Nikola Corporation to Unveil Game-Changing Battery Cell Technology at Nikola World 2020


Nikola 1A download

Technology encompasses world’s first free-standing / self-supported electrode with a cathode that has 4x the energy density of lithium-ion

Nikola Corporation is excited to announce details of its new battery that has a record energy density of 1,100 watt-hours per kg on the material level and 500 watt-hours per kg on the production cell level. The Nikola prototype cell is the first battery that removes binder material and current collectors, enabling more energy storage within the cell. It is also expected to pass nail penetration standards, thus reducing potential vehicle fires.

  • Technology encompasses world’s first free-standing / self-supported electrode with a cathode that has 4x the energy density of lithium-ion
  • Achieves 2,000 cycles
  • Cell technology expected to cost 50% less to produce than lithium-ion
  • Could drive down the cost of hydrogen and double the range of battery-electric vehicles worldwide
  • Nikola will share IP with all other OEM’s around the world that contribute.

This battery technology could increase the range of current EV passenger cars from 300 miles up to 600 miles with little or no increase to battery size and weight. The technology is also designed to operate in existing vehicle conditions. Moreover, cycling the cells over 2,000 times has shown acceptable end-of-life performance.

Nikola’s new cell technology is environmentally friendly and easy to recycle. While conventional lithium-ion cells contain elements that are toxic and expensive, the new technology will have a positive impact on the earth’s resources, landfills and recycling plants.

This month, Nikola entered into a letter of intent to acquire a world-class battery engineering team to help bring the new battery to pre-production. Through this acquisition, Nikola will add 15 PhDs and five master’s degree team members. Due to confidentiality and security reasons, additional details of the acquisition will not be disclosed until Nikola World 2020.

“This is the biggest advancement we have seen in the battery world,” said Trevor Milton, CEO, Nikola Motor Company. “We are not talking about small improvements; we are talking about doubling your cell phone battery capacity. We are talking about doubling the range of BEVs and hydrogen-electric vehicles around the world.”

“Nikola is in discussions with customers for truck orders that could fill production slots for more than ten years and propel Nikola to become the top truck manufacturer in the world in terms of revenue. Now the question is why not share it with the world?” said Milton.

Nikola 1A download

 

Nikola Reveals Range of Hydrogen Fuel Cell and Battery-Electric Vehicles

Nikola will show the batteries charging and discharging in front of the crowd at Nikola World. The date of Nikola World will be announced soon but is expected to be fall of 2020.

Points include:

  • Nikola’s battery electric trucks could now drive 800 miles fully loaded between charges
  • Nikola trucks could weigh 5,000 lbs. less than the competition if same battery size was kept
  • Nikola’s hydrogen-electric fuel cell trucks could surpass 1,000 miles between stops and top off in 15 minutes
  • World’s first free-standing electrode automotive battery
  • Energy density up to 1,100 watt-hours per kg on a material level and 500 watt-hours per kg on a production cell level including; casing, terminals and separator — more than double current lithium-ion battery cells
  • Cycled over 2,000 times with acceptable end-of-life performance
  • 40% reduction in weight compared to lithium-ion cells
  • 50% material cost reduction per kWh compared to lithium-ion batteries

Due to the impact this technology will have on society and emissions, Nikola has taken an unprecedented position to share the IP with all other OEM’s, even competitors, that contribute to the Nikola IP license and new consortium.

OEMs or other partners can email batteries@nikolamotor.com for more information.

ABOUT NIKOLA CORPORATION
Nikola Corporation designs and manufactures hydrogen-electric vehicles, electric vehicle drivetrains, vehicle components, energy storage systems, and hydrogen stations. Nikola is led by its visionary CEO Trevor Milton. The company is privately held and headquartered in Arizona. For more information, visit www.nikolamotor.com.

Scientists want to use mountains like batteries to store energy – ‘MGES’


 

Researchers propose a gravity-based system for long-term energy storage.

 

  • A new paper outlines using the the Mountain Gravity Energy Storage (or MGES) for long-term energy storage.
  • This approach can be particularly useful in remote, rural and island areas.
  • Gravity and hydropower can make this method a successful storage solution. 

Can we use mountains as gigantic batteries for long-term energy storage? Such is the premise of new research published in the journal Energy.

