New battery technology that could run for more than a decade could revolutionize renewable energy – Harvard University

Harvard Battery Research aziz_650

The race is on to build the next-generation battery that could help the world switch over to clean energy. But as Bill Gates explained in his blog last year: “storing energy turns out to be surprisingly hard and expensive”.


Now Harvard researchers have developed a cheap, non-toxic battery that lasts more than 10 years, which they say could be a game changer for renewable energy storage.

Solar installers from Baker Electric place solar panels on the roof of a residential home in Scripps Ranch, San Diego, California, U.S. October 14, 2016.  Picture taken October 14, 2016.      REUTERS/Mike Blake - RTX2QGWW

Image: REUTERS/Mike Blake

The researchers from the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences published a paper in the journal ACS Energy Letters saying that they have developed a breakthrough technology.


Their new type of battery stores energy in organic molecules dissolved in neutral pH water. This makes the battery non-toxic and cheaper. It’s suitable for home storage and lasts for more than a decade. “This is a long-lasting battery you could put in your basement,” Roy Gordon, a lead researcher and the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science, said in a Harvard news article.

“If it spilled on the floor, it wouldn’t eat the concrete and since the medium is non-corrosive, you can use cheaper materials to build the components of the batteries, like the tanks and pumps.”


The energy storage problem

There’s a big problem with renewable energy sources: Intermittency. In other words, how to keep the lights on when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

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 Image: International Energy Agency

In recent years, universities and the tech sector have been working on better batteries that they hope could help solve the energy storage problem. Despite significant improvements though, batteries are riddled with issues such as high cost, toxicity and short lifespan.


Solar power customers usually have two options to store power: lithium-ion batteries such as the ones found in electronics, which are still very expensive; or lead-acid batteries. These cost half as much, but need a lot of maintenance and contain toxic materials.

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Image: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

In one emerging and promising technology is the “v-flow” battery, which uses vanadium in large external tanks of corrosive acids. 

The bigger the tanks, the more energy they store. But there’s a catch: vanadium is an expensive metal and like all other battery technologies, v-flow batteries lose capacity after a few years.

The quest for the next-generation battery

The US Department of Energy has set a goal of building a battery that can store energy for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour, which would make stored wind and solar energy competitive with energy produced from traditional power plants.


The Harvard researchers say their breakthrough puts them within sight of this goal.

“If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you change the world,” said Michael Aziz, lead researcher and professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at Harvard. “It becomes cost effective to put batteries in so many places. This research puts us one step closer to reaching that target.”



Video: Next Generation Silicon-Nanowire Batteries


A new company has been formed to exploit and commercialize the Next Generation Super-Capacitors and Batteries. The opportunity is based on Technology & Exclusive IP Licensing Rights from Rice University, discovered/ curated by Dr. James M. Tour, named “One of the Fifty (50) most influential scientists in the World today”

The Porous Silicon Nanowires & Lithium Cobalt Oxide technology has been advanced to provide a New Generation Battery that is:

 Energy Dense
 High Specific Power
 Affordable Cost
 Low Manufacturing Cost
 Rapid Charge/ Re-Charge
 Flexible Form Factor
 Long Warranty Life
 Non-Toxic
 Highly Scalable

Key Markets & Commercial Applications

 Motor Cycle/ EV Batteries
 Marine and Drone Batteries
 Medical Devices and
 Power Banks
 Estimated $112 Billion Market for Rechargeable Batteries by 2025



Battery-free implantable medical device powered by human body – A biological supercapacitor



Researchers from UCLA and the University of Connecticut have designed a new biofriendly energy storage system called a biological supercapacitor, which operates using charged particles, or ions, from fluids in the human body. The device is harmless to the body’s biological systems, and it could lead to longer-lasting cardiac pacemakers and other implantable medical devices.   The UCLA team was led by Richard Kaner, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering, and the Connecticut researchers were led by James Rusling, a professor of chemistry and cell biology.

