A battery for the next century – Could it happen here? Massachusetts Moves Forward to Secure Clean Energy Future and … JOBS


Tesla Red Car 0e0c44e592964b68aad7d2cefa03807b-0e0c44e592964b68aad7d2cefa03807b-0

Clean energy advocates are increasingly focusing their hopes on battery storage to supply power to the grid from the sun and the wind, particularly during times of peak demand when the weather might be, inconveniently, cloudy and still.

In fact, the clean energy bill passed this week on Beacon Hill called for increasing the energy storage target from 200 megawatts to 1,000 megawatts by the end of 2025, and ordered study of a mobile emergency relief battery system. “Batteries are key to extending the life of clean energy and we want to see that battery sector really grow,” state Senator Michael Barrett told the State House News Service on Monday night. “So this is a major job-creation piece.”

He’s got that right. Lithium-ion batteries have improved markedly in recent years and are being used in New England, California, and in Europe to store power from renewable energy sources. In Casco Bay, Maine, a battery room packed with more than 1,000 lithium-ion batteries helps stabilize the grid, according to NextEra, helping to keep electricity flowing at 60 hertz, or cycles per second, the longtime standard for US households. And ISO New England reports that there are a dozen projects in the pipeline that involve connecting a battery to either a new or existing solar or wind facility.

Because renewable energy sources are crucial for reducing the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change, demand is only going to increase as stricter regulations kick in and as new products are developed — car companies project that 10 million to 20 million electric vehicles will be produced each year by 2025.

There’s a catch: Lithium-ion battery technology is approaching some very real limits imposed by the physical world, according to researchers. While battery performance has improved markedly and costs have fallen to around $150 per kilowatt hour, that’s still more than the $100 per kWh goal set by the US Department of Energy.

Costs are also soaring for rare metals used in battery electrodes. High demand has led to shocking abuses in Africa, where some cobalt mines exploit child labor, and to environmental violations in China, where mining dust has polluted villages, according to recent reporting in the science journal Nature. In any case, Mother Earth isn’t making any more cobalt or nickel: Demand will outstrip production within 20 years, researchers predict. Although crucial, current battery technology is neither clean nor renewable.

 

But soaring demand could also drive a market for new technology. As Eric Wilkinson, general counsel and director of energy policy for the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said: “It’s good for policy makers to be thinking about this, because it helps to energize the private sector.” Aging technology, dwindling natural resources, and harsh working conditions all make the lithium-ion battery industry ripe for disruption. Bill Gates’s $1 billion bet on energy, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, has invested in Form Energy, which is developing aqueous sulfur-based flow batteries that could last longer and cost less.

Battery storage may not grab as many headlines as advances in cancer research or genetics, but clean tech projects deserve a prime place on the Commonwealth’s R&D agenda. The right innovation ecosystem is already in place: science and engineering talent, academic institutions, and financial prowess that could unlock business opportunities and expand the state’s tax base. Strong public-private partnerships built MassBio. Maybe it’s time for MassBattery.

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Update: The Growth of EV Charging Stations in Europe – From Cities to Motorways: Video + Tony Seba on ‘Mobility Disruption’


Fastned-EV-fast-charging-station-

The battle over how and where Europeans charge their electric cars is expanding from the cities to the motorway’s and beyond. But if electric vehicles (EVs) are ever to overtake petrol and diesel cars then charging will have to be as easy and simple as filling up. This video takes a look at the growth in electric vehicle charging stations and how the electric car market is forecasted to grow. As the electric vehicle market has grown, the need for more EV charging points has also grown.

Watch the Video Below

 

Read and Watch More: 

Mobility Disruption | Tony Seba, Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and Lecturer at Stanford University

Tony Seba, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Author and Thought Leader, Lecturer at Stanford University, Keynote The reinvention and connection between infrastructure and mobility will fundamentally disrupt the clean transport model. It will change the way governments and consumers think about mobility, how power is delivered and consumed and the payment models for usage.

 

img_0651Have You Watched Tenka Energy’s Video on New Nano-Enabled Batteries and Super Capacitors for the EV Markets?