The particular focus of the study by Julian Hunt of IIASA (Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) and his colleagues is how to store energy in locations that have less energy demand and variable weather conditions that affect renewable energy sources.

The team looked at places like small islands and remote places that would need less than 20 megawatts of capacity for energy storage and proposed a way to use mountains to accomplish the task.

Hunt and his team want to use a system dubbed Mountain Gravity Energy Storage (or MGES). MGES employes cranes positioned on the edge of a steep mountain to move sand (or gravel) from a storage site at the bottom to a storage site at the top.

Like in a ski-lift, a motor/generator would transport the storage vessels, storing potential energy. Electricity is generated when the sand is lowered back from the upper site. 

 

How much energy is created? The system takes advantage of gravity, with the energy output being proportional to the sand’s mass, gravity and the height of the mountain. Some energy would be lost due in the loading and unloading process.

Hydropower can also be employed from any kind of mountainous water source, like river streams. When it’s available, water would be used to fill storage containers instead of sand or gravel, generating electricity in that fashion.

Utilizing the mountain, hydropower can be invoked from any height of the system, making it more flexible than usual hydropower, explains the press release from IIASA.

There are specific advantages to using sand, however, as Hunt explained:

“One of the benefits of this system is that sand is cheap and, unlike water, it does not evaporate – so you never lose potential energy and it can be reused innumerable times,” said Hunt. “This makes it particularly interesting for dry regions.”

Energy From Mountains | Renewable Energy Solutions

Where would be the ideal places to install such a system? The researchers are thinking of locations with high mountains, like the Himalayas, Alps, and Rocky Mountains or islands like Hawaii, Cape Verde, Madeira, and the Pacific Islands that have mountainous terrains.

The scientists use the Molokai Island in Hawaii as an example in their paper, outlining how all of the island’s energy needs can be met with wind, solar, batteries and their MGES setup.

The MGES system.

“It is important to note that the MGES technology does not replace any current energy storage options but rather opens up new ways of storing energy and harnessing untapped hydropower potential in regions with high mountains,” Hunt noted.

Check out the new study “Mountain Gravity Energy Storage: A new solution for closing the gap between existing short- and long-term storage technologies”.

MIT – New ‘battery’ aims to spark a carbon capture revolution


Smoke and steam billows from Belchatow Power Station, Europe’s largest coal-fired power plant near Belchatow, Poland on November 28, 2018. Inventors claim a new carbon capture “battery” could be retrofitted for industrial plants but also for mobile sources of CO2 emissions like cars and airplanes. Photo by REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Renewable energy alone is not enough to turn the tide of the climate crisis. Despite the rapid expansion of wind, solar and other clean energy technologies, human behavior and consumption are flooding our skies with too much carbon, and simply supplanting fossil fuels won’t stop global warming.

To make some realistic attempt at preventing a grim future, humans need to be able to physically remove carbon from the air. 

That’s why carbon capture technology is slowly being integrated into energy and industrial facilities across the globe. Typically set up to collect carbon from an exhaust stream, this technology sops up greenhouse gases before they spread into Earth’s airways.

But those industrial practices work because these factories produce gas pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane at high concentrations. Carbon capture can’t draw CO2 from regular open air, where the concentration of this prominent pollutant is too diffuse. 

Moreover, the energy sector’s transition toward decarbonization is moving too slowly. It will take years — likely decades — before the world’s hundreds of CO2-emitting industrial plants adopt capture technology.

Humans have pumped about 2,000 gigatonnes — billions of metric tons — of carbon dioxide into the air since industrialization, and there will be more. 

But what if you could have a personal-sized carbon capture machine on your car, commercial airplane or solar-powered home?

Chemical engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a new device that can remove carbon dioxide from the air at any concentration.

Published in October in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the project is the latest bid to directly capture CO2 emissions and keep them from accelerating and worsening future climate disasters. 

Think of the invention as a quasi-battery, in terms of its shape, its construction and how it works to collect carbon dioxide. You pump electricity into the battery, and while the device stores this charge, a chemical reaction occurs that absorbs CO2 from the surrounding atmosphere — a process known as direct air capture. The CO2 can be extracted by discharging the battery, releasing the gas, so the CO2 then can be pumped into the ground. The researchers describe this back-and-forth as electroswing adsorption.

