Sealed cell improves oxide-peroxide conversion in lithium-ion battery


sealed cell battery-supply-866599918-iStock_MF3d-web-635x357Sealed for success. Oxygen-free cells improve lithium-ion batteries. Credit: battery supply 866599918 iStock MF3d

A new high-energy density and stable lithium-ion battery that works by reversible oxide-peroxide conversion could help in the development of improved “sealed” battery technologies. This is the new result from a team of researchers in Japan and China who have designed an oxygen-free cell in which the Li2O to Li2Oreaction can take place.

Lithium-ion batteries are hitting the headlines this week with news of this year’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry being awarded to John Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of these devices.

Lithium is the material of choice in these batteries because it has a high specific capacity and low electrochemical potential. In recent years, focus has shifted from the rigid Li-intercalation structures commonly employed in the conventional heavy lithium-transition metal oxide cathodes used in these devices to Li-Obattery technology that exploits oxygen-related redox chemistries that have excellent theoretical gravimetric energy densities. 

Redox reaction between Oand Li2O2

These batteries work thanks to the redox reaction between Oand lithium peroxide, Li2O2. One of the main hurdles hindering their practical application, however, is that they require Ogas as the active species. This needs to be supplied by bulky Ostorage or gas purification devices.

To overcome this problem, and the so-called Ocrossover and electrolyte volatilization in these batteries, researchers led by Haoshen Zhou of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and Nanjing University in China have now designed an O2-free sealed environment for the Li2O to Li2Oreaction.

Li2O/Li2O2 battery system

High-energy density, rechargeable and stable Li-ion battery

Zhou and colleagues did this by embedding Li2O nanoparticles into an iridium-reduced graphene oxide (Ir-rGO) catalytic substrate to successfully control the charging potential within a small region of the device and avoid the unwanted phenomenon of over-polarization.

“The choice of Ir nanoparticles as the catalyst is key, as is the conductive rGO substrate,” explains Zhou. “The Ir can effectively enhance the reaction kinetics and protect the newly formed Li2Ofrom further decomposition (by the formation of the inter-metallic Li2-xO2-Ir compound formed on the particles/substrate interface) while the rGO allows for the remarkable electrical conductivity of the system.”

The researchers also restrained two other serious problems that beset sealed redox systems: the irreversible evolution of Oand the production of superoxide (an aggressive and dangerous product). They did this by controlling the degree of the electrochemical reaction and its cycling depth and thus succeeded in producing a reversible capacity for the device of 400 mAh/g, a value that fares well when compared to other cathode candidates for Li-ion batteries.

The result is a high-energy density (1090 Wh/kg), high energy efficiency (a mere 0.12 V polarization potential), rechargeable Li-ion battery technology that is stable over 2000 cycles with 99.5% coulombic efficiency.

Lithium-ion battery pioneers bag chemistry Nobel prize

 

Although he and his colleagues still need to fully understand the catalysis mechanism at play in the cell, Zhou believes that the sealed Li2O/Li2Obattery system could gradually replace today’s open-cell Li-Obatteries and even become a a “hot” topic for next-generation battery research. “From an applications viewpoint, the very competitive properties of the sealed system could help in the development of cathode materials for commercial Li-ion battery technology,” he tells Physics World.

The researchers, reporting their work in Nature Catalysis 10.1038/s41929-019-0362-zsay they are now looking for more effective catalysts to further boost the reversible capacity region in their device and enhance the reaction kinetics.

A Game-Changer For Lithium-Ion Batteries: Dalhousie University, Tesla’s Canadian Electrek and the University of Waterloo Discover New Disruptive LI-On Technology


The latest news in the battery space has been about alternatives to lithium-ion technology, which still dominates the space in electronics and cars but is being increasingly challenged from several directions, notably solid-state batteries.

Now, a team of researchers has reported they have improved lithium-ion batteries in a way that could discourage some challengers.

In a paper published in Nature magazine, the team, led by Jeff Dahn from Dalhousie University, reports they had designed more battery cells with higher energy density without using the solid-state electrolyte that many believe is a necessary condition for enhanced density.