 

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

 

 

Win-Win Collaborations – Derisking Advanced Technology Commercialization: YouTube Video from David Lazovsky, Founder of Intermolecular


Intermolecular Header_Main_R

David Lazovsky, Founder of Intermolecular, addresses the audience of the Advanced Materials Commercialization Summit 2017, speaking on Win-Win Collaborations: De-risking Advanced Technology Commercialization. Read More About Intermolecular

” … We sought to establish collaborative development programs with the Companies that were the end Producers.” – David Lazovsky, Founder of Intermolecular

 

GNT US Tenka Energy“In the end you cannot “commercialize” technology (only) … you can only commercialize a Product  (technology+application) that can be produced and scaled economically into the Marketplace. You must find a way to build a bridge to span the gap between ‘Discovery, Proof of Concept, Prototype and Scaling to Funding (Finance), Market Integration and Acceptance.”

– Bruce W. Hoy, CEO of Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc.

Energy Storage Technologies vie for Investment and Market Share – “And the Winners Are” …


One of the conveniences that makes fossil fuels hard to phase out is the relative ease of storing them, something that many of the talks at Advanced Energy Materials 2018 aimed to tackle as they laid out some of the advances in alternatives for energy storage.

Max Lu during the inaugural address at AEM 2018

“Energy is the biggest business in the world,” Max Lu, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, told attendees of Advanced Energy Materials 2018 at Surrey University earlier this month. But as

Lu, who has held numerous positions on senior academic boards and government councils, pointed out, the shear scale of the business means it takes time for one technology to replace another.

“Even if solar power were now cheaper than fossil fuel, it would be another 30 years before it replaced fossil fuel,” said Lu. And for any alternative technology to replace fossil fuels, some means of storing it is crucial.

Batteries beyond lithium ion cells

Lithium ion batteries have become ubiquitous for powering small portable devices.

But as Daniel ShuPing Lau, professor and head at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and director of the University Research Facility in Materials pointed out, lithium is rare and high-cost, prompting the search for alternatives.

He described work on sodium ion batteries, where one of the key challenges has been the MnO2 electrode commonly used, which is prone to acid attack and disproportionation redox reactions.

Lau described work by his group and colleagues to get around the electrode stability issues using environmentally friendly K-birnessite MnO2 (K0.3MnO2) nanosheets, which they can inkjet print on paper as well as steel.

Their sodium ion batteries challenge the state of the art for energy storage devices with a working voltage of 2.5 V, maximum energy and power densities of 587 W h kgcathode−1 and 75 kW kgcathode−1, respectively, and a 99.5% capacity retention for 500 cycles at 1 A g−1.

Metal air batteries are another alternative to lithium-ion batteries, and Tan Wai Kan from Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan described the potential of using a carbon paper decorated with Fe2O3 nanoparticles in a metal air battery.

They increase the surface area of the electrode with a mesh structure to improve the efficiency, while using solid electrolyte KOHZrO2 instead of a liquid helped mitigate against the stability risks of hydrogen evolution for greater reliability and efficiency.

A winning write off for pseudosupercapacitors

Other challenges aside, when it comes to stability, supercapacitors leave most batteries far behind.

Because there is no mass movement, just charge, they tend to stay stable for not just hundreds but hundreds of thousands of cycles

They are already in use in the Shanghai bus system and the emergency doors on some aircraft as Robert Slade emeritus professor of inorganic and materials chemistry at the University of Surrey pointed out.

He described work on “pseudocapacitance”, a term popularised in the 1980s and 1990s to to describe a charge storage process that is by nature faradaic – that is, charge transport through redox processes – but where aspects of the behaviour is capacitive.

MnO2 is well known to impart pseudocapacitance in alkaline solutions but Slade and his colleagues focused on MoO3.

Although MnO3 is a lousy conductor, it accepts protons in acids to form HMoO, and exploiting the additional surface area of nanostructures further helps give access to the pseudocapacitance, so that the team were able to demonstrate a charge-discharge rate of 20 A g-1 for over 10,000 cycles.

This is competitive with MnO2 alkaline systems. “So don’t write off materials that other people have written off, such as MoO3, because a bit of “chemical trickery” can make them useful,” he concluded.

Down but not out for solid oxide fuel cells

But do we gain from the proliferation of so many different alternatives to fossil fuels? According to John Zhu, professor in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland in Australia, “yes.”

For clean energy we need more than one solution,” was his response when queried on the point after his talk.

