A Better Battery from Biology? Osaka University Researchers Publish Promising Results


Figure 1: Structure of the newly developed ionic crystal. The pathway in which the ions can travel is highlighted in yellow. (Image: Osaka University)

A research team at Osaka University has reported a new advance in the design of materials for use in rechargeable batteries, under high humidity conditions. Using inspiration from living cells that can block smaller particles but let larger particles pass through, the researchers were able to create a material with highly mobile potassium ions that can easily migrate in response to electric fields (Chemical Science“Mobility of hydrated alkali metal ions in metallosupramolecular ionic crystals”).

This work may help make rechargeable batteries safe and inexpensive enough to drastically reduce the cost of electric cars and portable consumer electronics.
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Link to Osaka University’s Joint Research Programs
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are widely used in laptops, cell phones, and even electric and hybrid cars. Unfortunately, these batteries are expensive, and have even been known to burst into flames on occasion.
New materials that do not use lithium could reduce the cost and improve the safety of these batteries, and have the potential to greatly accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient electric cars. Both sodium and potassium ions are potential candidates that can be used to replace lithium, as they are cheap and in high supply.
However, sodium and potassium ions are much larger ions than lithium, so they move sluggishly through most materials. These positive ions are further slowed by the strong attractive forces to the negative charges in crystalline materials.
“Potassium ions possess low mobility in the solid state due to their large size, which is a disadvantage for constructing batteries,” explains corresponding author Takumi Konno.
To solve this problem, the researchers used the same mechanism your cells employ to allow the large potassium ions to pass through their membranes while simultaneously keeping out smaller particles. Living systems achieve this seemingly impossible feat by considering not just the ion themselves, but also the surrounding water molecules, called the “hydration layer,” that are attracted to the ion’s positive charge.
In fact, the smaller the ion, the larger and more tightly bound its associated hydration layer will be. Specialized potassium channels in cell membranes are just the right size to allow hydrated potassium ions to pass through, but block the large hydration layers of smaller ions.
The researchers developed an ionic crystal using rhodium, zinc, and oxygen atoms. Just as with the selective biological channels, the mobility of the ions in the crystal was found to be higher for the bigger potassium ions, compared with the smaller lithium ions.
In fact, the potassium ions moved so easily, the crystal was classified as a “superionic conductor.” The researchers found that the current material had the largest hydrated potassium ion mobility ever seen to date.

Figure 2: Conductivities of lithium (Li , red), sodium (Na , green), and potassium (K , blue) ions inside the crystal at different temperatures. The conductivities increase even as the sizes of the ions increase. (Image: Osaka University)

“Remarkably, the crystal exhibited a particularly high ion conductivity due to the fast migration of hydrated potassium ions in the crystal lattice” lead author Nobuto Yoshinari says. “Such superionic conductivity of hydrated potassium ions in the solid state is unprecedented, and may lead to both safer and cheaper rechargeable batteries.”
Source: Osaka University

Scientists develop Lithium Metal batteries that charge faster, last longer with 10X times more energy by volume than Li-Ion Batteries – BIG potential for Our EV / AV Future


October 25, 2018

Rice University scientists are counting on films of carbon nanotubes to make high-powered, fast-charging lithium metal batteries a logical replacement for common lithium-ion batteries.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour showed thin nanotube films effectively stop dendrites that grow naturally from unprotected lithium metal anodes in batteries. Over time, these tentacle-like dendrites can pierce the battery’s electrolyte core and reach the cathode, causing the battery to fail.

That problem has both dampened the use of lithium metal in commercial applications and encouraged researchers worldwide to solve it.

img_0837-1Rice University graduate student Gladys López-Silva holds a lithium metal anode with a film of carbon nanotubes. Once the film is attached, it becomes infiltrated by lithium ions and turns red. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Lithium metal charges much faster and holds about 10 times more energy by volume than the lithium-ion electrodes found in just about every electronic device, including cellphones and electric cars.



MIT NEWS: Read More About Lithium Metal Batteries

“One of the ways to slow dendrites in lithium-ion batteries is to limit how fast they charge,” Tour said. “People don’t like that. They want to be able to charge their batteries quickly.”

The Rice team’s answer, detailed in Advanced Materials, is simple, inexpensive and highly effective at stopping dendrite growth, Tour said.

“What we’ve done turns out to be really easy,” he said. “You just coat a lithium metal foil with a multiwalled carbon nanotube film. The lithium dopes the nanotube film, which turns from black to red, and the film in turn diffuses the lithium ions.”