What’s more, the battery cell the team designed demonstrated a longer life than some comparable alternatives.

The team from Dalhousie University was working with Tesla’s Canadian research and development team, Electrek notes in its report of the news, as well as the University of Waterloo.

The EV maker is probably the staunchest proponent of lithium-ion technology for electric car batteries, so it would make sense for it to continue investing in research that would keep the technology’s dominance in the face of multiple challengers.

Recently, for example, Japanese researchers announced they had successfully found a substitute for the lithium ions used in batteries and this substitute was much cheaper and more abundant: sodium.

Last year, scientists from the Australian University of Wollongong announced 

they had solved a problem with sodium batteries that made them too expensive to produce, namely a lot of the other materials used in such an installation besides the sodium itself.

Sodium batteries are among the more advanced challengers to lithium ion dominance, but like other alternatives to Li-ion batteries, they have been plagued by persistent problems with their performance. Even so, work continues to make them competitive with lithium-ion technology.

This fact has probably made li-ion proponents such as Tesla, who have invested substantial amounts in the technology, double their efforts to improve their batteries’ performance or reduce their cost.

As the most expensive component of an electric car, the battery is a top priority for R&D departments in the car-making industry. 

 

Related: Oil Industry Faces Imminent Talent Crisis

Earlier this year, German scientists saidthey had found a way to make lithium ion batteries charge much faster. Charing times are the second most important consideration after cost for potential EV buyers, and another priority for EV makers. What the scientists did was replace the cobalt oxide used in the cathode of a lithium ion battery with another compound, vanadium disulfide.

Millions of electric cars are expected to hit the roads in the coming years. From a certain perspective, the race to faster charging is the race that will make or break the long-term mainstream future of the EV, which, it turns out, is not as certain as some would think.

A J.D.Power survey recently revealed that people are not particularly crazy about EVs, and the reasons they are not crazy about them have to do a lot with the batteries: charging times and range, plus price. In this context, the battery improvement race could (and will) only intensify further.

India’s first foldable phone in 2019 will be a Samsung Galaxy, A50 with Infinity-O also in pipeline … What Will this Mean to the’Flexible Electronics Markets’?


Galaxy_fold

The foldable Samsung smartphone will demand an extremely higher price for its foldable display technology. The Galaxy A50 will also bring the Infinity-O display technology to the Indian market.

  • Rumours have stated that Samsung will either use a Snapdragon 855 or an Exynos 9820 chipset.
  • Samsung said at the time that the phone will act as a conventional smartphone when folded with is a smaller display panel.
  • The Galaxy A50 will be the first smartphone in India to offer Samsung’s Infinity-O display featuring narrow bezels.

Since Samsung showed off the foldable smartphone at the Samsung Developer Conference in October 2018, the world has been eager to see Samsung’s premium lineup for 2019. The Galaxy A8s unveiled a few weeks ago showed off the Infinity-O display with narrow bezels all around. Therefore, consumers are looking forward to an exciting smartphone lineup from Samsung for this year for the Indian markets. The good news is that India will also be one of the first few markets to enjoy Samsung’s latest and greatest.

According to a report from MySmartPrice, Samsung will unveil both the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy A50 within the next few months and India will witness them soon after. The Galaxy Fold will come to Indian market a few after weeks its launch in European markets. Rumours have stated that Samsung will either use a Snapdragon 855 or an Exynos 9820 chipset for powering the foldable smartphones. Additionally, it could feature 8GB RAM and 128GB internal storage.

At the SDC 2018, Samsung mentioned that they were working with Google to optimise Android for the new foldable form factor. The optimisation with Google will make all apps, as well as the entire Android interface, adapt to the newer display. Samsung said at the time that the phone will act as a conventional smartphone when folded with is a smaller display panel. When unfolded, the device will reveal a large tablet-like display for a bigger viewing experience.

