Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation – Conference on World Affairs – Boulder, Colorado: Conference Video


Tony Seba 1 images

 

Published on Apr 25, 2018

tony-seba 2 -ev-cost-curve‘Rethinking the Future – Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation’ is Tony Seba’s opening keynote at the 70th annual Conference on World Affairs in Boulder, Colorado, April 9th, 2018. The Clean Disruption will be the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption of energy and transportation in history. Based on Seba’s #1 Amazon bestselling book “Clean Disruption” and Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, this presentation lays out what the key technologies and business model innovations are (batteries, electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, ride-hailing and solar PV), how this technology disruption will unfold over the next decade as well as key implications for society, finance, industry, cities, geopolitics, and infrastructure. The 2020s will be the most technologically disruptive decade in history. By analyzing and anticipating these disruptions we can learn that the benefits to humanity will be immense but to seize the upside we will need to mitigate the negative consequences. As the opening keynote speaker at the prestigious Conference on World Affairs, Seba follows on the footsteps of luminaries such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Buckminster Fuller.

Watch the Video 
 
Advertisements

Supporting the EV Revolution: New battery technologies are getting a “charge” from venture investors


Battery Investors 5 ev-salesVenture capital investors once again are getting charged up over new battery technologies.

The quest to build a better battery has occupied venture investors for nearly a decade, since the initial clean technology investment bubble of the mid-2000s.

Read More: Mobility Disruption by Tony Seba – Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and Lecturer at Stanford University – The Coming EV Revolution by 2030?

Battery Investors 6 Announcements

Now, some of those same investors are returning to invest in battery businesses, drawn by the promise of novel chemistries and new materials that aim to make more powerful, smaller and safer batteries.

One of the latest to raise new money is Gridtential, a battery technology developer pitching a new take on a classic battery chemistry… the centuries old lead acid battery. Gridtential’s innovation, for which it’s filed several patents, is to use silicon plating instead of non-reactive lead plating in the battery.

The company’s novel approach has won it the backing of four big battery manufacturers, in an earlier $6 million round of funding in January, and now the company has raised another $5 million to continue to build out the business from new investor 1955 Capital.

Gridtential’s funding is the latest in a series of new investments into battery companies coming from venture firms this year.

Battery companies raised $480 million in the first half of the year according to data from cleantech investment and advisory services firm Mercom Capital.

Much of that capital was actually committed to one big battery company, Microvast. The Texas-based battery manufacturer raised $400 million in funding led by CITIC Securities and CDH Investment — two of China’s biggest and best investment firms.

Battery Investors 7 china-leads-push-for-new-energy-technologies-lg-11272017

The presence of big Chinese investors in a Stafford, Texas-based company shouldn’t come as a surprise. Batteries are big business (just ask Tesla).

As more vehicles become electrified, the demand for new energy storage solutions will just continue to climb. Add a movement to put more renewable energy on the electricity grid, and that more than doubles the demand for good, big, high performance storage solutions. Go Ultra Low Electric Vehicle on charge on a London street

Indeed, major tech companies are swarming all over the battery business. In addition to Tesla’s push into power, Alphabet is also looking at developing new grid-scale storage technologies, according to a recent report from Bloomberg.

Go Ultra Low Nissan LEAF (L) and Kia Soul EV (R) on charge on a London street. Ultra-low emission vehicles such as this can cost as little as 2p per mile to run and some electric cars and vans have a range of up to 700 miles.

Battery industry players aren’t sitting on their hands, and that’s why companies like East Penn Manufacturing, the largest single-site, lead-acid battery plant; Crown Battery Manufacturing, a developer of deep-cycle applications; Leoch International, one of the biggest lead acid battery exporters in China, and Power-Sonic Inc., a specialty battery distributor all committed capital.

“What’s unique about the battery is two things. One is the use of silicon. It’s built as a stack of cells in series rather than a group of cells in parallel. The silicon plates are used as current collectors — they are really very thin pieces of wire that connect one cell to the next,” explains chief executive Chris Beekhuis. “It creates a density of current and uniform temperature across the plate, both of which prevent sulfation.”

As the energy storage world focuses its attention on building better batteries based on lithium-ion technology (the batteries that are in cell phones and electric vehicles), traditional battery manufacturers could potentially be nervous about seeing their market share erode.

 

With its new design for lead acid batteries, Gridtential is making a smaller, more energy dense, lead acid battery that is perfect for use in hybrid vehicles, storing energy from the power grid and creating backup power supplies.

The other benefit of silicon (in addition to being less toxic), is that a massive supply chain already exists for the stuff. Solar panels and chip manufacturers have created a huge amount of manufacturing supply for the raw materials (something that’s becoming a problem for the lithium-ion business), and the material is relatively cheap, Beekhuis said.