I realized there was a gap in the spectrum of solutions,” said Sahag Voskian, who co-led the project with fellow MIT chemical engineer T. Alan Hatton. “Many current systems, for instance, are very bulky and can only be used for large-scale power plants or industrial applications.”

Relative to current technology, this electroswing adsorber could be retrofitted onto smaller, mobile sources of emissions like autos and planes, the study states.

Voskian also pictures the battery being scaled to plug into power plants powered by renewables, such as wind farms and solar fields, which are known to create more energy than they can store. Rather than lose this power, these renewable plants could set up a side hustle where their excess energy is used to capture carbon. 

“That’s one of the nice aspects of this technology — is that direct linkage with renewables,” said Jennifer Wilcox, a chemical engineer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who was not involved in the study. 

The advantage of an electricity-based system for carbon capture is that it scales linearly. If you need 10 times more capacity, you simply build 10 times more of these “electroswing batteries” and stack them, Voskian said. 

He estimates that if you cover a football field with these devices in stacks that are tens of feet high, they could remove about 200,000 to 400,000 metric tons of CO2 a year. Build another 100,000 of these fields, and they could bring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere back to preindustrial levels within 40 years. 

One hundred thousand installations sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that these devices can be built to any size and run off the excess electricity created by renewables like wind and solar, which at the moment cannot be easily stored. Imagine turning the more than 2 million U.S. homes with rooftop solar into mini-carbon capture plants. 

On paper, this invention sounds like a game changer. But it has a number of feasibility hurdles to surmount before it leaves the laboratory. 

How electroswing battery works

The idea of using electricity to trigger a chemical reaction — electrochemistry — as a means for capturing carbon dioxide isn’t new. It has been around for nearly 25 years, in fact. 

But Voskian and Hatton have now added two special materials into the equation: quinone and carbon nanotubes. 

A carbon nanotube is a human-made atom-sized cylinder — a sheet of carbon molecules spread into a single layer and wrapped up like a tube. Aside from being more than 100 times stronger than stainless steel or titanium, carbon nanotubes are excellent conductors of electricity, making them sturdy building blocks for electrified equipment. 

Much like a regular battery, Voskian and Hatton’s device has a positive electrode and a negative electrode — “plus” and “minus” sides. But the minus side — the negative electrode — is infused with quinone, a chemical that, after being electrically charged, reacts and sticks to CO2.

“You can think of it like the charge and discharge of a battery,” Voskian said. “When you charge the battery, you have carbon capture. When you discharge it, you release the carbon that you captured.” 

Their approach is unique because all the energy required for their direct air capture comes from electricity. The three major startups in this emerging space — Climeworks, Global Thermostat and Carbon Engineering — rely on a mixture of electric and thermal (heat) energy, Wilcox said, with thermal energy being the dominant factor. 

For power plants and industrial facilities, that excess heat — or waste heat, a byproduct of their everyday work, isn’t a perfect fit for carbon capture. Waste heat isn’t very consistent. Imagine standing next to a fire — its warmth changes as the flames flit about.

This heat can come from carbon-friendly options — such as a hydrothermal plant — but some current startups are preparing their capture systems to run on thermal energy from fossil-fuel burning facilities. So they may capture 1.5 tons of CO2, but they also generate about a half ton in the process

In Voskian’s operation, “We don’t have any of that. We have full control over the energetics of our process,” he said.

Will it work?

Voskian and Hatton, who have launched a startup called Verdox, write in their study that operating electroswing carbon capture would cost between $50 to $100 per metric ton of CO2.

“If it’s true, that’s a great breakthrough,” said Richard Newell, president and CEO of Resources for the Future, a nonprofit research organization that develops energy and environmental policy on carbon capture. But, he cautioned, “the distance between showing something in the laboratory and then demonstrating it at a commercial scale is very big.” 

New Approach to Treating Lung Cancer with Inhaled Nanoparticles – Wake Forest University


Deep Breath download

A new technique for treating lung cancer by inhaling nanoparticles created at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health, has been reported by researchers.

As part of the proof-of-concept study, Dawen Zhao, MD, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest School of Medicine, made use of a mouse model to ascertain whether metastatic lung tumors responded to an inhalable nanoparticle-immunotherapy system in combination with the radiation therapy that is usually used for the treatment of lung cancer.