“Physical contact with lithium metal reduces the nanotube film, but balances it by adding lithium ions,” said Rice postdoctoral researcher Rodrigo Salvatierra, co-lead author of the paper with graduate student Gladys López-Silva. “The ions distribute themselves throughout the nanotube film.”

img_0835An illustration shows how lithium metal anodes developed at Rice University are protected from dendrite growth by a film of carbon nanotubes. Courtesy of the Tour Group

When the battery is in use, the film discharges stored ions and the underlying lithium anode refills it, maintaining the film’s ability to stop dendrite growth.

The tangled-nanotube film effectively quenched dendrites over 580 charge/discharge cycles of a test battery with a sulfurized-carbon cathode the lab developed in previous experiments.

The researchers reported the full lithium metal cells retained 99.8 percent of their coulombic efficiency, the measure of how well electrons move within an electrochemical system.

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Rice University scientists have discovered that a film of multiwalled carbon nanotubes quenches the growth of dendrites in lithium metal-based batteries. Courtesy of the Tour Group

Co-authors of the paper are Rice alumni Almaz Jalilov of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia; Jongwon Yoon, a senior researcher at the Korea Basic Science Institute; and Gang Wu, an instructor, and Ah-Lim Tsai, a professor of hematology, both at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice.

The research was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Institutes of Health, the National Council of Science and Technology, Mexico; the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel, Brazil; and Celgard, LLC.

1028_DENDRITE-5-rn-18fsg2wRice University chemist James Tour, left, graduate student Gladys López-Silva and postdoctoral researcher Rodrigo Salvatierra use a film of carbon nanotubes to prevent dendrite growth in lithium metal batteries, which charge faster and hold more power than current lithium-ion batteries. Photo by Jeff Fitlow.

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What’s Next: Beyond the lithium-ion battery

PWENERGYNov18Provoost_IMEC-635x357Drive for innovation: Electric vehicles are a major target for R&D on novel battery materials. (Image courtesy: imec)
31 Oct 2018
Note to Readers: This article first appeared in the 2018 Physics World Focus on Energy Technologies Engineering a sustainable, electrified future means developing battery materials with properties that surpass those found in current technologies.

The batteries we depend on for our mobile phones and computers are based on a technology that is more than a quarter-century old. Rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries were first introduced in 1991, and their appearance heralded a revolution in consumer electronics. From then on, we could pack enough energy in a small volume to start engineering a whole panoply of portable electronic devices – devices that have given us much more flexibility and comfort in our lives and jobs.

In recent years, Li-ion batteries have also become a staple solution in efforts to solve the interlinked conundrums of climate change and renewable energy. Increasingly, they are being used to power electric vehicles and as the principal components of home-based devices that store energy generated from renewable sources, helping to balance an increasingly diverse and smart electrical grid. The technology has improved too: over the past two and a half decades, battery experts have succeeded in making Li-ion batteries 5–10% more efficient each year, just by further optimizing the existing architecture.

Ultimately, though, getting from where we are now to a truly carbon-free economy will require better-performing batteries than today’s (or even tomorrow’s) Li-ion technology can deliver. In electric vehicles, for example, a key consideration is for batteries to be as small and lightweight as possible.


Achieving that goal calls for energy densities that are much higher than the 300 Wh/kg and 800 Wh/L which are seen as the practical limits for today’s Li-ion technology.

Another issue holding back the adoption of electric vehicles is cost, which is currently still around 300–200 $/kWh, although that is widely projected to go below 100 $/kWh by 2025 or even earlier. The time required to recharge a battery pack – still in the range of a few hours – will also have to come down, and as batteries move into economically critical applications such as grid storage and grid balancing, very long lifetimes (a decade or more) will become a key consideration too.

There is still some room left to improve existing Li-ion technology, but not enough to meet future requirements. Instead, the process of battery innovation needs a step change: materials-science breakthroughs, new electrode chemistries and architectures that have much higher energy densities, new electrolytes that can deliver the necessary high conductivity – all in a battery that remains safe and is long-lasting as well as economical and sustainable to produce.

Lithium magic

To appreciate why this is such a challenge, it helps to understand the basic architecture of existing batteries. Rechargeable Li-ion batteries are made up of one or more cells, each of which is a small chemical factory essentially consisting of two electrodes with an electrolyte in between. When the electrodes are connected (for example with a wire via a lamp), an electrochemical process begins. In the anode, electrons and lithium ions are separated, and the electrons buzz through the wire and light up the lamp. Meanwhile, the positively-charged lithium ions move through the electrolyte to the cathode. There, electrons and Li-ions combine again, but in a lower energy state than before.