It’s also 40% lighter than a traditional lead battery and will be cost competitive with existing battery costs at roughly $300 per kilowatt-hour of storage in automotive applications.

Unlike other battery companies that intend to manufacture and sell their own batteries, Gridtential intends to license its process (like a more traditional software business would). Indeed, the company has brought in a former Dolby executive to run its licensing operations.

That means, Gridtential’s trademarked “silicon joule” technology could become the Intel inside for lead acid battery makers.

“You’re combining the best of lithium-ion and lead acid in a product that is attractive to the market,” says Andrew Chung, the founder of 1955 Capital .

Chung, a longtime investor in sustainability technologies, sees Gridtential as a response to the capitally intensive missteps that investors have made in the past when backing battery companies.

“Can you commercialize it capital efficiently?” Chung asked. That’s the big question companies face and in the case of Gridtential, the reliance on silicon is critical. “You’re able to move away from that huge upfront cost to invent manufacturing,” Chung told me.

While Gridtential is tackling the lead acid battery market, Romeo Power, which raised a $30 million seed round in late August, is looking at novel technologies for lithium ion battery packs. Not focusing on battery chemistry itself, Romeo is wooing investors with its pitch for power management.

As Romeo co-founder Mike Patterson:

“The [battery] cells are a commodity, it’s true. But of the hundreds of cells [available to buy], you have to know which is the best for a particular application. Then you have to get as many cells as you can into the smallest space possible, to create volumetric density. Then,” he says, “to keep the cells from getting too hot, you need to put them in the right container and connect them using the right materials and methods.”

Some projects are even farther afield. Bill Joy, for instance, has doubled down on his investment in an entirely new material science that could radically remake the battery industry.

One of the solutions to Joy’s “grand challenge” breakthroughs, Ionic Materials has created a low-cost new material that completely reimagines what makes a battery. “We had decided in the case of batteries that the thing that would make the difference would be to have them not have liquids in them,” Joy said of the initial challenge.

The solution was found in a material invented in 2011 by a Tufts professor and former Bell Labs researcher named Mike Zimmerman. The new technology is called a solid polymer lithium metal battery.

“Mike invented a specialty polymer that he can tweak and conduct ions at room temperature,” Joy told me. “It’s a new conduction mechanism.”

Ionic’s energy storage tech uses a solid, almost plastic-like, polymer to allow lithium ions to flow from anode to cathode. The company claims that its new electrolytes can work the same as a cathode; are conductive at room temperature, can be more stable, less flammable, and can be produced in high volumes.

Wired called it the Jesus Battery.

Indeed, if the company’s material can allow for greater flexibility, more power, and better safety standards than a traditional lithium-ion battery, it would be a miracle.

It’ll take something of a miracle to advance battery technologies. There haven’t been significant innovations in energy storage for a few decades, with most of the real improvements coming in how batteries are packed together to create more storage capacity. The inherent technology has remained fairly constant.

While Romeo is tackling the packing problem, both Gridtential and Ioinic are proposing material science solutions to some of the battery industry’s problems — and as the financing indicates they’re not the only ones.

Battery Investors 3 190078748_d8e3d76813_oEnergy storage is a potential trillion-dollar business, and with a potential market of that size, it’s no wonder that investors are (albeit cautiously) coming back in to a market that had jolted them in the past.

 

 

MIT Technolgy Review: This battery advance could make electric vehicles far cheaper


Sila Nanotechnologies has pulled off double-digit performance gains for lithium-ion batteries, promising to lower costs or add capabilities for cars and phones.

For the last seven years, a startup based in Alameda, California, has quietly worked on a novel anode material that promises to significantly boost the performance of lithium-ion batteries.

Sila Nanotechnologies emerged from stealth mode last month, partnering with BMW to put the company’s silicon-based anode materials in at least some of the German automaker’s electric vehicles by 2023.

A BMW spokesman told the Wall Street Journal the company expects that the deal will lead to a 10 to 15 percent increase in the amount of energy you can pack into a battery cell of a given volume. Sila’s CEO Gene Berdichevsky says the materials could eventually produce as much as a 40 percent improvement (see “35 Innovators Under 35: Gene Berdichevsky”).

For EVs, an increase in so-called energy density either significantly extends the mileage range possible on a single charge or decreases the cost of the batteries needed to reach standard ranges. For consumer gadgets, it could alleviate the frustration of cell phones that can’t make it through the day, or it might enable power-hungry next-generation features like bigger cameras or ultrafast 5G networks.

Researchers have spent decades working to advance the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries, but those gains usually only come a few percentage points at a time. So how did Sila Nanotechnologies make such a big leap?

Berdichevsky, who was employee number seven at Tesla, and CTO Gleb Yushin, a professor of materials science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, recently provided a deeper explanation of the battery technology in an interview with MIT Technology Review.

Sila co-founders (from left to right), Gleb Yushin, Gene Berdichevsky and Alex Jacobs.