The study has been reported in the current issue of Nature Communications.

The second most common type of cancer is lung cancer, which is also the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among both men and women. More people die due to lung cancer compared to breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. Immunotherapy looks promising, but at present, it works in less than 20% of patients suffering from lung cancer.

Considerable clinical evidence indicates that during diagnosis, the tumors of a majority of the patients are poorly infiltrated by immune cells. Such a “cold” immune environment in tumors inhibits the immune system of the body from identifying and destroying the tumor cells.

WATCH: “A Deep Breath Makes the Medicine Go Down”

QUT pharmaceutical scientist Dr. Nazrul Islam, from School of Clinical Sciences, said lung cancer was one of the most common cancers globally and one of the deadliest, being a leading cause of cancer deaths. Credit: Queensland University of Technology

 

(article continued below)

According to Zhao, the ability to overcome such an immunosuppressive tumor environment to work efficiently against the cancer is now an area of keen interest among the scientific community.

Earlier techniques include directly injecting immunomodulators into tumors to improve their immune response. But this technique is usually restricted to surface and tumors that can be easily accessed. Thus, it can be less effective if repeated injections are required to preserve immune response.

The goal of our research was to develop a novel means to convert cold tumors to hot, immune-responsive tumors. We wanted it to be non-invasive without needle injection, able to access multiple lung tumors at a time, and be safe for repeated use. We were hoping that this new approach would boost the body’s immune system to more effectively fight lung cancer.

Dawen Zhao, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Wake Forest School of Medicine

The nanoparticle-immunotherapy system developed by Zhao and his colleagues administered immunostimulants through inhalation to a mouse model of metastatic lung cancer. When the immunostimulant-loaded nanoparticle was deposited in the air sacs of the lungs, they were absorbed by one particular type of immune cells, known as antigen-presenting cells (APC).

Then cGAMP, an immunostimulant in the nanoparticle, was discharged within the cell, where the APC cell was activated by the stimulation of a specific immune pathway (STING). This is a crucial step in inducing systemic immune response.

The researchers also demonstrated that when the nanoparticle inhalation was combined with radiation applied onto a part of one lung, the result was the regression of tumors in both lungs and prolonged survival of the mice. Moreover, the researchers noted that it thoroughly removed lung tumors in a few of the mice.

The researchers then performed mechanistic studies and showed that the inhalation system transformed the initially cold tumors in both lungs to hot tumors desirable for powerful anti-cancer immunity.

The inhalable immunotherapy developed by Zhao offers various key benefits to earlier techniques—specifically the capability to access deep-rooted lung tumors, since the aerosol that carries the nanoparticulate was designed such that it reaches all portions of the lung—and the viability of repeated treatment by employing a non-irritating aerosol formulation.

It was demonstrated that the treatment was well-tolerated and safe without any adverse immune-related distress in the mice.

The Wake Forest School of Medicine scientists have filed a provisional patent application for their inhalable nanoparticle-immunotherapy system.

Source: https://www.wakehealth.edu/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanotechnology for disease diagnosis and treatment earns Florida Poly professor international award


Doc Ajeet dr-ajeet-kaushik-627 (1)

Florida Polytechnic University professor Dr. Ajeet Kaushik received the 2019 USERN Prize in biological sciences, an international award recognizing his work in the field of nanomaterials for the detection and treatment of diseases.

Florida Polytechnic University professor Dr. Ajeet Kaushik is determined to make detecting and treating diseases easy, accessible, and precise through the use of nanomaterials for biosensing and medicine.

His extensive work and resolute desire to improve the delivery of healthcare has earned Kaushik the prestigious Universal Scientific Education Research Network (USERN) Prize. He was named a laureate in the field of biological sciences during the group’s fourth annual congress on Nov. 8 in Budapest, Hungary.

USERN, a non-governmental, non-profit organization and network dedicated to non-military scientific advances, is committed to exploring science beyond international borders.

“I was speechless for a while,” said Kaushik, who is an assistant professor of chemistry at Florida Polytechnic University.

Kaushik did not attend the awards ceremony in person but did submit a video to be played at the event. He was among hundreds vying for the prize and one of five people who were recognized in different areas of study.

His submitted project, Nano-Bio-Technology for Personalized Health Care, focuses on using nanomaterials to create biosensors that will detect the markers of a disease at very low levels.