A paper about their design was published this week in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.   Pacemakers — which help regulate abnormal heart rhythms — and other implantable devices have saved countless lives. But they’re powered by traditional batteries that eventually run out of power and must be replaced, meaning another painful surgery and the accompanying risk of infection. In addition, batteries contain toxic materials that could endanger the patient if they leak.

The researchers propose storing energy in those devices without a battery. The supercapacitor they invented charges using electrolytes from biological fluids like blood serum and urine, and it would work with another device called an energy harvester, which converts heat and motion from the human body into electricity — in much the same way that self-winding watches are powered by the wearer’s body movements. That electricity is then captured by the supercapacitor.   “Combining energy harvesters with supercapacitors can provide endless power for lifelong implantable devices that may never need to be replaced,” said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the study.

Modern pacemakers are typically about 6 to 8 millimeters thick, and about the same diameter as a 50-cent coin; about half of that space is usually occupied by the battery. The new supercapacitor is only 1 micrometer thick — much smaller than the thickness of a human hair — meaning that it could improve implantable devices’ energy efficiency. It also can maintain its performance for a long time, bend and twist inside the body without any mechanical damage, and store more charge than the energy lithium film batteries of comparable size that are currently used in pacemakers.   “Unlike batteries that use chemical reactions that involve toxic chemicals and electrolytes to store energy, this new class of biosupercapacitors stores energy by utilizing readily available ions, or charged molecules, from the blood serum,” said Islam Mosa, a Connecticut graduate student and first author of the study.

The new biosupercapacitor comprises a carbon nanomaterial called graphene layered with modified human proteins as an electrode, a conductor through which electricity from the energy harvester can enter or leave. The new platform could eventually also be used to develop next-generation implantable devices to speed up bone growth, promote healing or stimulate the brain, Kaner said.

Although supercapacitors have not yet been widely used in medical devices, the study shows that they may be viable for that purpose.   “In order to be effective, battery-free pacemakers must have supercapacitors that can capture, store and transport energy, and commercial supercapacitors are too slow to make it work,” El-Kady said. “Our research focused on custom-designing our supercapacitor to capture energy effectively, and finding a way to make it compatible with the human body.”   Among the paper’s other authors are the University of Connecticut’s Challa Kumar, Ashis Basu and Karteek Kadimisetty. The research was supported by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and a National Science Foundation EAGER grant.   Source and top image: UCLA Engineering


NREL’s Advanced Atomic Layer Deposition Enables Lithium-Ion Battery Technology

Forge Nano II batterypower-669x272

NREL’s Agreement with Forge Nano helps fundamentally enhance lithium-ion battery safety, durability, and lifetime

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has entered into an exclusive license agreement with Forge Nano to commercialize NREL’s patented battery materials and systems capable of operating safely in high-stress environments. A particular feature of the technology is the encapsulation of materials with solid electrolyte coatings that can be designed to meet the increasingly demanding needs of any battery application.

These lithium-ion batteries feature a hybrid solid-liquid electrolyte system, in which the electrodes are coated with a solid electrolyte layer. This layer minimizes the potential for the formation of an internal short circuit between electrodes to prevent “thermal runaway,” or the uncontrolled increase in battery cell temperature that can result in a fire or an explosion.

In addition, coating of the electrode materials reduces the stress on traditional polymer separators that are currently necessary components in commercial lithium-ion batteries and can allow for thinner separators designed for higher power devices. This advancement has the potential to reduce both the cost and weight of the battery device, while substantially increasing safety and lifetime.

Lab-scale testing of NREL’s hybrid solid-liquid electrolyte system has shown increased electrode durability and reliability without compromised electrochemical performance. “The cells are less likely to fail, even in demanding, real-world conditions like high temperatures and fast recycle rates,” said Ahmad Pesaran, whose team of engineers in NREL’s Energy Storage group invented the technology.