It is also known that the Galaxy Fold will feature dual batteries. Each half of the device will contain a battery, which means the Galaxy Fold could end up having a total battery capacity of up to 6000mAh. This would be necessary considering the demanding nature of the hardware as well as the software. The report also states a probable price for the Galaxy Fold. Samsung could eventually end offering the most expensive smartphones in its history by selling the Galaxy Fold for around $2,000 (approximately Rs 1,50,000). The device would be available in limited numbers as well.

Apart from the Galaxy Fold, Samsung will also bring the much-awaited Galaxy A50 to the Indian market. The A50 will be the first smartphone in India to offer Samsung’s Infinity-O display featuring narrow bezels. The panel will be Samsung’s Super AMOLED one rendering a full HD+ pixel resolution. The A50 is also rumoured to sport an in-display fingerprint sensor. Underneath, the A50 will be powered by an Exynos 9610 chipset accompanied by 4GB RAM and offered with a choice of either 64GB or 128GB storage variants. The A50 will be powered by Samsung’s OneUI based on Android 9 Pie out of the box. The A50 is also expected to kept alive by a 4000mAh battery.

The Galaxy A50 will be a midrange smartphone in India, with prices expected to start under Rs 25,000. The A50 is expected to be announced a few weeks after the Galaxy S10 is unveiled. The Infinity-O display is expected to trickle down to other budget Samsung smartphones in the future as well.

Tenka Energy, Inc. Building Ultra-Thin Energy Dense SuperCaps and NexGen Nano-Enabled Pouch & Cylindrical Batteries – Energy Storage Made Small and POWERFUL! YouTube Video
** A ‘Flex-form high Power density and Cycle Life battery from Tenka Energy could be just what this phone will need to EXCEL! **

Lithium vs Hydrogen – EV’s vs Fuel Cells – A New Perspective of Mutual Evolution


Electric vehicle sales are pumping, with an ever-expanding network of charging stations around the world facilitating the transition from gas-guzzling automobiles, to sleek and technologically adept carbon-friendly alternatives.

With that in mind, the community of car and energy enthusiasts still continue to open up the old ‘Who would win in a fight, lithium vs hydrogen fuel cell technology?’.

 

Are hydrogen fuel cell cars doomed?

Imagine being the disgruntled owner of a hydrogen-powered car, only for lithium batteries to completely take the reigns of the industry and in effect, make your vehicle obsolete. It’s not really that wild of a notion, it’s far closer to reality than you may realize, as most electric car vehicle manufacturers consider lithium to be the battery of choice, and a more progressive development tool.

Any rechargeable device in your home, like your portable battery, your camera or even your iPhone, is using lithium. It’s clearly felt in the tech world that this is the path of least resistance for the future, but what does that mean for hydrogen fuel cell technology?

In 2017, with BMW announcing a 75% increase in BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles) sales, Hyundai came out and announced that they were going to focus almost entirely on lithium batteries. They’re not abandoning their fuel cell programme, but their next line of 10 electric vehicles will feature only 2 hydrogen options. Hyundai Executive VP Lee Kwang-guk stated, “We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centering on electric vehicles”.

Is it likely that other manufacturers will follow suit? Well, with Tesla’s Elon Musk personally stating a preference for lithium (he called hydrogen fuel ‘incredibly dumb’), and both Toyota and Honda indicating that they will pour R&D funds into this type of battery (despite earlier hesitation), the answer seems to be ‘well, we already have’.

READ MORE:

Toyota vs Tesla – Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles vs Electric Cars

 (Article Continued Below)

Do ‘refueling’ and ‘recharging’ stations hold the key to success?

Did you know that as of May 2017 there were only 35 hydrogen refueling stations in the entire US, with 30 of those in California? Compared to the 16,000 electric vehicle refueling stations already available in the US, with more on the way, it would seem that the logical EV purchaser would opt for a car with a lithium battery. In China, there are already more than 215,000 electric charging stations, with over 600,000 more in planning to make the East Asian nation’s road system more accommodating to EVs.