“Biosensing is not a new concept, but now we are making devices that are smarter and more capable,” Kaushik said.

He cited the recent zika virus epidemic that affected pregnant women and their fetuses, leading to significant health complications upon birth.

“There was a demand to have a system that could detect the virus protein at a very low level, but there was no device. There was no diagnostic system,” he said.

Kaushik worked on the development of a smart zika sensor that could detect the disease at these low levels.

“The kind of systems I’m focusing on can be customized in a way that we carry like a cell phone and do the tests wherever we need to do them,” he said.

In addition to using nanotechnology for the detection of diseases like zika, his research on nanoparticles is advancing efforts to precisely deliver medicine to a specific part of the body without affecting surrounding tissue or other parts of the body.

“The drugs we use now do not go only where they need to go, or sometimes they have side effects. We are treating one disease but creating other symptoms,” Kaushik said. “I’m exploring nanotechnology that can carry a drug, selectively go to a place, and release the drug so we avoid using excessive drugs.”

This nanomedicine could be used to precisely target brain tumors or other difficult-to-treat conditions.

He has published papers in scientific journals about this work and also holds multiple patents.

“My whole approach is using smart material science for better health for everybody, which is accessible to everybody everywhere,” Kaushik said.

In addition to his USERN prize, Kaushik was named a USERN junior ambassador for 2020 and will work to advance the organization’s mission in the United States.

For the most recent university news, visit Florida Poly News.

About Florida Polytechnic University: Florida Polytechnic University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and is a member of the State University System of Florida. It is the only state university dedicated exclusively to STEM and offers ABET accredited degrees. Florida Poly is a powerful economic engine within the state of Florida, blending applied research with industry partnerships to give students an academically rigorous education with real-world relevance. Connect with Florida Poly.

NCM 811 Almost Account For A Fifth Of EV Li-Ion Deployment In China


China is well advanced in switching to the NCM 811 type of lithium-ion cathode for EV batteries. 

The new NCM 811 lithium-ion battery chemistry takes the Chinese passenger xEV (BEV, PHEV, HEV) market like a storm.

According to Adamas Intelligence, In September, NCM 811 was responsible for 18% of passenger xEV battery deployment (by capacity).

The NCM 811 is a low cobalt-content cathode (nickel:cobalt:manganese at a ratio of 8:1:1).

The expansion is tremendous compared to 1% in January, 4% in June and 13% in August.

NCM 811 cells combines high-energy density with affordability (lower content of expensive cobalt), which probably is enough for most manufacturers to make the switch from NCM 523 and LFP (often bypassing NCM 622).

“In China, for the second month in a row, NCM 811 was second-only to NCM 523 by capacity deployed, while the once-popular NCM 622 now finds itself in fifth spot with a mere 5% of the market.

In the pursuit of lower costs and higher energy density, a growing number of automakers in China have seemingly opted to bypass NCM 622, shifting instead straight from LFP or NCM 523 cathode chemistries into high-nickel NCM 811.

Since January 2019, the market share of NCM 811 in China’s passenger EV market has rapidly increased from less than 1% to 18% and shows little signs of slowing its ingress. Outside of China, however, automakers have been slow to adopt NCM 811 to-date but we expect to see the chemistry make inroads in Europe and North America by as early as next year.”

NCM 811 share globally is also growing and in September it was at 7%.

The other leading low cobalt chemistry is Tesla/Panasonic’s NCA.

Source: Adamas Intelligence

Answer to Renewable Power’s Top Problem Emerges in the ‘Australian Outback’


From Bloomberg Energy

The answer to the renewable energy industry’s biggest challenge is emerging in the Australian outback.

Early next year, one of the first power projects that combine solar and wind generation with battery storage is planning to start up in northern Queensland state.

The Kennedy Energy Park, just outside the sleepy town of Hughendon, will combine 43 megawatts of wind and 20 megawatts of solar with a 2-megawatt Tesla Inc. lithium-ion battery.

Hybrid projects like Kennedy aim to tackle a problem faced by climate change challengers, and grid planners, across the globe: how to firm-up intermittent renewable power so that the lights stay on when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

A glimpse of the future is underway in far North Queensland

It could also be a precursor of what’s to come in the next decade. Plunging green technology costs are opening up markets and suppliers are seeking new avenues to combat falling margins.