An anode is the battery’s negative electrode, which in this case stores lithium ions when a battery is charged. Engineers have long believed that silicon holds great potential as an anode material for a simple reason: it can bond with 25 times more lithium ions than graphite, the main material used in lithium-ion batteries today.

But this comes with a big catch. When silicon accommodates that many lithium ions, its volume expands, stressing the material in a way that tends to make it crumble during charging. That swelling also triggers electrochemical side reactions that reduce battery performance.

In 2010, Yushin coauthored a scientific paper that identified a method for producing rigid silicon-based nanoparticles that are internally porous enough to accommodate significant volume changes. He teamed up with Berdichevsky and another former Tesla battery engineer, Alex Jacobs, to form Sila the following year.

The company has been working to commercialize that basic concept ever since, developing, producing, and testing tens of thousands of different varieties of increasingly sophisticated anode nanoparticles. It figured out ways to alter the internal structure to prevent the battery electrolyte from seeping into the particles, and it achieved dozens of incremental gains in energy density that ultimately added up to an improvement of about 20 percent over the best existing technology.

Ultimately, Sila created a robust, micrometer-size spherical particle with a porous core, which directs much of the swelling within the internal structure. The outside of the particle doesn’t change shape or size during charging, ensuring otherwise normal performance and cycle life.

The resulting composite anode powders work as a drop-in material for existing manufacturers of lithium-ion cells.

With any new battery technology, it takes at least five years to work through the automotive industry’s quality and safety assurance processes—hence the 2023 timeline with BMW. But Sila is on a faster track with consumer electronics, where it expects to see products carrying its battery materials on shelves early next year.

Venkat Viswanathan, a mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon, says Sila is “making great progress.” But he cautions that gains in one battery metric often come at the expense of others—like safety, charging time, or cycle life—and that what works in the lab doesn’t always translate perfectly into end products.

Companies including Enovix and Enevate are also developing silicon-dominant anode materials. Meanwhile, other businesses are pursuing entirely different routes to higher-capacity storage, notably including solid-state batteries. These use materials such as glass, ceramics, or polymers to replace liquid electrolytes, which help carry lithium ions between the cathode and anode.

BMW has also partnered with Solid Power, a spinout from the University of Colorado Boulder, which claims that its solid-state technology relying on lithium-metal anodes can store two to three times more energy than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Meanwhile, Ionic Materials, which recently raised $65 million from Dyson and others, has developed a solid polymer electrolyte that it claims will enable safer, cheaper batteries that can operate at room temperature and will also work with lithium metal.

Some battery experts believe that solid-state technology ultimately promises bigger gains in energy density, if researchers can surmount some large remaining technical obstacles.

But Berdichevsky stresses that Sila’s materials are ready for products now and, unlike solid-state lithium-metal batteries, don’t require any expensive equipment upgrades on the part of battery manufacturers.

As the company develops additional ways to limit volume change in the silicon-based particles, Berdichevsky and Yushin believe they’ll be able to extend energy density further, while also improving charging times and total cycle life.

This story was updated to clarify that Samsung didn’t invest in Ionic Material’s most recent funding round.

Read and Watch More:

Tenka Energy, Inc. Building Ultra-Thin Energy Dense SuperCaps and NexGen Nano-Enabled Pouch & Cylindrical Batteries – Energy Storage Made Small and POWERFUL! YouTube Video:

NREL’s collaboration with Purdue University’s School of Mechanical Engineering has yielded new insights for lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery electrodes at the microstructural level, which can lead to improvements in electric vehicle (EV) battery performance and lifespan.


NREL LI Batt 1 2018018-thsc-micromodelElectrochemical simulation within a 3D nickel manganese cobalt electrode microstructure during a 20-minute fast charge. Streamlines represent Li-ion current in the electrolyte phase as ions travel through pores between the solid active material particles. Colors represent current magnitude. Illustration by Francois Usseglio-Viretta and Nicholas Brunhart-Lupo, NREL.

NREL’s collaboration with Purdue University’s School of Mechanical Engineering has yielded new insights for lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery electrodes at the microstructural level, which can lead to improvements in electric vehicle (EV) battery performance and lifespan. A stochastic algorithm developed by Purdue University, as part of NREL’s Advanced Computer-Aided Battery Engineering Consortium, is prominently displayed on the cover of the 10th anniversary issue of American Chemical Society’s Applied Materials and Interfaces. The NREL/Purdue team’s corresponding article, “Secondary-Phase Stochastics in Lithium-Ion Battery Electrodes” detailing the research and resulting discoveries, is showcased inside.

This work builds on earlier phases of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Computer-Aided Engineering for Electric-Drive Vehicle Batteries (CAEBAT) program. NREL’s energy storage team has led key research projects since CAEBAT’s inception in 2010, resulting in the creation of software tools for cell and battery design, as well as advancements in crash simulations used by many automakers.