On January 30th, 2018, REQUEST MORE INFO, invested $5m into ‘FreeWire Technologies’, a manufacturer of rapid-charging systems for EVs. The plan is to install these charging systems in their gas stations all over the UK, though they did not disclose how many. So, even on the other side of the Atlantic, building a network of charging systems is a high priority.

With ‘Range Anxiety’ (the fear that your battery will run out of juice before the next charging point) being a common concern for EV owners, the noticeably growing network of refueling stations, including those with ‘fast charge’ options, are seeming to settle down the crowd of anxious early adopters.

 

Will the market dictate the winner in the lithium vs hydrogen car battery ‘war’?

If we look at the effects of supply and demand, the early clarity of lithium batteries as the battery of choice for alternative energy vehicles meant that there were a great time and cause for development. As a result, between 2010 and 2016, lithium battery production costs reduced by 73%.

If this trajectory continues, price parity is a when, not an if, and that when could well be encouraging you to take a trip down to your local EV dealership for an upgrade.

Demand for EVs instead of hydrogen fuel cell technology means that some of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers are showing a strong lean towards lithium batteries.

Hyundai, Honda, and VW are all putting hydrogen on the back burner. And whilst market demand for hydrogen is considerably lower, Toyota remains keen on fighting this battle, which they have been researching for around 25 years.

Their theory that hydrogen and lithium battery powered vehicles must be developed ‘at the same speed’ is a dogged one.

You could say their self-belief was completely rewarded by their faith in the Prius, with over 5 million global sales and comfortable status as the top-selling car (ever) in Japan, so there will be many who tune in to the Toyota line of thinking and overlook the market sentiment.

Price will always play a role in purchasing decisions, and with scalable cost reduction methods not yet visible or available for hydrogen fuel cell technology, it looks like lithium is going to be the battery that opens wallets.

 

Can lithium and hydrogen car batteries coexist?

Sure, they can co-exist, but ultimately one technology is going to come close to a monopoly while the other becomes a collector’s item, a novelty, just a blip in technological history. That’s just one theory of course. 

Another theory is that the pockets in which hydrogen fuel cell vehicles already exist and are somewhat popular, like Japan and California, will use their powerful economies to almost force their success.

Why would they do this? Because the vehicles are far more expensive than EVs by comparison, they had to start in wealthy regions, install fuelling stations and slowly spread out into other affluent neighborhoods.

It’s a long game that relies heavily on wealthy regions opting to choose the expensive inconvenience, a feat which could arguably be achieved simply by creating the most visually compelling vehicles rather than the most efficient. Style over substance, for lack of a better phrase.

Take a look! See how Lithium powers the world…

 

Which will stand the test of time?

Looking at this from a scientific perspective, one might say ‘Well, lithium is limited, whereas hydrogen is the most abundant gas in our atmosphere’, and one would be correct. However, science doesn’t always simplify things. Hydrogen is really hard and inefficient to capture, and therein lies a huge obstacle.

Hydrogen fuel is hard to make and distribute, too, with a very high refill cost. The final kick in the teeth is that the technology required to capture, make and distribute all of that hydrogen is not very good for the environment, and is arguably no ‘cleaner’ than gasoline. That same technology uses more electricity in the hydrogen-creation process than is currently needed to recharge lithium batteries, and therein lies the answer to this whole debate, right?

We aren’t saying lithium batteries will be around forever, but they’re more adaptable, useful, scalable and affordable as a technology, right now.

By the time hydrogen fuel cell technology is affordable to the average consumer, we will hopefully have found a true clean energy source.

 

Conclusion: Will the lithium vs hydrogen debate ever be over?

Lithium is this, hydrogen is that, EVs are this and that, HFCs are that and this. The cycle will perpetuate until it becomes clear which is the definitive solution, at least that’s the belief of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who said ‘There’s no need for us to have this debate. I’ve said my piece on this, it will be super obvious as time goes by.’

To be fair though, this quote from George W Bush would beg to differ, when he is quoted as saying ‘Fuel cells will power cars with little or no waste at all. We happen to believe that fuel cell cars are the wave of the future; that fuel cells offer incredible opportunity’. Well, George, you may have been right back in 2003, but this is 2018.