In particular he had a number of virtues to espouse with respect to solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), which had been the topic of his own presentation.

Besides the advantage of potential 24-7 operation, SOFCs generate the energy they store. As Zhu pointed out, “With a battery energy the source may still be dirty – so you are just moving the pollution from a high population density area to a low one.”

In contrast, an SOFC plant generates electricity directly from oxidizing a fuel, while at the same time it halves the CO2 emission of a coal-based counterpart, and achieves an efficiency of more than 60%.

If combined with hot water generation more than 80% efficiency is possible, which is double the efficiency of a conventional coal plant. All this is achieved with cheap materials as no noble metals are needed.

Too good to be true? It seemed so at one point as promising corporate ventures plummeted, one example being Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd, which was formed in 1992 by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and a consortium of energy and industrial companies.

After becoming ASX listed in 2004, and opening production facilities in Australia and Germany, it eventually filed voluntary bankruptcy in 2015.

So “Are SOFCs going to die?” asked Zhu.

So long as funding is the lifeline of research apparently not, with the field continuing to attract investment from the US Department of Energy – including $6million for Fuel Cell Energy Inc. Share prices for GE Global Research and Bloom Energy have also doubled in the two months since July 2018, but Zhu highlights challenges that remain.

At €25,000 to install a 2 kW system he suggests that cost is not the issue so much as durability. While an SOFC plant’s lifetime should exceed 10 years, most don’t largely due to the high operating temperatures of 800–1000 °C, which lead to thermal degradation and seal failure. Lower operating temperatures would also allow faster start up and the use of cheaper materials.

The limiting factor for reducing temperatures is the cathode material, as its resistance is too high in cooler conditions. Possible alternative cathode materials do exist and include – 3D heterostructured electrodes La3MiO4 decorated Ba0.5Sr0.3Ce0.8Fe0.3O3 (BSCF with LN shell).

Photocatalysts all wrapped up

Other routes for energy on demand have looked at water splitting and CO2 reduction.

As Lu pointed out in his opening remarks, the success of these approaches hinge on engineering better catalysts, and here Somnath Roy from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, in India, had some progress to report.

“TiO2 is to catalysis what silicon is to microelectronics,” he told attendees of his talk during the graphene energy materials session. However the photocatalytic activity of TiO2 peaks in the UV, and there have been many efforts to shift this closer to the visible as a result.

Building on previous work with composites of graphene and TiO2 he and his colleagues developed a process to produce well separated (to allow reaction space) TiO2 nanotubes wrapped in graphene.

Although they did not notice a wavelength shift in the peak catalytic activity to the visible due to the graphene, the catalysis did improve due to the effect on hole and electron transport.

There was no shortage of ideas at AEM 2018, but as Lu told attendees,

“Ultimately uptake does not depend on the best technology but the best return on investment.”

Speaking to Physics World  he added,

“The route to market for any energy materials will require systematic assessment of the technical advantages, market demand and a number of iterations of property-performance-system optimization, and open innovation and collaboration will be the name of the game for successful translation of materials to product or processes.”

Whatever technologies do eventually stick, time is of the essence. Most estimates place the tipping point for catastrophic global warming at 2050.

Allowing 30 years for the infrastructure overhaul that could allow alternative energies to totally replace fossil fuels leaves little more than a year for those technologies to pitch “the best return on investment”.

Little wonder advanced energy materials research is teaming.

Read More: Learn About:

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

Watch the YouTube Video:

NREL: Envisioning Net-Zero Emission Energy Systems


NREL researchers contribute to a major journal article describing pathways to net-zero emissions for particularly difficult-to-decarbonize economic sectors

As global energy consumption continues to grow—by some projections, more than doubling by 2100—all sectors of the economy will need to find ways to drastically reduce their carbon dioxide emissions if average global temperatures are to be held under international climate targets. Two NREL authors contributed to a recently published article in Science that examined potential barriers and opportunities to decarbonizing certain energy systems that are essential to modern civilization but remain stubbornly reliant on carbon-emitting processes.