The beauty of rechargeable batteries is that these processes can be reversed, returning lithium ions to the anode and restoring the energy states and the original difference in electrical potential between the electrodes. Lithium ions are well suited for this task. Lithium is not only the lightest metal in the periodic table, but also the most reactive and will most easily part with its electrons. It has been chosen as the basis for rechargeable batteries precisely because it can do the most work with the least mass and the fewest chemical complications. More specifically, in batteries using lithium, it is possible to make the electric potential difference between anodes and cathodes higher than is possible with other materials.

To date, therefore, the main challenge for battery scientists has been to find chemical compositions of electrodes and electrolyte that will let the lithium ions do their magic in the best possible way: electrodes that can pack in as many lithium ions as possible while setting up as high an electrical potential difference as possible; and an electrolyte that lets lithium ions flow as quickly as possible back and forth between the anode and cathode.

Seeking a solid electrolyte

The electrolyte in most batteries is a liquid. This allows the electrolyte not only to fill the space between the electrodes but also to soak them, completely filling all voids and spaces and providing as much contact as possible between the electrodes and the electrolyte. To complete the picture, a porous membrane is added between the electrodes. This inhibits electrical contact between the electrodes and prevents finger like outgrowths of lithium from touching and short-circuiting the battery.
For all the advantages of liquid electrolytes, though, scientists have long sought to develop solid alternatives. A solid electrolyte material would eliminate several issues at the same time. Most importantly, it would replace the membrane, allowing the electrodes to be placed much closer together without touching, thereby, making the battery more compact and boosting its energy density. A solid electrolyte would also make batteries stronger, potentially meaning that the amount of protective and structural casing could be cut without compromising on safety.

Unfortunately, the solid electrolytes proposed so far have generally fallen short in one way or another. In particular, they lack the necessary conductivity (expressed in milli-Siemens per centimetre, or mS/cm). Unsurprisingly, ions tend not to move as freely through a solid as they do through a liquid. That reduces both the speed at which a battery can charge and, conversely, the quantity of power it can release in a given time.

Scientists at imec – one of Europe’s premier nanotechnology R&D centres, and a partner in the EnergyVille consortium for sustainable energy and intelligent energy systems research – recently came up with a potential solution. The new material is a nanoporous oxide mix filled with ionic compounds and other additives, with the pores giving it a surface area of about 500 m2/mL – “comparable to an Olympic swimming pool folded into a shot glass,” says Philippe Vereecken, imec’s head of battery research. Because ions move faster along the pores’ surface than in the middle of a lithium salt electrolyte, he explains, this large surface area amplifies the ionic conductivity of the nanoengineered solid. The result is a material with a conductivity of 10 mS/cm at room temperature – equivalent to today’s liquid electrolytes.

Using this new electrolyte material, imec’s engineers have built a cell prototype using standard available electrodes: LFP (LiFePO4) for the cathode and LTO (Li4Ti5O12) for the anode. While charging, the new cell reached 80% of its capacity in one hour, which is already comparable to a similar cell made with a liquid electrolyte. Vereecken adds that the team hopes for even better results with future devices. “Computations show that the new material might even be engineered to sustain conductivities of up to 100 mS/cm,” he says.

Meanwhile, back at the electrode

Electrodes are conventionally made from sintered and compressed powders. Combining these with a solid electrolyte would normally entail mixing the electrode as a powder with the electrolyte also in powder form, and then compressing the result for a maximum contact. But even then, there will always remain pores and voids that are not filled and the contact surface will be much smaller than is possible with a liquid electrolyte that fully soaks the electrode.

Lithium-sulphur is a promising material that could store more energy than today’s technology allows

Lith Sulfur Batts c5cs00410a-f2_hi-res

Imec’s new nano-composite material avoids this problem because it is actually applied as a liquid, via wet chemical coating, and only afterwards converted into a solid. That way it can impregnate dense powder electrodes, filling all cavities and making maximum contact just as a liquid electrolyte would. Another benefit is that even as a solid, the material remains somewhat elastic, which is essential as some electrodes expand and contract during battery charging and discharging. A final advantage is that because the solid material can be applied via a wet precursor, it is compatible with current Li-ion battery fabrication processes – something that Vereecken says is “quite important for the battery manufacturers” because otherwise more “disruptive” fabrication processes would have to be put in place.