Article Provided By

Mike is Chief Operating Officer of Dubuc Motors, a startup dedicated to the commercialization of electric vehicles targeting niche markets within the automotive industry.

Next-Gen Lithium-Ion Batteries – Combining Graphene + Silicon Could it be the Key?


Battery

Researchers have long been investigating the use of silicon in lithium-ion batteries, as it has the potential to greatly increase storage capacity compared to graphite, the material used in most conventional lithium-ion batteries. By some estimates, silicon could boast a lithium storage capacity of 4,200 mAh/g—11 times that of graphite.

However, despite its benefits, silicon comes with its own challenges.

“When you store a lot of lithium ion into your silicon you actually physically extend the volume of silicon to about 3 to 3.8 times its original volume—so that is a lot of expansion,” explained Bor Jang, PhD, in an exclusive interview with R&D Magazine. “That by itself is not a big problem, but when you discharge your battery—like when you open your smart phone—the silicon shrinks. Then when you recharge your battery the silicon expands again. This repeated expansion and shrinkage leads to the breakdown of the particles inside of your battery so it loses its capacity.”

Jang offers one solution—graphene, a single layer sheet of carbon atoms tightly bound in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice.

“We have found that graphene plays a critical role in protecting the silicon,” said Jang, the CEO and Chief Scientist of Global Graphene Group. The Ohio-based advanced materials organization has created GCA-II-N, a graphene and silicon composite anode for use in lithium-ion batteries.

The innovation—which was a 2018 R&D 100 Award winner—has the potential to make a significant impact in the energy storage space. Jang shared more about graphene, GCA-II-N and its potential applications in his …

Interview with R&D Magazine:

 

           Photo Credit: Global Graphene Group

 

R&D Magazine: Why is graphene such a good material for energy storage?

Jang: From the early beginning when we invited graphene back in 2002 we realized that graphene has certain very unique properties. For example, it has very high electrical conductivity, very high thermal conductivity, it has very high strength—in fact it is probably the strongest material known to mankind naturally. We thought we would be able to make use of graphene to product the anode material than we can significantly improve not only the strength of the electrode itself, but we are also able to dissipate the heat faster, while also reducing the changes for the battery to catch fire or explode.

Also graphene is extremely thin—a single layer graphene is 0.34 nanometer (nm). You can imagine that if you had a fabric that was as thin as 0.34 nanometers in thickness, than you could use this material to wrap around just about anything. So it is a very good protection material in that sense. That is another reason for the flexibility of this graphene material.

 

 

BatteryRead More: Talga’s graphene silicon product extends capacity of Li-ion battery anode

Another interesting feature of graphene is that is a very high specific surface area. For instance if I give you 1.5 grams of single layer graphene it will be enough to cover an entire football stadium. There is a huge amount of surface area per unit weight with this material.

That translates into another interesting property in the storage area. In that field that is a device called supercapacitors or ultracapacitors. The operation of supercapacitors depends upon conducting surface areas, like graphene or activated carbon. These graphene sheets have, to be exact, 2630 meters squared per gram. That would give you, in principle, a very high capacity per unit gram of this material when you use it as an electron material for supercapacitors. There is are so many properties associated with graphene for energy applications, those are just examples, I could talk about this all day!

 

 

R&D Magazine: Where is the team currently with the GCA-II-N and what are the next steps for this project?

Jang: Last year we began to sell the product. In Dayton, OH, where we are situated at the moment we have a small-scale manufacturing facility. It is now about a 50-metric-ton capacity facility and we can easily scale it up. We have been producing mass qualities of this and then delivering them to some of the potential customers for validation. We are basically in the customer validation stage for this business right now.

We will continue to do research and development for this project. We will eventually manufacture the batteries here in the U.S., but at the moment we are doing the anode materials only.

R&D Magazine: What types of customers are showing interest in this technology?

Jang: Electrical vehicles are a big area that is growing rapidly, particularly in areas in Asia such as China. The electrical vehicle industry is taking the driver’s seat and is driving the growth of this business worldwide right now. E-bikes and electronic scooters are another rapidly growing business where this could be used.