Difficult to Decarbonize Energy Sectors Contribute 27% of Carbon Emissions

Many sectors of the economy, such as light-duty transportation, heating, cooling, and lighting, could be straightforward to decarbonize through electrification and use of low- or net-zero-emitting energy sources. However, some energy uses, such as aviation, long-distance transport and shipping, steel and cement production, and a highly reliable electricity supply, will be more difficult to decarbonize. Together, these sectors contribute 27% of global carbon emissions today. With global demand for many of these sectors growing rapidly, solutions are urgently needed, the article’s authors write.

“The timeframes and economic costs of any energy transition are enormous. Most technologies installed today will have a lifetime of perhaps 30 to 50 years and the transition from research to actual deployment can also be quite lengthy,” said Bri-Mathias Hodge, an author on the paper and manager of the Power Systems Design and Studies Group at NREL. “Because of this we need to be able to identify the most pertinent issues that will need to be solved fairly far in the future and get started now, before we find ourselves heavily invested in even more carbon-intensive, long-term infrastructure.”

Diverse Expert Perspectives Informed Study

Discussion of the article’s underlying issues began at an Aspen Global Change Institute meeting in July 2016. “The diversity and depth of expertise at the workshop—and contributing to the paper—were outstanding,” said Doug Arent, the other NREL researcher to contribute to the paper and deputy associate lab director for Scientific Computing and Energy Analysis. “It was great to hear the different perspectives and learn about new areas that are related to our work at NREL, but that I don’t get to hear about every day at NREL,” added Hodge.

Considering demographic trends, institutional barriers, and economic and technological constraints, the group of researchers concluded that future net-zero emission systems will depend critically on integration of now-discrete energy industries. Although a range of existing low or net zero emitting energy technologies exist for these energy services, they may only be able to fully meet future energy demands through cross-sector coordination. Collaboration could speed research and development of new technologies and coordinating operations across sectors could better utilize capital-intensive assets, create broader markets, and streamline regulations.

Research Should Pursue Technologies and Integration to Decarbonize These Sectors

The article’s authors suggest two broad research thrusts: research in technologies and processes that could decarbonize these energy services, and research in systems integration to provide these energy services in a more reliable and cost-effective way.

The Science article concludes by stating, “if we want to achieve a robust, reliable, affordable, net-zero emissions energy system later this century, we must be researching, developing, demonstrating, and deploying those candidate technologies now.”

Forbes on Energy: Two Ways Energy Storage Will Be A True Market Disruptor In The U.S. Power Sector


Post written by

Eric Gimon

Eric Gimon is a Senior Fellow for Energy Innovation, and works on the firm’s America’s Power Plan project.

The term “market disruptor” is seemingly thrown around for every new technology with promise, but it will be quite prescient when it comes to energy storage and U.S. power markets.

New U.S. energy storage projects make solar power competitive against existing coal and new natural gas generation, and could soon displace these power market incumbents.  Meanwhile, projects in Australia and Germany show how energy storage can completely reshape power market economics and generate revenue in unexpected ways .

In part one of this series, we discussed the three ways energy storage can tap economic opportunities in U.S. organized power markets. Now in part two of the series, let’s explore how storage will disrupt power markets as more and more capacity comes online.

New projects in Colorado and Nevada embody “market disruption”

True market disruption happens when existing or incumbent technologies can only improve their performance or costs incrementally and industries focus on achieving those incremental improvements, while an entirely new technology enters the market with capabilities incumbents can’t dream of with exponentially falling costs incumbents can’t approach.

As energy storage continues getting cheaper, it will increasingly out-compete other resources and change the mix of resources that run the grid.  Recent contracts for new solar-plus-storage projects signed by Xcel Energy in Colorado and NV Energy in Nevada will allow solar production to extend past sunset and into the evening peak demand period, making it competitive against existing fossil fuel resources and new natural gas.

In fact, energy storage can increasingly replace inefficient (and often dirty) peaker plants and gas plants maintained for reliability.  This trend isn’t limited to utility-scale power plants – behind the meter (i.e., small-scale or residential) energy storage surged in Q2 2018, installing more capacity than front-of-meter storage for the first time.

U.S. energy storage deployment by quarter 2013-2018WOODS MACKENZIE POWER & RENEWABLES

Energy storage’s economic edge will accelerate in the future. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts utility-scale battery system costs will fall from $700 per kilowatt-hour (KWh) in 2016 to less than $300/KWh in 2030, drawing $103 billion in investment, and doubling in market size six times by 2030.