To arrive at the energy densities required to give electric vehicles a long driving range, though, still more changes are needed. One possibility is to make the particles in the electrode powders smaller, so that they can be packed more densely. This would produce a larger contact surface with the electrolyte per volume, improving the energy density and charging rate of the cell. There is a catch, though: while a larger contact surface results in more ions being created and changing sides within the battery, it also gives more way for unwanted reactions that will degrade the battery’s materials and shorten its lifetime. “To improve the stability,” says Vereecken, “imec’s experts work on a solution where they coat all particles with an ultrathin buffer layer.” The challenge, he says, is to make these layers both chemically inert and highly conductive.

Introducing new materials

By combining solid electrolytes with thicker electrodes made from smaller particles, it may be possible to produce batteries with energy densities that exceed the current maximum of around 800 Wh/L. These batteries could also charge in 30 minutes or less. But to extend the energy density even further, to 1000 Wh/L and beyond, a worldwide effort is on to look for new and better electrode materials. Anodes, for example, are currently made from carbon in the form of graphite. That carbon could be replaced by silicon, which can hold up to ten times as many lithium ions per gram of electrode. The drawback is that when the battery is charged, a silicon anode will expand to more than three times its normal size as it fills with lithium ions. This may break up the electrode, and possibly even the battery casing.

A better alternative may be to replace carbon with pure lithium metal. A lithium anode will also store up to ten times as much lithium ions per gram of electrode as graphite, but without the swelling seen in silicon anodes. Lithium anodes were, in fact, used in the early days of Li-ion batteries, but as the metal is very reactive, especially in combination with liquid electrolytes, the idea was dropped in favour of more stable alternatives. Vereecken, however, believes that progress in solid electrolytes means it is “high time to revisit lithium metal as a material for the anode”, especially since it is possible to add protective functional coatings to nanoparticles.

Disruptive innovations are on the horizon for cathodes as well. Lithium-sulphur, for example, is a promising material that could store more energy than today’s technology allows. Indeed, the “ideal” lithium battery might well feature a lithium-air (lithium peroxide) cathode in combination with a pure lithium anode. But whereas the material composition of these batteries sounds simple, the path to realizing them will not be so easy, and there is still some way to go before any of these developments will be integrated into commercial batteries. Once that happens, though, huge payoffs are possible. The most obvious would be electrical cars that drive farther and charge faster, but better lithium batteries could also be the breakthrough needed to make renewable power ubiquitous – and thus finally let us off the fossil-fuel hook.

Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc. is pleased to present Tenka Energy, Inc. Building Ultra-Thin Energy Dense SuperCaps and NexGen Nano-Enabled Pouch & Cylindrical Batteries – Energy Storage Made Small and POWERFUL! YouTube Video



Update EV News: Volvo buys a stake in electric charging firm FreeWire Technologies

Volvo and MOBI

Oct. 24, 2018

Volvo Cars has acquired a stake in electric car charging company FreeWire Technologies via the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, deepening the company’s commitment to a fully electric future. (See Industry Announcement Below)

While Volvo Cars’s electrification strategy does not envision direct ownership of charging or service stations, the investment in FreeWire reinforces its overall commitment to supporting a widespread transition to electric mobility together with other partners.

FWire mobisLeafsFreeWire is a San Francisco-based company that has been a pioneer in flexible fast-charging technology for electric cars. It specialises in both stationary and mobile fast charging technology, allowing electric car charging to be deployed quickly and widely. (Check Out FWT’s website – Featuring ‘MOBI’)  FreeWire Technologies – Electrification Beyond the Grid

Installing traditional fixed fast-charging stations is usually a cost- and labour intensive process that requires a lot of electrical upgrades to support the connection between charging stations and the main electrical grid. FreeWire’s charging stations remove that complication and use low-voltage power, allowing operators to simply use existing power outlets. This means drivers can enjoy all the benefits of fast charging without operators needing to go through the hassle of establishing a high-voltage connection to the grid.

Volvo Cars has one of the auto industry’s most ambitious electrification strategies. Every new Volvo car launched from 2019 will be electrified, and by 2025 the company aims for fully electric cars to make up 50 per cent of its overall global sales.

“Volvo Cars’ future is electric, as reflected by our industry-leading commitment to electrify our entire product range,” said Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. “To support wider consumer adoption of electric cars, society needs to make charging an electric car as simple as filling up your tank. Our investment in FreeWire is a firm endorsement of the company’s ambitions in this area.”