This next phase of CAEBAT focuses on Li-ion electrode microstructure applications (accurately simulating the physics and geometric complexity of a battery) to better understand the impact materials and manufacturing controls have on cell performance. Li-ion batteries represent a complex non-linear system and considering EVs use larger batteries with more complex configurations, it is imperative to understand the interplay between electrochemical, thermal, and mechanical physics.

Says Kandler Smith, NREL co-author on the article, “Batteries are an exceedingly complex system—both in terms of their physics and geometry. In a real battery, it’s difficult to get a clear view of what’s going on inside, because so few measurements are possible. Models are a place where all physics can come together and the advantage of the model is that everything can be measured and probed. As we build an increasingly accurate physical understanding of batteries, we can expect that technological advances will follow.”

The secondary phase in Li-ion electrodes, comprised of inert binder and electrical conductive additives, has been found to critically influence various forms of microstructural resistances. This phase has benefits for improved electronic conductivity and mechanical integrity but may block access to electrochemical active sites and introduce additional transport resistances in the pore (electrolyte) phase, thus, canceling out its original advantages.

Because the secondary phase is important for electrode mechanical integrity and electronic conductivity, its recipe and morphology will have a strong impact on battery kinetics and transport. The algorithm created and explained in the journal article explores morphologies for this phase. Stochastics comes into play as each microstructure variant is numerically generated multiple times using random seeds to ensure statistically relevant conclusions. By simulating battery electrochemistry on the various microstructure geometries, researchers can calculate the pore size of an electrode’s microstructure geometry as well as the lithium displacement within an electrode to evaluate the difficulty of movement. Finding ways to overcome resistances via electrode microstructural modifications can greatly improve overall Li-ion battery performance.

The value of this work is that improvements to Li-ion batteries—the most expensive and complex component in EVs—is helping to overcome the concerns consumers have that limit EV adoption, including restricted driving range and high costs.

“Back to School” – Blue Bird is taking its new all-electric buses on the road to convince schools to go electric


Blue Bird, an important American bus manufacturer better known for its school buses, is taking its new electric buses on the road to school districts and fleet operators around the country to convince them to go electric.

The company unveiled their electric buses at the STN Tradeshow in Reno last year.

They made electric versions of their Type A, Type C, and Type D school buses – Type D pictured above.

Blue Bird says that both buses should be able to achieve about 100 to 120 miles of range, which is generally plenty for most school bus routes.

School buses generally operate on relatively short routes and they are often parked for long periods of time as they are not used as intensively as urban transit buses or coaches, which gives them opportunities to charge.

When unveiling the vehicles last year, Blue Bird said that the range was enabled by a massive 150 kWh battery pack, but now they have updated the powertrain with a new 160 kWh pack. The company said that a smaller 100 kWh option will also be made available for less demanding routes.

They are currently doing “Ride & Drive events” all around the country. They went to California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Ohio.

Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation:

After the outstanding response we saw in California, Blue Bird is excited to showcase our electric school buses to customers and drivers across North America, not as concept vehicles, but as a preview of our production buses later this fall. As both the pioneer and undisputed leader in alternative fuels, we are delighted to expand our “green” product offering by adding electric bus options in both Type C and D body styles. Our electric buses have received an Executive Order from the California Air Resources Board and both HVIP and TVIP listing, which qualify Blue Bird’s electric buses for grants available in California and New York, respectively. That’s great news for our customers and following our Ride & Drives in California, we are already receiving orders from school districts. We are open for business and taking orders!

They are currently in New York and then will head to Florida and later Ontario, Canada. You can follow their other events here.

According to the company, the first buses will be delivered at the end of the summer or early fall and they will deploy a Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) feature – meaning that the buses could be used as energy storage systems – next year.

Electrek’s Take

I think all-electric school buses are a no-brainer since urban transit buses are already starting to be financially viable solutions and school buses don’t need nearly as much energy capacity in most cases.

Even if the upfront cost might be higher, they should be able to compensate it with fuel and maintenance savings.

In the case of Blue Bird, a Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) feature is also a smart addition that could add value to school districts buying fleets since the buses are often parked for long periods of time and could be used as energy storage systems.

Lion, a Quebec-based school bus manufacturer, also offers an electric school bus option – not for Type D buses. Several other companies have now a few electric solutions, like Daimler’s first all-electric school bus, which is expected to enter production next year.

MIT: Finding a New Way to Design and Analyze Better Battery Materials: Discoveries could accelerate the development of high-energy lithium batteries


Diagram illustrates the crystal lattice of a proposed battery electrolyte material called Li3PO4. The researchers found that measuring how vibrations of sound move through the lattice could reveal how well ions – electrically charged atoms or molecules – could travel through the solid material, and therefore how they would work in a real battery. In this diagram, the oxygen atoms are shown in red, the purple pyramid-like shapes are phosphate (PO4) molecules. The orange and green spheres are ions of lithium.
Image: Sokseiha Muy

Design principles could point to better electrolytes for next-generation lithium batteries.