Australia, India, and the U.S. already have a combined pipeline of more than 4,000 megawatts of hybrid, or co-located projects, according to BloombergNEF analysis.

Kennedy Energy Park’s location is one of the best on the planet for pairing a strong and consistent solar resource with a highly complementary wind profile, said Roger Price, chief executive officer of Windlab Ltd., the company leading the development, along with Eurus Energy Holdings.

“When you start to combine wind and solar in an intelligent, optimized way, then you can provide much greater penetration of renewables into the grid,” Price said in a phone interview, adding that the facility expected to start up in two or three months.

Price said combining wind and solar allowed the project to save on connection costs to the network, while enhancing grid utilization because the wind generally blew at night when solar wasn’t available. In addition, Kennedy has potential to supply more power to the grid than its 50 megawatt transmission line can handle, so the battery will allow that excess power to be stored.

A range of co-located projects have followed in Kennedy’s wake, with 690 megawatts worth of capacity commissioned across the country, BNEF said in a report last month. In January, a joint-venture between Lacour Energy and a unit of Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. won approval for the A$250 million ($170 million) Kondinin complex in Western Australia, which will combine battery storage with 120 megawatts of wind power and 50 megawatts of solar.

French company Neoen SA has even bigger ambitions: It’s Goyder South project in South Australia, which is scheduled to begin construction in 2021, is on a scale not yet seen for a renewables project in Australia. It includes 1,200 megawatts of wind power and 600 megawatts of solar backed by 900 megawatts of battery storage.

It’s not only Australia that is developing the concept. In the U.S., NextEra Energy Inc. is working on two projects that combine the three technologies, while Vattenfall AB is working on a “triple-scoop” project in the Netherlands believed to be the first of its kind in Europe.

India is also keen on the idea, with the government putting policies in place to encourage co-located projects in a number of states, according to BNEF.

“Whenever we are kicking off a photovoltaic or an onshore wind project in the future, we will always consider whether we should do it as co-located,” Alfred Hoffman, a vice president at Vattenfall’s wind unit, said at a BNEF summit last month in London.

There are various constraints to developing such integrated projects. In Europe, for instance, most large-scale wind and solar is procured through auctions, which aren’t currently designed for co-located projects, according to Cecilia L’Ecluse, a solar analyst at BNEF in London.

There can also be permitting issues, such as Germany’s ban on using farmland for solar, while in the U.S., developers may not be facing the same grid access challenges, so the savings incentive might not be as strong, she said.

Windlab’s Price acknowledged that combining technologies would only work in certain locations and, in a modern well-connected grid, wind and solar don’t necessarily need to be on the same site to deliver combined benefits.

The Kennedy project has seen the start of commercial operation delayed into 2020 due to hold ups in getting the necessary approval to connect to the grid.

It could be in developing countries where the concept could make the biggest difference, said Price, who’s also working on an 80 megawatt multi-technology project in Kenya. It’s also a particularly pressing problem in countries like Australia, where a number of aging coal-fired power stations are scheduled to retire over the next decade, leaving renewables to fill the gap.

“In the future, we won’t have these big fossil-fuel plants to keep the grid stable. That’s an additional task that renewables will have to take on,” said Bo Svoldgaard, senior vice president of innovation and concepts at Vestas Wind Systems A/S, which partnered Windlab on the Kennedy project and supplied the turbines. “The fossil fuel plants will disappear. Maybe not tomorrow, or in two years time, but they will disappear.”

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Flow Batteries Struggle in 2019 as Lithium-Ion Marches On h


Save for a few rare announcements, the promising technology class has gone quiet.

October’s SoftBank-led investment in iron flow battery startup ESSrepresented an unusual event in 2019: a piece of good news for the flow battery sector. The $30 million cash injection was a rare sign that there may still be life in an energy storage technology class that had almost faded from view in recent months.

Leading players such as Sumitomo Electric and Dalian Rongke Power, the latter of which once boasted the world’s largest vanadium flow battery project, have gone silent. EnSync Energy Systems pivoted away from flow batteries last year and folded in March.

CellCube Energy Storage Systems has also run into problems this year. In October it advised shareholders that “each division is suffering from a lack of working capital” and added that management was “reviewing strategic alternatives focused on maximizing shareholder value.”