Another example is your smart phone. Right now, if you continue to use your phone you may be able to last for half a day or maybe a whole day if you push it. This technology has the ability to double the amount of energy that could be stored in your battery. Electronic devices is another big area for application of this technology. 

A third area is in the energy storage business, it could be utilized to store solar energy or wind energy after it has been captured. Lithium-ion batteries are gaining a lot of ground in this market right now.

Right now, another rapidly growing area is the drone. Drones are used, not only for fun, but for agricultural purposes or for surveillance purposes, such as during natural disasters.  Drones are seeing a lot of applications right now and batteries are very important part of that.

R&D Magazine: Are there any challenges to working with graphene?

Jang: One of the major challenges is that graphene by itself is still a relatively high cost. We are doing second-generation processes right now, and I think in a couple of years we should be able to significantly reduce the cost of graphene. We are also working on a third generation of processes that would allow us to reduce the cost even further. That is a major obstacle to large-scale commercialization of all graphene applications.

The second challenge is the notion of graphene as a so-called ‘nanomaterial’ in thickness that a lot customers find it difficult to disperse in water or disperse in organic solvent or plastic in order to combine graphene with other types of materials, make a composite out of it. Therefor people are resistant to use it. We have found a way to overcome this either real challenge, or perceived challenge. We can do that for a customer and then ship that directly to the customer.

There is also an education challenge. It is sometimes difficult to convince engineers, they want to stick with the materials they are more familiar with, even though the performance is better with graphene. That is a barrier as well. However, I do think it is becoming more well known.

Laura Panjwani
Editor-in-chief R & D Magazine

Boosting lithium ion batteries capacity 10X with Tiny Silicon Particles – University of Alberta


li_battery_principle (1)
U of Alberta chemists Jillian Buriak, Jonathan Veinot and their team found that nano-sized silicon particles overcome a limitation of using silicon in lithium ion batteries. The discovery could lead to a new generation of batteries …more

University of Alberta chemists have taken a critical step toward creating a new generation of silicon-based lithium ion batteries with 10 times the charge capacity of current cells.

“We wanted to test how different sizes of  nanoparticles could affect fracturing inside these batteries,” said Jillian Buriak, a U of A chemist and Canada Research Chair in Nanomaterials for Energy. ua buriak tinysiliconp

Silicon shows promise for building much higher-capacity batteries because it’s abundant and can absorb much more lithium than the graphite used in current lithium ion batteries. The problem is that silicon is prone to fracturing and breaking after numerous charge-and-discharge cycles, because it expands and contracts as it absorbs and releases lithium ions.

Existing research shows that shaping silicon into nano-scale particles, wires or tubes helps prevent it from breaking. What Buriak, fellow U of A chemist Jonathan Veinot and their team wanted to know was what size these structures needed to be to maximize the benefits of silicon while minimizing the drawbacks.

The researchers examined silicon nanoparticles of four different sizes, evenly dispersed within highly conductive graphene aerogels, made of carbon with nanoscopic pores, to compensate for silicon’s low conductivity. They found that the smallest particles—just three billionths of a metre in diameter—showed the best long-term stability after many charging and discharging cycles.

“As the particles get smaller, we found they are better able to manage the strain that occurs as the silicon ‘breathes’ upon alloying and dealloying with , upon cycling,” explained Buriak.

u of alberta imagesThe research has potential applications in “anything that relies upon  using a battery,” said Veinot, who is the director of the ATUMS graduate student training program that partially supported the research.

“Imagine a car having the same size battery as a Tesla that could travel 10 times farther or you charge 10 times less frequently, or the battery is 10 times lighter.”

Veinot said the next steps are to develop a faster, less expensive way to create  to make them more accessible for industry and technology developers.

The study, “Size and Surface Effects of Silicon Nanocrystals in Graphene Aerogel Composite Anodes for Lithium Ion Batteries,” was published in Chemistry of Materials.