A new approach to analyzing and designing new ion conductors — a key component of rechargeable batteries — could accelerate the development of high-energy lithium batteries and possibly other energy storage and delivery devices such as fuel cells, researchers say.

The new approach relies on understanding the way vibrations move through the crystal lattice of lithium ion conductors and correlating that with the way they inhibit ion migration. This provides a way to discover new materials with enhanced ion mobility, allowing rapid charging and discharging.

At the same time, the method can be used to reduce the material’s reactivity with the battery’s electrodes, which can shorten its useful life. These two characteristics — better ion mobility and low reactivity — have tended to be mutually exclusive.

The new concept was developed by a team led by W.M. Keck Professor of Energy Yang Shao-Horn, graduate student Sokseiha Muy, recent graduate John Bachman PhD ’17, and Research Scientist Livia Giordano, along with nine others at MIT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and institutions in Tokyo and Munich. Their findings were reported in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

The new design principle has been about five years in the making, Shao-Horn says. The initial thinking started with the approach she and her group have used to understand and control catalysts for water splitting, and applying it to ion conduction — the process that lies at the heart of not only rechargeable batteries, but also other key technologies such as fuel cells and desalination systems.

While electrons, with their negative charge, flow from one pole of the battery to the other (thus providing power for devices), positive ions flow the other way, through an electrolyte, or ion conductor, sandwiched between those poles, to complete the flow.

Typically, that electrolyte is a liquid. A lithium salt dissolved in an organic liquid is a common electrolyte in today’s lithium-ion batteries. But that substance is flammable and has sometimes caused these batteries to catch fire. The search has been on for a solid material to replace it, which would eliminate that issue.

A variety of promising solid ion conductors exist, but none is stable when in contact with both the positive and negative electrodes in lithium-ion batteries, Shao-Horn says.

Therefore, seeking new solid ion conductors that have both high ion conductivity and stability is critical. But sorting through the many different structural families and compositions to find the most promising ones is a classic needle in a haystack problem. That’s where the new design principle comes in.

The idea is to find materials that have ion conductivity comparable to that of liquids, but with the long-term stability of solids. The team asked, “What is the fundamental principle? What are the design principles on a general structural level that govern the desired properties?” Shao-Horn says. A combination of theoretical analysis and experimental measurements has now yielded some answers, the researchers say.

“We realized that there are a lot of materials that could be discovered, but no understanding or common principle that allows us to rationalize the discovery process,” says Muy, the paper’s lead author. “We came up with an idea that could encapsulate our understanding and predict which materials would be among the best.”

The key was to look at the lattice properties of these solid materials’ crystalline structures. This governs how vibrations such as waves of heat and sound, known as phonons, pass through materials. This new way of looking at the structures turned out to allow accurate predictions of the materials’ actual properties. “Once you know [the vibrational frequency of a given material], you can use it to predict new chemistry or to explain experimental results,” Shao-Horn says.

The researchers observed a good correlation between the lattice properties determined using the model and the lithium ion conductor material’s conductivity. “We did some experiments to support this idea experimentally” and found the results matched well, she says.

They found, in particular, that the vibrational frequency of lithium itself can be fine-tuned by tweaking its lattice structure, using chemical substitution or dopants to subtly change the structural arrangement of atoms.

The new concept can now provide a powerful tool for developing new, better-performing materials that could lead to dramatic improvements in the amount of power that could be stored in a battery of a given size or weight, as well as improved safety, the researchers say.

Already, they used the method to find some promising candidates. And the techniques could also be adapted to analyze materials for other electrochemical processes such as solid-oxide fuel cells, membrane based desalination systems, or oxygen-generating reactions.

The team included Hao-Hsun Chang at MIT; Douglas Abernathy, Dipanshu Bansal, and Olivier Delaire at Oak Ridge; Santoshi Hori and Ryoji Kanno at Tokyo Institute of Technology; and Filippo Maglia, Saskia Lupart, and Peter Lamp at Research Battery Technology at BMW Group in Munich.

The work was supported by BMW, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Watch a YouTube Video on New Nano-Enabled Super Capacitors and Batteries

Is This the Battery Boost We’ve Been Waiting For?


electric-car_technology_of-100599537-primary.idgeElectric cars are among the products that stand to benefit from new lithium-ion cells that could store as much as 40% more energy. A BMW i Vision Dynamics concept electric automobile, made by BMW AG, on display in September. PHOTO: SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG

The batteries that power our modern world—from phones to dronesto electric cars—will soon experience something not heard of in years: Their capacity to store electricity will jump by double-digit percentages, according to researchers, developers and manufacturers.