Forge Nano 2017 AAEAAQAAAAAAAAdtAAAAJDgzZGI5OTYxLTcwYjUtNDdiMy05Yjc5LWFkZDZlOWU1OTg3YwForge Nano, formerly PneumatiCoat Technologies, is a Colorado-based company specializing in the scale-up and manufacturing of cost-effective Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) encapsulated materials. Forge Nano presented its technology at the 2013 and 2017 NREL Industry Growth Forum, the nation’s premier clean energy investment event. A year later, NREL approached the company as a potential licensee after conducting a licensee search in the battery technology area.

“This license agreement will allow Forge Nano to offer further customized lithium-ion battery materials for high performance devices by utilizing our patented high-throughput ALD system that has already been successfully tested at the pilot scale and in large format pouch cells,” Paul Lichty, CEO of Forge Nano, said. “The incorporation of this technology into Forge Nano’s offering will lead to a substantial reduction in cost per unit energy of lithium-ion batteries.”

NREL has more than 800 technologies available for licensing. Companies interested in partnering to advance research on or commercialize renewable energy technologies can visit the EERE Energy Innovation Portal, which features descriptions of all renewable energy technologies funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

Visit NREL online at

To learn more about Forge Nano visit: Forge Nano

Flying drones could soon re-charge whilst airborne with new (old) technology: Inductive Coupling



Scientists have demonstrated a highly efficient method for wirelessly transferring power to a drone while it is flying.

The breakthrough could in theory allow flying drones to stay airborne indefinitely – simply hovering over a ground support vehicle to recharge – opening up new potential industrial applications.

The technology uses inductive coupling, a concept initially demonstrated by inventor Nikola Tesla over 100 years ago. Two copper coils are tuned into one another, using electronics, which enables the wireless exchange of power at a certain frequency. Scientists have been experimenting with this technology for decades, but have not yet been able to wirelessly power flying technology.

Now, scientists from Imperial College London have removed the battery from an off-the-shelf mini- and demonstrated that they can wirelessly transfer power to it via inductive coupling. They believe their demonstration is the first to show how this wireless charging method can be efficiently done with a flying object like a drone, potentially paving the way for wider use of the technology.

To demonstrate their approach the researchers bought an off-the-shelf quadcopter drone, around 12 centimetres in diameter, and altered its electronics and removed its battery. They made a copper foil ring, which is a receiving antennae that encircles the drone’s casing. On the ground, a transmitter device made out of a circuit board is connected to electronics and a power source, creating a .

The drone’s electronics are tuned or calibrated at the frequency of the magnetic field. When it flies into the magnetic field an alternating current (AC) voltage is induced in the receiving antenna and the drone’s electronics convert it efficiently into a direct current (DC) voltage to power it.

The technology is still in its experimental stage. The drone can only currently fly ten centimetres above the magnetic field transmission source. The team estimate they are one year away from a commercially available product. When commercialised they believe their breakthrough could have a range of advantages in the development of commercial drone technology and other devices.

The use of small drones for commercial purposes, in surveillance, for reconnaissance missions, and search and rescue operations are rapidly growing. However, the distance that a drone can travel and the duration it can stay in the air is limited by the availability of power and re-charging requirements. Wireless power transfer technology may solve this, say the team.

Dr Samer Aldhaher, a researcher from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “There are a number of scenarios where wirelessly transferring power could improve drone technology. One option could see a ground support vehicle being used as a mobile charging station, where drones could hover over it and recharge, never having to leave the air.”

Wirelessly transferring power could have also applications in other areas such as sensors, healthcare devices and further afield, on interplanetary missions.

Professor Paul Mitcheson, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London, explains: “Imagine using a drone to wirelessly transmit power to sensors on things such as bridges to monitor their structural integrity. This would cut out humans having to reach these difficult to access places to re-charge them.

“Another application could include implantable miniature diagnostic medical devices, wirelessly powered from a source external to the body. This could enable new types of medical implants to be safely recharged, and reduce the battery size to make these implants less invasive.