Go Big: This factory produces vanadium redox-flow batteries destined for the world’s largest battery site: a 200-megawatt, 800-megawatt-hour storage station in China’s Liaoning province.

Even those companies still touting contract wins in 2019 have hardly set the world on fire. RedT Energy installed Australia’s largest commercial energy storage system, a 1-megawatt-hour system at Monash University, but more recently announced a merger with Avalon following reported losses.

Meanwhile, UniEnergy Technology’s sole deal-related press release this year was to celebrate the commissioning of a 7.5-kilowatt, 30-kilowatt-hour flow battery in Brussels.

Despite this, a smattering of players, including Avalon, Lockheed Martin and U.S. Vanadium, remain bullish. And Dan Finn-Foley, head of energy storage at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, cautions against writing the sector off just yet.

“We haven’t seen much activity from the flow battery space in terms of deployments or major announcements,” he acknowledged, “but there are key steps happening behind the scenes.”

Researchers advancing flow battery technology are either partnering with companies with large balance sheets or securing insurance to back up their claims of long system lifetimes and low degradation, he said.

“The next steps will be continued pilot programs and strategic targeting of favorable market niches, all critical stepping stones toward true commercialization,” Finn-Foley said.

Image: Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries 

Flow battery vendors could benefit from state-level 100 percent clean or renewable energy policies in the U.S., Finn-Foley noted, since it is remains unclear whether lithium-ion batteries alone can meet storage needs beyond durations of approximately eight hours.

Flow batteries are seen as ideal for large-scale, long-duration storage because they can store large amounts of energy using scalable tanks of relatively cheap electrolyte. The problem is that nobody seems to need this long-duration capacity just yet.

Finn-Foley said the biggest unknowns for the flow battery sector “are the timing of when these long-duration needs will emerge and how low vendors will be able to drive costs by then with few other opportunities to scale.”

This is emerging as a significant issue in 2019. While flow battery technology is waiting for prime time, its main competitor, lithium-ion, is already racing ahead on scale and cost-competitiveness thanks to the growth of the electric vehicle industry.

In March, QY Research Group predicted the global redox flow battery market would be worth $370 million by 2025, based on a roughly 14 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018.

For comparison, a May study by Prescient & Strategic Intelligence estimated the lithium-ion market would be worth close to $107 billionby 2024, with a CAGR of almost 22 percent.

Even ignoring the fact that the lithium-ion industry is on a quest to use lower-cost materials, it is hard to see how flow batteries will be able to compete on price against such a thoroughly commoditized rival.

The state of play was perhaps best summed up by Rebecca Kujawa, chief financial officer and executive vice president of finance at NextEra Energy, during an earnings call in October.

Asked by Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates, whether NextEra had found any storage technologies other than lithium-ion that are worth commercializing, she said: “We always remain technology-agnostic.”

But she added: “What we continue to see, and what we are currently signing contracts for with our customers, is predominantly lithium-ion. Those producing lithium-ion batteries are investing in manufacturing scale, which is producing significant cost improvements.”

Kujawa concluded: “In the middle part of the next decade, you’re talking about a $5 to $7 per megawatt-hour added to get to a nearly firm wind or solar resource, and that’s a pretty attractive price.

Image: 100% Renewable Energy

To beat that, you’d have to see a pretty big step change in where some of these other technologies are.”

Post-Lithium Technology: High-Energy-Density Next-Generation Rechargeable Batteries


High-energy-density polymeric cathode for fast-charge sodium- and multivalent-ion batteries.

Next-generation batteries will probably see the replacement of lithium ions by more abundant and environmentally benign alkali metal or multivalent ions. A major challenge, however, is the development of stable electrodes that combine high energy densities with fast charge and discharge rates. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, US and Chinese scientists report a high-performance cathode made of an organic polymer to be used in low-cost, environmentally benign, and durable sodium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are the state-of-the-art technology for portable devices, energy storage systems, and electric vehicles, the development of which has been awarded with this year’s Nobel prize.

Nevertheless, next-generation batteries are expected to provide higher energy densities, better capacities, and the usage of cheaper, safer, and more environmentally benign materials. New battery types that are most explored employ essentially the same rocking-chair charging-discharging technology as the lithium battery, but the lithium-ion is substituted with cheap metal ions such as sodium, magnesium, and aluminum ions.