Tesla’s Australian “Big Battery” shows how storage will upend the existing order

But energy storage won’t disrupt power markets simply because of its continued cost declines versus resources it could replace, but also because of its different deployment and dispatch characteristics.  It won’t merely replace peaker plants or substation upgrades, it will modify how other resources operate and are considered. This will require a change in regulations at all scales for the power grid, as well as in power market rules.

Consider the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia, otherwise known as the “Tesla Big Battery.”  This 100 megawatt (MW)/129 megawatt-hour (MWh) project is the largest lithium-ion battery in the world.  Through South Australian government grants and payments, it contributes to grid stability and ancillary services (also known as “FCAS”) while allowing the associated Hornsdale Wind Farm owners to arbitrate energy prices.  A recent report from the Australian Energy Market Operator shows that in Q1 2018, the average arbitrage (price difference between charging and discharging) for this project was AUS $90.56/MWh.

This exemplifies “value staking” where the Hornsdale Power Reserve takes advantage of all three ways storage can earn revenue in organized markets with a hydrid compensation model under its single owner/operator (French company Neoen).  Hornsdale is already impacting FCAS prices in Australia, with prices tumbling 57% in Q1 2018 from Q4 2017.

AEMO frequency control ancillary services markets 2016-2018AUSTRALIAN ENERGY MARKET OPERATOR

Value stacking for reliability contracts plus market-based revenues (or “Storage as a Transmission Asset”) is also actively being debated by California’s CAISO market.

Because energy storage provides countless benefits at both the local and regional level, in ever-more overlapping combinations, it will create contentious debates and innumerable headaches for power market regulators in coming years.   In 2014, observers were treated to a family feud, as Luminant (generation utility) and TXU (retail power provider) argued against battery storage being installed by Oncor (poles-and-wires utility) for competitive reasons.  More recently, Luminant has argued against AEP building energy storage to relieve transmission bottlenecks to remote communities in southwest Texas because they are “tantamount to peak-shaving and will result in the distortion of competitive market signals.” In California, policy makers are struggling with how to adjust rate structures so behind-the-meter storage projects can meet the state’s emissions reduction goals tied to the subsidies they receive.

Meanwhile, batteries are being combined with more than transmission, wind, and solar projects.  In Germany, a recently closed coal-fired power station is being used simultaneously as a grid-tied storage facility and “live replacement parts store” for third-generation electric vehicle battery packs by Mercedes-Benz Energy.  German automotive supplier Bosch and utility EnBW have installed a storage battery at EnBW’s coal-fired Heilbronn plant to supply balancing power market when demand outstrips supply.

Today, inflexible coal plants often receive these type of “uplift” payments when they are committed by power markets to meet demand or for reliability reasons, but can only offer resources in much bigger chunks then economic dispatch would warrant.  This puts billions of dollars at stake the eastern U.S., where power market operator PJM is considering dramatic changes in rules to pay higher prices to these inflexible plants.  What if in the future, these plants might be required to install or sponsor a certain amount of energy storage capacity in order to set marginal power market prices?

Even today, hybrid combinations of storage and other resources are changing the game in subtle but important ways.  Mark Ahlstrom of the Energy Systems Integration Group recently outlined how FERC’s Order 841 allows all kinds of resources to change the way they interact with wholesale power markets, their participation model, in a unforeseen and unpredictable ways.  For example, the end-point of a point-to-point high-voltage DC transmission line could use a storage participation model to bid or offer into power markets.  Some demand response resources are already combining with storage today “to harness the better qualities of each resource, and allow customers to tap a broader range of cost-reduction and revenue-generating capabilities.”

A recent projection from The Brattle Group underscores this point, forecasting that Order 841 could make energy storage projects profitable from 7 GW/20 GWh, with up to 50 GW of energy storage projects “participating in grid-level energy, ancillary service, and capacity markets.”

Power market disruption is the only guarantee

Eventually the hybrid storage model may become a universal template for all resources, creating additional revenue through improved flexibility.  For example, a hybrid storage-natural gas plant could provide power reserves during a cold start – even if a gas plant was not running, reserve power can come from energy storage while the gas turbine fires up.

If fixed start times for some resources, which are constraints that are accepted facts of life today, could be eliminated by hybridizing with storage, then standard market design might start requiring or incentivizing such upgrades to reduce the mathematical complexity and improve the precision of the algorithms that dispatch power plants and set prices today.