The next wave of batteries, long in the pipeline, is ready for commercialization. This will mean, among other things, phones with 10% to 30% more battery life, or phones with the same battery life but faster and lighter or with brighter screens. We’ll see more cellular-connected wearables. As this technology becomes widespread, makers of electric vehicles and home storage batteries will be able to knock thousands of dollars off their prices over the next five to 10 years. Makers of electric aircraft will be able to explore new designs.

There is a limit to how far lithium-ion batteries can take us; surprisingly, it’s about twice their current capacity. The small, single-digit percentage improvements we see year after year typically are because of improvements in how they are made, such as small tweaks to their chemistry or new techniques for filling battery cells with lithium-rich electrolyte. What’s coming is a more fundamental change to the materials that make up a battery.

Equipment that Sila Nanotechnologies uses to manufacture material for lithium-silicon batteries.
Equipment that Sila Nanotechnologies uses to manufacture material for lithium-silicon batteries. PHOTO: SILA NANOTECHNOLOGIES

 

First, some science: Every lithium-ion battery has an anode and a cathode. Lithium ions traveling between them yield the electrical current that powers our devices. When a battery is fully charged, the anode has sucked up lithium ions like a sponge. And as it discharges, those ions travel through the electrolyte, to the cathode.

Typically, anodes in lithium-ion batteries are made of graphite, which is carbon in a crystalline form. While graphite anodes hold a substantial number of lithium ions, researchers have long known a different material, silicon, can hold 25 times as many.

The trick is, silicon brings with it countless technical challenges. For instance, a pure silicon anode will soak up so many lithium ions that it gets “pulverized” after a single charge, says George Crabtree, director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, established by the U.S. Department of Energy at the University of Chicago Argonne lab to accelerate battery research.

Current battery anodes can have small amounts of silicon, boosting their performance slightly. The amount of silicon in a company’s battery is a closely held trade secret, but Dr. Crabtree estimates that in any battery, silicon is at most 10% of the anode. In 2015, Tesla founder Elon Musk revealed that silicon in the Panasonic-made batteries of the auto maker’s Model S helped boost the car’s range by 6%.

Now, some startups say they are developing production-ready batteries with anodes that are mostly silicon. Sila Nanotechnologies,Angstron Materials , Enovix and Enevate, to name a few, offer materials for so-called lithium-silicon batteries, which are being tested by the world’s largest battery manufacturers, car companies and consumer-electronics companies.

Prototype batteries built at Sila with the startup's silicon-dominant anode technology.
Prototype batteries built at Sila with the startup’s silicon-dominant anode technology. PHOTO: SILA NANOTECHNOLOGIES

For Sila, in Alameda, Calif., the secret is nanoparticles lots of empty space inside. This way, the lithium can be absorbed into the particle without making the anode swell and shatter, says Sila Chief Executive Gene Berdichevsky. Cells made with Sila’s particles could store 20% to 40% more energy, he adds.

Angstron Materials, in Dayton, Ohio, makes similar claims about its nanoparticles for lithium-ion batteries.

Dr. Crabtree says this approach is entirely plausible, though there’s a trade-off: By allowing more room inside the anode for lithium ions, manufacturers must produce a larger anode. This anode takes up more space in the battery, allowing less overall space to increase capacity. This is why the upper bound of increased energy density using this approach is about 40%.

The big challenge, as ever, is getting to market, says Dr. Crabtree.

Sila’s clients include BMW and Amperex Technology , one of the world’s largest makers of batteries for consumer electronics, including both Apple ’s iPhone and Samsung ’s Galaxy S8 phone.

China-based Amperex is also an investor in Sila, but Amperex Chief Operating Officer Joe Kit Chu Lam says his company is securing several suppliers of the nanoparticles necessary to produce lithium-silicon batteries. Having multiple suppliers is essential for securing enough volume, he says.

This nanoparticle of carbon and silicon, made by Global Graphene Group, could help lithium-ion batteries store significantly more energy.
This nanoparticle of carbon and silicon, made by Global Graphene Group, could help lithium-ion batteries store significantly more energy. PHOTO: GLOBAL GRAPHENE GROUP

The first commercial consumer devices to have higher-capacity lithium-silicon batteries will likely be announced in the next two years, says Mr. Lam, who expects a wearable to be first. Other companies claim a similar timetable for consumer rollout.

Enevate produces complete silicon-dominant anodes for car manufacturers. CEO Robert Rango says its technology increases the range of electric vehicles by 30% compared with conventional lithium-ion batteries.

BMW plans to incorporate Sila’s silicon anode technology in a plug-in electric vehicle by 2023, says a company spokesman. BMW expects an increase of 10% to 15% in battery-pack capacity in a single leap. While this is the same technology destined for mobile electronics, the higher volumes and higher safety demands of the auto industry mean slower implementation there. In 2017, BMW said it would invest €200 million ($246 million) in its own battery-research center.