“In the future, we may also be able to use drones to re-charge science equipment on Mars, increasing the lifetime of these billion dollar missions.

“We have already made valuable progress with this technology and now we are looking to take it to the next level.”

The next stage will see team exploring collaborations with potential industrial partners.

Explore further: Drone safety: User-centric control software improves pilot performance and safety


Roots of the Lithium Battery Problem: Berkeley Lab Researchers Find Dendrites Start Below the Surface

carbon-nanotubeThe lithium-ion batteries that power our laptops, smartphones and electric vehicles could have significantly higher energy density if their graphite anodes were to be replaced by lithium metal anodes. Hampering this change, however, has been the so-called dendrite problem. Over the course of several battery charge/discharge cycles, particularly when the battery is cycled at a fast rate, microscopic fibers of lithium, called “dendrites,” sprout from the surface of the lithium electrode and spread like kudzu across the electrolyte until they reach the other electrode. An electrical current passing through these dendrites can short-circuit the battery, causing it to rapidly overheat and in some instances catch fire. Efforts to solve the problem by curtailing dendrite growth have met with limited success, perhaps because they’ve just been scratching the surface of the problem.

These 3D reconstructions show how dendritic structures that can short-circuit a battery form deep within a lithium electrode, break through the surface and spread across the electrolyte.

These 3D reconstructions show how dendritic structures that can short-circuit a battery form deep within a lithium electrode, break through the surface and spread across the electrolyte.

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered that during the early stages of development, the bulk of dendrite material lies below the surface of the lithium electrode, underneath the electrode/electrolyte interface. Using X-ray microtomography at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), a team led by Nitash Balsara, a faculty scientist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, observed the seeds of dendrites forming in lithium anodes and growing out into a polymer electrolyte during cycling. It was not until the advanced stages of development that the bulk of dendrite material was in the electrolyte. Balsara and his colleagues suspect that non-conductive contaminants in the lithium anode trigger dendrite nucleation.

Nitash Balsara and Katherine Harry at ALS beamline 8.3.2 where they shed important new light on the dendrite problem in lithium batteries. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

Nitash Balsara and Katherine Harry at ALS beamline 8.3.2 where they shed important new light on the dendrite problem in lithium batteries. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, it seems that preventing dendrite formation in polymer electrolytes depends on inhibiting the formation of subsurface dendritic structures in the lithium electrode,” Balsara says. “In showing that dendrites are not simple protrusions emanating from the lithium electrode surface and that subsurface non-conductive contaminants might be the source of dendritic structures, our results provide a clear prescription for the path forward to enabling the widespread use of lithium anodes.”

Balsara, who is a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California (UC) Berkeley, is the corresponding author of a paper describing this research in Nature Materials titled “Detection of subsurface structures underneath dendrites formed on cycled lithium metal electrodes.” Co-authors are Katherine Harry, Daniel Hallinan, Dilworth Parkinson and, Alastair MacDowell.

The tremendous capacity of lithium and the metal’s remarkable ability to move lithium ions and electrodes in and out of an electrode as it cycles through charge/discharge make it an ideal anode material. Until now, researchers have studied the dendrite problem using various forms of electron microscopy. This is the first study to employ microtomography using monochromatic beams of high energy or “hard” X-rays, ranging from 22 to 25 keV, at  ALS beamline 8.3.2. This technique allows non-destructive three-dimensional imaging of solid objects at a resolution of approximately one micron.

“We observed crystalline contaminants in the lithium anode that appeared at the base of every dendrite as a bright speck,” says Katherine Harry, a member of Balsara’s research group and the lead author of the Nature Materials paper. “The lithium foils we used in this study contained a number of elements other than lithium with the most abundant being nitrogen. We can’t say definitively that these contaminants are responsible for dendrite nucleation but we plan to address this issue by conducting in situ X-ray microtomography.”