Unfortunately, this substitution brings along major adjustments to the electrode materials.

Organic compounds are favorable as electrode materials because, for one, they do not contain harmful and expensive heavy metals, and they can be adapted to different purposes. Their disadvantage is that they dissolve in liquid electrolytes, which makes electrodes inherently unstable.

Chunsheng Wang and his team from the University of Maryland, USA, and an international team of scientists have introduced an organic polymer as a high-capacity, fast-charging, and insoluble material for battery cathodes.

For the sodium ion, the polymer outperformed current polymeric and inorganic cathodes in capacity delivery and retention, and for multivalent magnesium and aluminum ions, the data did not lag far behind, according to the study.

As a suitable cathodic material, the scientists identified the organic compound hexaazatrinaphthalene (HATN), which has already been tested in lithium batteries and supercapacitors, where it functions as a high-energy-density cathode that rapidly intercalates lithium ions.

However, like most organic materials, HATN dissolved in the electrolyte and made the cathode unstable during cycling.

The trick was now to stabilize the material’s structure by introducing linkages between the individual molecules, the scientists explained. They obtained an organic polymer called polymeric HATN, or PHATN, which offered fast reaction kinetics and high capacities for sodium, aluminum, and magnesium ions.

After assembling the battery, the scientists tested the PHATN cathode using a high-concentrated electrolyte. They found excellent electrochemical performances for the non-lithium ions.

The sodium battery could be operated at high voltages up to 3.5 volts and maintained a capacity of more than 100 milliampere hours per gram even after 50,000 cycles, and the corresponding magnesium and aluminum batteries were close behind these competitive values, reported the authors.

The researchers envision these polymeric pyrazine-based cathodes (pyrazine is the organic substance upon which HATN is based; it is an aromatic benzol-like, nitrogen-rich organic substance with a fruity flavor) to be employed in environmentally benign, high-energy-density, fast and ultrastable next generation rechargeable batteries.

Reference: “A Pyrazine‐Based Polymer for Fast‐Charge Batteries” by Dr. Minglei Mao, Prof. Chao Luo, Travis P. Pollard, Singyuk Hou, Dr. Tao Gao, Dr. Xiulin Fan, Chunyu Cui, Jinming Yue, Yuxin Tong, Gaojing Yang, Tao Deng, Prof. Ming Zhang, Prof. Jianmin Ma, Prof. Liumin Suo, Dr. Oleg Borodin and Prof. Chunsheng Wang, 30 September 2019, Angewandte Chemie.
DOI: 10.1002/anie.201910916

Dr. Chunsheng Wang holds the Robert Franklin and Frances Riggs Wright Distinguished Chair in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA. His group’s research interests span the development and improvement of nonflammable water-in-salt, all-fluorinated or solid electrolytes, and organic active materials for alkali-ion and multivalent batteries.

The Future Of Lithium Batteries, According To Their Co-Inventor – A Podcast


Nearly all your devices run on lithium batteries. They have revolutionised the way we use, manufacture and charge our devices. Here’s a Nobel Prizewinner on his part in their invention – and their future.

British-born scientist M. Stanley Whittingham, of Binghamton University, was one of three scientists who won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work developing lithium-ion batteries.

Maybe you know exactly what a lithium-ion battery is but even if you don’t, chances are you’re carrying one right now. They’re the batteries used to power mobile phones, laptops and even electric cars. 

When it comes to energy storage, they’re vastly more powerful than conventional batteries and you can recharge them many more times.

Their widespread use has driven global demand for the metal lithium – demand that Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese this week saidAustralia should do more to meet. 

Lithium ion batteries revolutionised the way we use, manufacture and charge our devices. They’re used to power mobile phones, laptops and even electric cars. 

The University of Queensland’s Mark Blaskovich, who trained in chemistry and penned this article about Whittingham’s selection for the chemistry Nobel Prize, sat down with the award-winner this week.

They discussed what the future of battery science may hold and how we might address some of the environmental and fire risks around lithium-ion batteries.

He began by asking M. Stanley Whittingham how lithium batteries differ from conventional, lead-acid batteries, like the kind you might find in your car.

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Additional credits

Recording and production assistance by Thea Blaskovich

Kindergarten by Unkle Ho, from Elefant Traks.

Announcement of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019