 Explore further: Toward cost-effective solutions for next-generation consumer electronics, electric vehicles and power grids

More information: Maryam Aghajamali et al. Size and Surface Effects of Silicon Nanocrystals in Graphene Aerogel Composite Anodes for Lithium Ion Batteries, Chemistry of Materials (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.8b03198

Watch a YouTube Video about an Energy Storage Company Tenka Energy, Inc., that has developed and prototyped the NextGen of silicon-lithium-ion batteries for EV’s, Drones, Medical Sensors ….

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

via @Genesisnanotech #greatthingsfromsmallthings #energystorage

Lithium ion Battery Tech gets a ‘Cool’ rival: Frozen Liquid Air – Could LAES ‘de-throne’ the King?


schematic-of-liquid-air-energy-storage-laes-system

In a bid to help scale renewable energy, many companies are working on new ways to store energy long-term. But the plain old battery is still king. Can ultra-cold liquid air make all the difference?

Elon Musk’s Tesla took less than 100 days to install its Hornsdale Power Reserve – the world’s largest lithium ion battery – in dusty, sunny South Australia, following a Twitter bet. UK-based Highview Power has been a bit slower than that. After years of delays, its Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) plant near Manchester has come online.

It’s the world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage plant – and with off-the-shelf components, it’s relatively easy and cheap to build and to scale. Air is cooled down, made liquid, and stored in tanks for weeks until you need electricity again. Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?

While it’s certainly a moment of success for alternative energy storage, don’t break out the confetti yet: lithium ion isn’t about to give up its crown, says Dan Finn-Foley, a senior analyst at GTM Research. In the US alone, li-ion battery technology accounts for more than 95 per cent of annual storage deployments. But batteries, even the most efficient ones, fail to store energy for longer than a few hours.

So where does it leave solar and wind power, with their need to smooth out the supply peaks and troughs?

“Alternative energy storage could be a holy grail for the grid, a missing link that could get us towards renewables much faster,” explains Ravi Manghani, the director of the energy storage section of GTM Research.

One thing is certain: without reliable energy storage technology, the world will struggle to wean itself off dirty coal and other fossil fuels. If an economy and society wants to rely on renewables on a massive scale, it needs a backup solution. Renewables are growing fast – last year, 29 per cent of all electricity in the UK was generated by renewable energy plants; in Germany, it was 33 per cent.

But the sun doesn’t shine at night, and wind doesn’t always blow. Right now, the storage market is dominated by lithium ion battery technology, but despite Tesla’s worldwide total of one gigawatt-hour of energy storage, the available batteries can last about eight hours tops. “We absolutely must install multiple days worth of energy storage – we can’t get away with four to six hours only,” says Manghani.

Storing electricity for longer

Hornsdale Power Reserve 100 MW storage system can provide 129 megawatt-hours of electricity and is connected to the Hornsdale Wind Farm. Its primary aim is to increase grid stability during system contingencies events like extremely hot summer afternoons, or when a large gas plant will trip – it improves the grid’s ability to cope with small blips in energy generation, which typically means replacing about one to one and half hour of energy supply.

“It’s designed to handle very short duration contingency needs,” says Finn-Foley. That’s why batteries simply can’t provide peak power, or compete with and replace so-called ‘peaker’ plants – power plants like natural gas power stations that are only switched on to fill the gap at times of peak energy demand. They also can’t help extend the use of solar power to later in the day. “You’ll need 10 to 12 hours of continuous discharge duration, which means you’ll need four times the battery or more,” says Finn-Foley.

That’s where alternative energy storage technologies could change things.

Currently, the best long-duration energy storage solutions are thermal storage, pumped hydro, compressed air energy storage – and the newest kid on the block, liquid air energy storage. There are also alternative battery technologies such as flow batteries, which researchers believe may one day scale up to discharge energy for longer than lithium ion.

At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to cost. And developing and operating novel tech is not cheap. The cost of lithium ion batteries, meanwhile, keeps on plummeting, thanks to the ever-surging demand for consumer electronics and electric cars, with all the giga and megafactories mushrooming around the globe. Over the past few years, li-ion battery prices dropped by more than 60 per cent – and are expected to fall by another 40 per cent by 2022.