As utility-scale batteries continue their relentless cost declines, it’s hard to completely imagine exactly what the future might hold but energy storage is guaranteed to disrupt power markets – meaning this sector warrants close attention from savvy investors.

This graphene battery can recharge itself to provide unlimited clean energy


Scientists are exploring graphene’s ability to ‘ripple’ into the third dimension.

Image: REUTERS/Nick Carey

Graphene is a modern marvel. It is comprised of a single, two-dimensional layer of carbon, yet is 200 times stronger than steel and more conductive than any other material, according to the University of Manchester, where it was first isolated in 2004.

Graphene also has multiple potential uses, including in biomedical applications such as targeted drug delivery, and for improving the lifespan of smartphone batteries.

Now, a team of researchers at the University of Arkansas has found evidence to suggest graphene could also be used to provide an unlimited supply of clean energy.

The team says its research is based on graphene’s ability to “ripple” into the third dimension, similar to waves moving across the surface of the ocean. This motion, the researchers say, can be harvested into energy.

To study the movement of graphene, lead researcher Paul Thibado and his team laid sheets of the material across a copper grid that acted as a scaffold, which allowed the graphene to move freely.

Thibado says graphene could power biomedical devices such as pacemakers.

Image: Russell Cothren

The researchers used a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) to observe the movements, finding that narrowing the focus to study individual ripples drew clearer results.

In analysing the data, Thibado observed both small, random fluctuations, known as Brownian motion, and larger, coordinated movements.

A scanning tunnelling microscope.

Image: University of Arkansas

As the atoms on a sheet of graphene vibrate in response to the ambient temperature, these movements invert their curvature, which creates energy, the researchers say.

Harvesting energy

“This is the key to using the motion of 2D materials as a source of harvestable energy,” Thibado says.

“Unlike atoms in a liquid, which move in random directions, atoms connected in a sheet of graphene move together. This means their energy can be collected using existing nanotechnology.”

The pieces of graphene in Thibado’s laboratory measure about 10 microns across (more than 20,000 could fit on the head of a pin). Each fluctuation exhibited by an individual ripple measures only 10 nanometres by 10 nanometres, and could produce 10 picowatts of power, the researchers say.

As a result, each micro-sized membrane has the potential to produce enough energy to power a wristwatch, and would never wear out or need charging.

Sheet of graphene as seen through Thibado’s STM

Image: University of Arkansas

Thibado has created a device, called the Vibration Energy Harvester, that he claims is capable of turning this harvested energy into electricity, as the below video illustrates.

This self-charging power source also has the potential to convert everyday objects into smart devices, as well as powering more sophisticated biomedical devices such as pacemakers, hearing aids and wearable sensors.

Thibado says: “Self-powering enables smart bio-implants, which would profoundly impact society.”

Have you read?

Graphene could soon make your computer 1000 times faster

Can graphene make the world’s water clean?

New super-battery that doesn’t catch fire described as a ‘paradigm shift’


The latest rechargeable battery technology could drastically improve the capabilities of mobile phones and electric vehicles.

It seems that nearly every household electronic item these days requires a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, from a vacuum cleaner to a pair of headphones.

This results in many of us having a multitude of different devices hooked up to various chargers at any given time, which isn’t exactly ideal.

Now, however, a team of scientists from the University of Michigan is heralding a major breakthrough that could drastically increase the power of rechargeable batteries, with the added bonus of not catching on fire.

Existing rechargeable batteries are made from lithium-ion, a technology that enables a quick charge but has the massive drawback of its exposure to open air causing it to explode and catch fire. It also requires regular charging and can degrade quickly due to overcharging.

But, in a paper soon to be published to the Journal of Power Sources, the research team describe how by using a ceramic, solid-state electrolyte, it was able to harness the power of lithium-metal batteries without any of the traditional negatives of lithium-ion.

In doing so, it could double the output of batteries, meaning a phone could run for days or weeks without charging, or an electric vehicle (EV) could rival fossil fuel-powered cars in range.

Jeff Sakamoto, leader of the research team, said: “This could be a game-changer, a paradigm shift in how a battery operates.”