“FreeWire’s fast charging technology holds great promise to simplify the experience for customers of electrified Volvos,” said Atif Rafiq, chief digital officer at Volvo Cars. “With this move, we aim to make the future of sustainable, electric cars more practical and convenient.”

“We’re thrilled to partner with Volvo Cars to develop new markets and business models around our EV fast charging and ultra-fast charging technology,” said Arcady Sosinov, CEO of FreeWire. “Having a car maker with both the legacy and future vision of Volvo is going to give us access to technology, testing, and new strategies that will really accelerate the growth of the company.”

The Volvo Cars Tech Fund was launched earlier this year and aims to invest in high-potential technology start-ups around the globe. It focuses its investments on strategic technology trends transforming the auto industry, such as artificial intelligence, electrification, autonomous drive and digital mobility services.

Earlier this year, the Volvo Cars Tech Fund announced its first investment in Luminar Technologies, a leading start-up in the development of advanced sensor technology for use in autonomous vehicles, with whom Volvo Cars collaborates on the development and testing of its LiDAR sensing technology on Volvo cars.

Companies benefit from participation by the Volvo Cars Tech Fund as they may gain the ability to validate technologies, accelerate market introduction, as well as potentially access Volvo Cars’ global network and unique position in the Chinese car market.


 Volvo Car Group in 2017

For the 2017 financial year, Volvo Car Group recorded an operating profit of 14,061 MSEK (11,014 MSEK in 2016). Revenue over the period amounted to 210,912 MSEK (180,902 MSEK). For the full year 2017, global sales reached a record 571,577 cars, an increase of 7.0 per cent versus 2016. The results underline the comprehensive transformation of Volvo Cars’ finances and operations in recent years, positioning the company for its next growth phase.

About Volvo Car Group

Volvo has been in operation since 1927. Today, Volvo Cars is one of the most well-known and respected car brands in the world with sales of 571,577 cars in 2017 in about 100 countries. Volvo Cars has been under the ownership of the Zhejiang Geely Holding (Geely Holding) of China since 2010. It formed part of the Swedish Volvo Group until 1999, when the company was bought by Ford Motor Company of the US. In 2010, Volvo Cars was acquired by Geely Holding.

In 2017, Volvo Cars employed on average approximately 38,000 (30,400) full-time employees. Volvo Cars head office, product development, marketing and administration functions are mainly located in Gothenburg, Sweden. Volvo Cars head office for China is located in Shanghai. The company’s main car production plants are located in Gothenburg (Sweden), Ghent (Belgium), Chengdu, Daqing (China) and Charleston (USA), while engines are manufactured in Skövde (Sweden) and Zhangjiakou (China) and body components in Olofström (Sweden).

About Volvo Cars Tech Fund Volvo download

Volvo Cars Tech Fund is a new venture fund under the Volvo Cars umbrella, and is dedicated to advancing Volvo’s mission of ecology, safety, and technology across its vehicles. The fund was established in 2018, and is based out of Volvo Cars R&D Tech Center in Mountain View, California. Read more here.



Industry Announcement

Volvo is the latest business to take an interest in FreeWire.  Swedish luxury vehicles company Volvo Cars has bought a stake in FreeWire Technologies, a California-based electric car charging business. 

The acquisition has been made through the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, which was launched earlier this year. In an announcement Wednesday, Volvo described FreeWire as a “pioneer in flexible fast charging technology for electric cars.”Volvo becomes the latest major business to take an interest in FreeWire. In January 2018, BP Ventures announced it was investing $5 million in the business. 

From 2019, every new car that Volvo launches is set to be electrified. The business wants fully-electric cars to account for 50 percent of overall global sales by the year 2025.

“To support wider consumer adoption of electric cars, society needs to make charging an electric car as simple as filling up your tank,” Zaki Fasihuddin, the Volvo Cars Tech Fund CEO, said in a statement. “Our investment in FreeWire is a firm endorsement of the company’s ambitions in this area.”

In 2017, there were more than 3 million electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the planet’s roads, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global Electric Vehicles Outlook. This represents an increase of 54 percent compared to 2016.

Almost 580,000 electric cars were sold in China last year, according to the IEA, while around 280,000 were sold in the U.S.

In terms of charging infrastructure, the IEA says that, globally, there were an estimated 3 million private chargers at homes and workplaces in 2017. The number of “publicly accessible” chargers amounted to roughly 430,000.

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.

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


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!

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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.