Enovix, whose investors include Intel and Qualcomm, has pioneered a different kind of 3-D structure for its batteries, says CEO Harrold Rust. With much higher energy density and anodes that are almost pure silicon, the company claims its batteries would contain 30% to 50% more energy in the size needed for a mobile phone, and two to three times as much in the size required for a smartwatch.

The downside: producing these will require a significant departure from the current manufacturing process.

Even though it’s a significant advance, to get beyond what’s possible with lithium-silicon batteries will require a change in battery composition—such as lithium-sulfur chemistry or solid-state batteries. Efforts to make these technologies viable are at a much earlier stage, however, and it isn’t clear when they’ll arrive.

Meanwhile, we can look forward to the possibility of a thinner or more capable Apple Watch, wireless headphones we don’t have to charge as often and electric vehicles that are actually affordable. The capacity of lithium-ion batteries has increased threefold since their introduction in 1991, and at every level of improvement, new and unexpected applications, devices and business opportunities pop up.

 

Corrections & Amplifications 

Sila Nanotechnologies produces nanoparticles that contain silicon and other components, but don’t include graphite. A previous version of this column incorrectly described nanoparticles as a graphite-silicon composite. An earlier version also incorrectly identified Angstron Materials as Angstrom Materials. (Angstron error corrected: March 18, 2018. Nanoparticles error corrected: March 19, 2018

 

Appeared in the March 19, 2018, print edition as ‘Battery Life Powers Ahead Toward Sizable Gains.’

Have you seen Tenka Energy’s YouTube Video?  Watch Here:

Step Towards Better ‘Beyond Lithium’ Batteries: University of Bath


beyond Lio Batts batteriesA step towards new “beyond lithium” rechargeable batteries with superior performance has been made by researchers at the University of Bath.

We increasingly rely on rechargeable batteries for a host of essential uses; from mobile phones and electric cars to electrical grid storage. At present this demand is taken up by lithium-ion batteries. As we continue to transition from fossil fuels to low emission energy sources, new battery technologies will be needed for new applications and more efficient energy storage.

One approach to develop batteries that store more energy is to use “multivalent” metals instead of lithium. In lithium-ion batteries, charging and discharging transfers lithium ions inside the battery. For every lithium ion transferred, one electron is also transferred, producing electric current. In multivalent batteries, lithium would be replaced by a different metal that transfers more than one electron per ion. For batteries of equal size, this would give multivalent batteries better energy storage capacity and performance.

The team showed that titanium dioxide can be modified to allow it to be used as an electrode in multivalent batteries, providing a valuable proof of concept in their development.

The scientists, an international team from the University of Bath, France, Germany, Holland, and the USA, deliberately introduced defects in titanium dioxide to form high concentrations of microscopic holes, and showed these can be reversibly occupied by magnesium and aluminium; which carry more than one electron per ion.

The team also describes a new chemical strategy for designing materials that can be used in future multivalent batteries.

The research is published in the journal Nature Materials.

Dr Benjamin Morgan, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath, said: “Multivalent batteries are a really exciting direction for battery technology, potentially offering higher charge densities and better performance. New battery technologies are going to be more and more important as we wean ourselves off fossil fuels and adopt greener energy sources.

“There are quite a few technical hurdles to overcome, including finding materials that are good electrodes for multivalent ions. We’ve shown a way to modify titanium dioxide to turn it into a multivalent electrode.

“In the long term, this proof of concept is a possible step towards “beyond lithium” batteries with superior performance.”

Eco-Friendly Desalination using MOF’s could Supply the Lithium needed to Manufacture Batteries required to Mainstream EV’s


A new water purification (desalination) technology could be the key to more electric cars. How?

“Eco-Friendly Mining” of world’s the oceans for the vast amounts of lithium required for EV batteries, could “mainstream” our acceptance (affordability and accessibility) of Electric Vehicles and provide clean water – forecast to be in precious short supply in many parts of the World in the not so distant future.

energy_storage_2013-042216-_11-13-1Humanity is going to need a lot of lithium batteries if electric cars are going to take over, and that presents a problem when there’s only so much lithium available from conventional mines.

A potential solution is being researched that turns the world’s oceans into eco-friendly “Lithium supply mines.”

Scientists have outlined a desalination technique that would use metal-organic frameworks (sponge-like structures with very high surface areas) with sub-nanometer pores to catch lithium ions while purifying ocean water.

The approach mimics the tendency of cell membranes to selectively dehydrate and carry ions, leaving the lithium behind while producing water you can drink.

Fourth Industrial Revo 012016 AAEAAQAAAAAAAAZqAAAAJGM1YzM0NGYxLWIxZTMtNGYyNi1iMjIyLTM1MjUwNDRjYjIyYQ

While the concept of extracting lithium from our oceans certainly isn’t new, this new technology method would be much more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Instead of tearing up the landscape to find mineral deposits, battery makers would simply have to deploy enough filters.