Balsara and his group also plan further study of the role played by the electrolyte in dendrite growth, and they have begun to investigate ways to eliminate non-conductive impurities from lithium anodes.

This research was funded by the DOE Office of Science.

Hybrid ribbons a gift for powerful batteries: Vanadium oxide – graphene material works well for lithium-ion storage


Hybrid ribbons a gift for powerful batteries: Vanadium oxide – graphene material works well for lithium-ion storage

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8The Rice University lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan determined that the well-studied material is a superior cathode for batteries that could supply both high energy density and significant power density. The research appears online this month in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters. The ribbons created at Rice are thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper, yet have potential that far outweighs current materials for their ability to charge and discharge very quickly. Cathodes built into half-cells for testing at Rice fully charged and discharged in 20 seconds and retained more than 90 percent of their initial capacity after more than 1,000 cycles. “This is the direction battery research is going, not only for something with high energy density but also high power density,” Ajayan said. “It’s somewhere between a battery and a supercapacitor.”


Hydrothermal processing of vanadium pentoxide and graphene oxide creates graphene-coated ribbons of crystalline vanadium oxide, which show great potential as ultrafast charging and discharging electrodes for lithium-ion batteries. Credit: Ajayan Group/Rice University

The ribbons also have the advantage of using relatively abundant and cheap materials. “This is done through a very simple hydrothermal process, and I think it would be easily scalable to large quantities,” he said. Ajayan said vanadium oxide has long been considered a material with great potential, and in fact vanadium pentoxide has been used in lithium-ion batteries for its special structure and high capacity.

But oxides are slow to charge and discharge, due to their low electrical conductivity. The high-conductivity graphene lattice that is literally baked in solves that problem nicely, he said, by serving as a speedy conduit for electrons and channels for ions.

The atom-thin graphene sheets bound to the crystals take up very little bulk. In the best samples made at Rice, fully 84 percent of the cathode’s weight was the lithium-slurping VO2, which held 204 milliamp hours of energy per gram. The researchers, led by Rice graduate student Yongji Gong and lead author Shubin Yang, said they believe that to be among the best overall performance ever seen for lithium-ion battery electrodes. “One challenge to production was controlling the conditions for the co-synthesis of VO2 ribbons with graphene,” Yang said.

The process involved suspending graphene oxide nanosheets with powdered vanadium pentoxide (layered vanadium oxide, with two atoms of vanadium and five of oxygen) in water and heating it in an autoclave for hours. The vanadium pentoxide was completely reduced to VO2, which crystallized into ribbons, while the graphene oxide was reduced to graphene, Yang said.

The ribbons, with a web-like coating of graphene, were only about 10 nanometers thick, up to 600 nanometers wide and tens of micrometers in length. “These ribbons were the building blocks of the three-dimensional architecture,” Yang said. “This unique structure was favorable for the ultrafast diffusion of both lithium ions and electrons during charge and discharge processes. It was the key to the achievement of excellent electrochemical performance.”

In testing the new material, Yang and Gong found its capacity for lithium storage remained stable after 200 cycles even at high temperatures (167 degrees Fahrenheit) at which other cathodes commonly decay, even at low charge-discharge rates. “We think this is real progress in the development of cathode materials for high-power lithium-ion batteries,” Ajayan said, suggesting the ribbons’ ability to be dispersed in a solvent might make them suitable as a component in the paintable batteries developed in his lab.

More information:

Journal reference: Nano Letters

Revolutionary Improvement Increases Lithium Ion Battery Capacity by 300%

English: Nokia BL-5C lithium-ion battery from ...

English: Nokia BL-5C lithium-ion battery from a Nokia 1661 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tue, 30 October 2012 23:43

California Lithium Battery (CLB), a finalist in Department of Energy’s 2012 Start Up America’s Next Top Energy Innovator challenge, has announced the record-setting performance of its new lithium ion battery anode.