In the 1980s, lithium-metal batteries were seen as the future, but their tendency to combust during charging led researchers to switch to lithium-ion.

10 times the charging speed

These batteries replaced lithium metal with graphite anodes, which absorb the lithium and prevent tree-like filaments called dendrites from forming, but also come with performance costs.

For example, graphite has a maximum capacity of 350 milliampere hours per gram (mAh/g), whereas lithium metal in a solid-state battery has a specific capacity of 3,800 mAh/g.

To get around the ever so problematic exploding problem in lithium-metal batteries, the team created a ceramic layer that stabilises the surface, keeping dendrites from forming and preventing fires.

With some tweaking, chemical and mechanical treatments of the ceramic provided a pristine surface for lithium to plate evenly.

Whereas once it would take a lithium-metal EV up to 50 hours to charge, the team said it could now do it in three hours or less.

“We’re talking a factor of 10 increase in charging speed compared to previous reports for solid-state lithium-metal batteries,” Sakamoto said.

“We’re now on par with lithium-ion cells in terms of charging rates, but with additional benefits.”

A Failed Car Company Gave Rise to a Revolutionary New Battery – “Fisker’s Folly” Or “Henrik’s Home-Run”?


Fisker’s solid-state battery powers electric vehicles–and drones and flying taxis.

Since Alessandro Volta created the first true battery in 1800, improvements have been relatively incremental.

When it comes to phones and especially electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries have resisted a slew of efforts to increase their power and decrease the time it takes to charge them.

Henrik Fisker, known for his high-end sports-car design, says his Los Angeles-based company, Fisker Inc., is on the verge of a breakthrough solid-state battery that will give EVs like his sleek new EMotion an extended range and a relatively short charging period.

Fisker Inc. founder Henrik Fisker and his new EMotion electric vehicle CREDIT: Courtesy Company

“With the size of battery pack we have made room for, we could get as much as a 750-kilometer [466-mile] range,” he says. The same battery could reduce charging time to what it currently takes to fill your car with gas.

Traditional lithium-ion batteries, like all others, use a “wet” chemistry– involving liquid or polymer electrolytes–to generate power.

But they also generate resistance when working hard, such as when they are charging or quickly discharging, which creates heat. When not controlled, that heat can become destructive, which is one reason EVs have to charge slowly.

Solid-state batteries, as the name implies, contain no liquid. Because of this, they have very low resistance, so they don’t overheat, which is one of the keys to fast recharging, says Fisker.

But their limited surface area means they have a low electrode-current density, which limits power. Practically speaking, existing solid-state batteries can’t generate enough juice to push a car. Nor do they work well in low temperatures. And they can’t be manufactured at scale.

CREDIT: Courtesy Company

Fisker’s head battery scientist, Fabio Albano, solved these problems by essentially turning a one-story solid-state battery into a multistory one.

“What our scientists have created is the three-dimensional solid-state battery, which we also call a bolt battery,” says Fisker. “They’re thicker, and have over 25 times the surface that a thin-film battery has.

That has allowed us to create enough power to move a vehicle.” The upside of 3-D is that Fisker’s solid-state battery can produce 2.5 times the energy density that lithium-ion batteries can, at perhaps a third of the cost.

Fisker was originally aiming at 2023 production, but its scientists are making such rapid advances that the company is now targeting 2020.

“We’re actually ahead of where we expected to be,” Fisker says. “We have built batteries with better results quicker than we thought.” The company is setting up a pilot plant near its headquarters.

Solid state, however, isn’t problem free. Lower resistance aids in much faster charging, up to a point. “We can create a one-minute charge up to 80 percent,” Fisker says. “It all depends on what we decide the specific performance and chemistry of the battery should be.”

If a one- or two- or five-minute charge gives a driver 250 miles and handles the daily commute, that can solve the range-anxiety issue that has held back EV sales.

Solid-state-battery technology can go well beyond cars. Think about people having a solid-state battery in their garage that could charge from the grid when demand is low, so they don’t pay for peak energy, and then transfer that energy to their car battery. It could also act as an emergency generator if their power goes down. “This is nonflammable and very light,” says Fisker. “It’s more than twice as light as existing lithium-ion batteries. It goes into drones and electric flying taxis.”

Like many designers, Fisker is a bit of dreamer. But he’s also a guy with a track record of putting dreams into motion.