It could even be used to make the most of water when pollution does take place — recovering lithium from the waste water at shale gas fields.

This method will require more research and development before it’s ready for real-world use.

However, the implications are already clear. If this desalination approach reaches sufficient scale, the world would have much more lithium available for electric vehicles, phones and other battery-based devices. It would also reduce the environmental impact of those devices. storedot-ev-battery-21-889x592 (1)

While some say current lithium mining practices negates some of the eco-friendliness of an EV, this “purification for Lithium” approach could let you drive relatively guilt-free

Reposted from Jonathan Fingas – Engadget

MIT: A new approach to rechargeable batteries – metal-mesh membrane could solve longstanding problems – lead to inexpensive power storage


MIT-Battery-Membranes_0A type of battery first invented nearly five decades ago could catapult to the forefront of energy storage technologies, thanks to a new finding by researchers at MIT. Illustration modified from an original image by Felice Frankel

New metal-mesh membrane could solve longstanding problems and lead to inexpensive power storage.

A type of battery first invented nearly five decades ago could catapult to the forefront of energy storage technologies, thanks to a new finding by researchers at MIT. The battery, based on electrodes made of sodium and nickel chloride and using a new type of metal mesh membrane, could be used for grid-scale installations to make intermittent power sources such as wind and solar capable of delivering reliable baseload electricity.

The findings are being reported today in the journal Nature Energy, by a team led by MIT professor Donald Sadoway, postdocs Huayi Yin and Brice Chung, and four others.

Although the basic battery chemistry the team used, based on a liquid sodium electrode material, was first described in 1968, the concept never caught on as a practical approach because of one significant drawback: It required the use of a thin membrane to separate its molten components, and the only known material with the needed properties for that membrane was a brittle and fragile ceramic. These paper-thin membranes made the batteries too easily damaged in real-world operating conditions, so apart from a few specialized industrial applications, the system has never been widely implemented.

But Sadoway and his team took a different approach, realizing that the functions of that membrane could instead be performed by a specially coated metal mesh, a much stronger and more flexible material that could stand up to the rigors of use in industrial-scale storage systems.

“I consider this a breakthrough,” Sadoway says, because for the first time in five decades, this type of battery — whose advantages include cheap, abundant raw materials, very safe operational characteristics, and an ability to go through many charge-discharge cycles without degradation — could finally become practical.

While some companies have continued to make liquid-sodium batteries for specialized uses, “the cost was kept high because of the fragility of the ceramic membranes,” says Sadoway, the John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry. “Nobody’s really been able to make that process work,” including GE, which spent nearly 10 years working on the technology before abandoning the project.

As Sadoway and his team explored various options for the different components in a molten-metal-based battery, they were surprised by the results of one of their tests using lead compounds. “We opened the cell and found droplets” inside the test chamber, which “would have to have been droplets of molten lead,” he says. But instead of acting as a membrane, as expected, the compound material “was acting as an electrode,” actively taking part in the battery’s electrochemical reaction.

“That really opened our eyes to a completely different technology,” he says. The membrane had performed its role — selectively allowing certain molecules to pass through while blocking others — in an entirely different way, using its electrical properties rather than the typical mechanical sorting based on the sizes of pores in the material.

In the end, after experimenting with various compounds, the team found that an ordinary steel mesh coated with a solution of titanium nitride could perform all the functions of the previously used ceramic membranes, but without the brittleness and fragility. The results could make possible a whole family of inexpensive and durable materials practical for large-scale rechargeable batteries.

The use of the new type of membrane can be applied to a wide variety of molten-electrode battery chemistries, he says, and opens up new avenues for battery design. “The fact that you can build a sodium-sulfur type of battery, or a sodium/nickel-chloride type of battery, without resorting to the use of fragile, brittle ceramic — that changes everything,” he says.

The work could lead to inexpensive batteries large enough to make intermittent, renewable power sources practical for grid-scale storage, and the same underlying technology could have other applications as well, such as for some kinds of metal production, Sadoway says.

Sadoway cautions that such batteries would not be suitable for some major uses, such as cars or phones. Their strong point is in large, fixed installations where cost is paramount, but size and weight are not, such as utility-scale load leveling. In those applications, inexpensive battery technology could potentially enable a much greater percentage of intermittent renewable energy sources to take the place of baseload, always-available power sources, which are now dominated by fossil fuels.

The research team included Fei Chen, a visiting scientist from Wuhan University of Technology; Nobuyuki Tanaka, a visiting scientist from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency; MIT research scientist Takanari Ouchi; and postdocs Huayi Yin, Brice Chung, and Ji Zhao. The work was supported by the French oil company Total S.A. through the MIT Energy Initiative.