Called the “GEN3” the anode is a silicon graphene composite material engineered with Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) over the past eight months.  Independent test results in full cell lithium ion batteries indicate the new GEN3 anode material, used with advanced cathode and electrolyte materials, increases energy density by a stunning 3 times and specific anode capacity by an astonishing 4 times over existing lithium ion batteries.

The new performance level comes from a new lithium battery anode material for use with advanced cathode and electrolyte materials.  The press release performance characteristic quotes are an energy density of 525WH/Kg and specific anode capacity of 1,250mAh/g.

The performance quotes compare to today’s common commercial offerings at a density of between 100-180WH/kg and a specific anode capacity of 325mAh/g.

An understandably pumped CLB CEO, Phil Roberts, said, “This equates to more than a 300% improvement in lithium ion battery capacity and an estimated 70% reduction in lifetime cost for batteries used in consumer electronics, EVs, and grid-scale energy storage.”  Taken as quoted, this would be a massive shift in electrical storage costs for the better.

The CLB business model is underway fast-tracking the commercialization of its GEN3 breakthrough battery anode material. Over the next two years the firm plans to produce and sell its silicon-graphene anode material to global battery and electric vehicle manufacturers and start U.S. based production of a limited quantity of specialized batteries for high-end applications.

Related Article: Solar Roadways: Powering the World of Tomorrow

Roberts expounds with, “We believe that our new advanced silicon graphene anode composite material is so good in terms of specific capacity and extended cycle life that it will become a graphite anode ‘drop-in’ replacement material for anodes in most lithium ion batteries over the next 2-3 years.”

If that proves true – a revolution is at hand.

CLB thinks its transformational technology will change the way lithium ion battery power is produced, managed, and stored, especially if it can lead to lithium ion batteries being produced for under $175/kWh.  The firm believes that could directly compete with the cost of energy from fossil fueled power generation.  These two ideas will be exciting tests over time.

Silicon Graphene Composite
ANL’s Silicon Graphene Composite Graphic. Click image for the largest view. Image credit: Argonne National Laboratory.

Technically speaking the new GEN3 battery material’s foundation is the use of the breakthrough ANL silicon graphene process that stabilizes the use of silicon in a lithium battery anode. Although silicon absorbs lithium ten times better than any other anode materials it rapidly deteriorates during charge/discharge cycles. CLB has worked at ANL and other facilities over the past year to develop this new anode material to work in a full lithium ion battery cell with multiple cathode and electrolyte materials.  It seems the research will take about a third of the silicon potential to commercialization now.

Related Article: New Fuel Cell Catalyst Offers Very Cheap Alternative to Platinum

The superior results of the development program at ANL leads CLB to believe that this advanced anode material could eventually replace conventional graphite based anode materials used in most lithium ion batteries manufactured today. This new composite anode material is suitable for use in combination with a variety of existing and new lithium ion batteries cathode and electrolyte materials that will help dramatically improve overall battery performance and lower the lithium ion batteries cycle cost.

The firm’s press release asserts the cost cycle will effectively store electricity at a cost competitive with energy produced from fossil fuels.  Its implied pretty clearly within the context of the press release that competition to gasoline for internal combustion engines is just what the company means.

On the business front the interest is in the success of CLB, a joint venture between California-based CALiB Power and Ionex Energy Storage Systems, as a portfolio start-up company headquartered at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator that was started by The City of Los Angeles and the LA Department of Water and Power in just the last year.  CLB naturally plans to set up silicon graphene anode material and lithium ion battery manufacturing operations in the Los Angeles area.  How the manufacturing plan proceeds will be based on interest in its advanced Li-ion battery material from U.S. and international customers.

If it all works out we should be seeing GEN3 battery offerings pretty soon.  One hopes so, if only to cut costs and reduce weights of the personal electronics.  It will take a while longer to crack the electric vehicle market – but the cost projections are very enticing.

By. Brian Westenhaus

Source: The Lithium Ion Battery May Be Having a Revolution