Joy ride.

Henrik Fisker’s car company crashed in the Great Recession, but one of the industry’s flashiest designers quickly got in gear again. His latest piece of automotive art: the EMotion.

Fisker has never created an automobile that didn’t evoke a response. He’s one of the best-known designers in the industry, with mobile masterpieces such as the Fisker Karma, the Aston Martin DB9, and the BMW Z8. It’s only appropriate his latest vehicle has been christened the EMotion.

The curvy, carbon fiber and aluminum all-wheel-drive EV, with its too-cool butterfly doors and cat’s-eye headlights, debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. It will be the first passenger-vehicle offering of the new Fisker Inc.–the previous Fisker Automotive shuttered in 2013, in the aftermath of the Great Recession. (Reborn as Karma Automotive, that company makes the Revero, based on a Fisker design.)

Fisker ran out of funding but not ideas. He quickly got the new company going and has described the EMotion as having “edgy, dramatic, and emotionally charged design/ proportions–complemented with technological innovation that moves us into the future.” The car will come equipped with a Level 4 autonomous driving system, meaning it’s one step away from being completely autonomous.

You might want to drive this one yourself, though. The EMotion sports a 575-kw/780-hp- equivalent power plant that delivers a 160-mph top speed, and goes from 0 to 60 in three seconds. The sticker price is $129,000; the company is currently taking refundable $2,000 deposits.

Though designed to hold the new solid-state battery, the EMotion that will hit the road in mid-2020 has a proprietary battery module from LG Chem that promises a range of 400 miles — Tesla Model S boasts 335. About his comeback car, Fisker says he felt free to be “radically innovative.” For a niche car maker, it might be the only way to remain competitive.

Is Reliable Energy Storage (and Markets) On The Horizon?


Green and renewable energy markets are bringing power to millions with virtually no adverse environmental impacts, but before we can count on renewables for widespread reliability, one critical innovation must arrive: storage.

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PetersenDean Inc. employees install solar panels on the roof of a home in Lafayette, California, U.S., Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

On Tuesday, May 15, 2018. California became the first state in the U.S. to require solar panels on almost all new homes. Most new units built after Jan. 1, 2020, will be required to include solar systems as part of the standards adopted by the California Energy Commission.

While hydroelectric and some other renewable sources can generate power around the clock, solar and wind energy are irregular and not necessarily consistent sources for 24/7 projections.

Storms and darkness disrupt solar farms, while dozens of meteorological phenomena can impact wind farms. Because these sources have natural peaks, they cannot be made to align with consumer power demand without effective storage. Solar and wind may be able to meet demand during the day or a short period, but when energy is high and demand is low, the power generated must either be used or wasted if it cannot be stored in some type of battery.

According to projections from GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association, the energy storage market is expected to grow 17x from 2017 and 2023. This projection accounts for private and commercial deployment of storage capacity, including impacts from government policies like California’s solar panel mandate.

During the same interval, the energy storage market is expected to grow 14x in dollar value.

The exact type of storage deployments in these projections varies. Recent innovations have included advancements in traditional battery technology as well as battery alternatives like liquid air storage.

In New York, one project included a megawatt scaled lithium-ion battery storage system to replace lead acid schemes. The liquid air storage, however, uses excess energy to cool air in pressurized chambers until it is liquid. Rather than storing electrical or chemical energy like a battery, the process stores potential energy.

When demand arises, the liquefied air is allowed to rapidly heat and expand, turning turbines to generate electricity.

Meanwhile, Tesla has added nearly a third of the annual global energy storage deployments since 2015. Leading the charge with low-cost lithium-ion batteries, Telsla and other innovators are bringing global capacity up quickly.

These energy storage devices are versatile, capable of storing energy from any source–fossil fuel or renewable– and in any place–private homes or industrial operations.

With battery costs continuing to decrease and battery alternatives coming into the fore, projections of storage capacity are indeed quite possible. Assuming the electric industry can indeed upgrade its current infrastructure, new grid connections means that energy will be able to be shared more than ever, perhaps even traveling far distances during peak or be stored for non-peak use anywhere on the grid.

When storage costs and capacity align with market incentives, we may just see a renewable energy revolution, one that makes distributed generation mainstream for all consumers.

** Contributed from Forbes Energy

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