Mechanisms, Modeling, and Applications is now complete, with 18 open access papers published in the ECS Digital Library.

“Lithium sulfur batteries are in the focus of research at many hundreds of prominent research groups throughout the world and at several industrial firms as well,” says JES Technical Editor Doron Aurbach in the issue’s preface. “These batteries are highly attractive due to their theoretical high energy density, that may be 4–5 times higher compared to that of Li-ion batteries.”

The focus issue includes invited papers and selected papers from the 2017 Li-SM3 Conference.

“The important technical challenges of Li-S batteries are dealt with in the papers of this focus issue, including development of new sulfur cathodes, protected Li anodes, new electrolyte systems including solid state electrolytes, study of degradation mechanisms, in-situ spectroscopic efforts, surface and structural aspects,” Aurbach continues. “This focus issue of JES is indeed a very suitable epilogue for a very successful and fruitful meeting on a very “hot” topic in modern electrochemistry in general and advanced batteries in particular.”

Read the full JES Focus Issues on Lithium-Sulfur Batteries: Materials, Mechanisms, Modeling, and Applications.

By: Naga Srujana Goteti, Rochester Institute of Technology; Eric Hittinger, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Eric Williams, Rochester Institute of Technology

Renewable grideCarbon-free energy: Is the answer blowing in the wind? Perhaps, but the wind doesn’t always blow, nor does the sun always shine. The energy generated by wind and solar power is intermittent, meaning that the generated electricity goes up and down according to the weather.

But the output from the electricity grid must be controllable to match the second-by-second changing demand from consumers. So the intermittency of wind and solar power is an operational challenge for the electricity system.

Energy storage is a widely acknowledged solution to the problem of intermittent renewables. The idea is that storage charges up when the wind is blowing, or the sun is shining, then discharges later when the energy is needed. Storage for the grid can be a chemical battery like those we use in electronic devices, but it can also take the form of pumping water up a hill to a reservoir and generating electricity when letting it flow back down, or storing and discharging compressed air in an underground cavern.

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A new water-based air-conditioning system cools air to as low as 18 degrees Celsius (about 64 degrees Fahrenheit) without using energy-intensive compressors and environmentally harmful chemical refrigerants.

This technology could potentially replace the century-old air-cooling principle that is still used in modern-day air-conditioners. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, the new system is portable and can be customized for all types of weather conditions.

The team’s novel air-conditioning system is cost-effective to produce, and it is also more eco-friendly and sustainable.

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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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Chemical Heritage FoundationECS members M. Stanley Whittingham and Yury Gogotsi will be panelists at the upcoming “Electrical Energy Storage Technologies That Enable the Future” symposium, hosted by the Chemical Heritage Foundation. The event will take place on January 11, 2018 in Philadelphia, PA. Read the full program below.

Moderator
Daryl Boudreaux, Principal, Boudreaux & Associates

Panelists
M. Stanley Whittingham, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering, SUNY Binghamton

Yury Gogotsi, Distinguished University Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Drexel University

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Fuel CellApplying a tiny coating of costly platinum just 1 nanometer thick—about 1/100,000th the width of a human hair—to a core of much cheaper cobalt could bring down the cost of fuel cells.

This microscopic marriage could become a crucial catalyst in new fuel cells that use generate electricity from hydrogen fuel to power cars and other machines. The new fuel cell design would require far less platinum, a very rare metal that sold for almost $900 an ounce the day this article was produced.

“This technique could accelerate our launch out of the fossil-fuel era,” says Chao Wang, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University and senior author of a study published in the journal Nano Letters.

“It will not only reduce the cost of fuel cells,” Wang says. “It will also improve the energy efficiency and power performance of clean electric vehicles powered by hydrogen.”

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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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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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