These cost drops are impressive – but while batteries are good for providing power over short timescales, they quickly get very expensive for storing large amounts of energy over hours and days.

What is liquid air energy storage?

Enter LAES. First dreamt up in the 1970s in the UK and then toyed with in the 1980s and 90s by Hitachi and Mitsubishi (without any proper pilot plants though), this tech has the potential to scale up at low cost, says professor Yulong Ding at the University of Birmingham, who together with Highview developed the technology.

liquid air energy ii

LAES works by using electricity from the grid to cool atmospheric air until it liquifies, and then storing it in big tanks at low pressure at –196C – at a fraction of the air’s original volume. “The working principle is quite similar to a domestic fridge – just the temperature and pressure ranges are different,” says Ding. The air can stay in the tanks for weeks and even months, dissipating slowly – and the better the insulation, the slower it will vanish. “It can easily be kept in tanks for about two months,” adds Ding.

When you need to generate electricity, you just have to heat the air to ambient temperature. In the process it will expand a whopping 700 times, creating a lot of air pressure that can be used to spin a turbine in the same way that, say, steam would in conventional generators – and produce electricity.

Because it’s so similar to a traditional fridge, the individual components of LAES for cooling, storing, and re-pressurising gases can be bought quite cheaply off the shelf. “These are well-understood, decades and centuries-old processes that are highly cost-efficient,” says Finn-Foley. The only novel bit here, says Ding, is the integration of the different parts in the most-optimised way.

LAES is not that efficient, though: Tesla’s battery in Australia is 88 per cent efficient, while LAES is 60 to 70 per cent, says Manghani. But as batteries can only store energy for a few hours, if they need to supply energy for longer, they quickly get very costly.

LAES also cannot respond to grid signals in a matter of milliseconds like batteries do. On the upside, the liquid air project can provide energy in bulk, around a day’s worth of it (although the pilot can store just 5 MW of electricity – enough to power roughly 5,000 homes for about three hours; on a commercial scale, Manchester’s LAES plant could have the capacity of 50 MW).

Still, as the liquid air energy storage is so cheap and can scale easily, it could, potentially, fill a crucial gap in the successful energy ecosystem geared towards renewables. Why, then, is it just the UK looking into it? Jonathan Radcliffe, an energy researcher at the University of Birmingham, has a simple answer: because of the UK’s ambitious plans for electricity generation from offshore wind in the 2020s. Also, he adds, “as an island, we have fewer connections to other electricity networks that could help balance supply and demand”.

Manghani is even more prosaic: the world isn’t ready for LAES just yet. Even at the scale of current use of renewables in countries like Germany and Australia, “there is no market out there that needs such longer duration of storage solutions,” he says – experimental plants like LAES are looking for a problem that doesn’t yet exist. But in a decade from now, once solar panel arrays and wind turbines produce more than 60 or 70 per cent of our energy, long-duration storage will be crucial. And we can’t wait a decade to start finding a viable solution, says Manghani – we have to get ready now.

De-Throning the king?

Highview claims that overall, LAES plants will be cheaper than lithium ion; if that’s confirmed at scale: “I expect the technology to go global quickly,” says Finn-Foley. But first, it has to start competing in multiple markets and applications, and existing regulations, as well as incentives to invest in energy storage, are a challenge.

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The LAES plant “will need to operate for some time to demonstrate that they have truly worked out the kinks, says Finn-Foley. It also has to prove viability, which is tricky for a project that is supposed to run for decades. “Batteries degrade and must be replaced – but proving a forty-year lifetime is hard to do until you’ve run it for 40 years,” he adds.

But in the end of the day, alternative technologies aren’t trying to usurp li-ion’s throne, but “carve out their own kingdom, with applications and use cases that they think they can do better,” he says. “So far they have been unsuccessful, but a pilot project proving cost-effectiveness is a crucial step.” For the next five years though, he says, “lithium ion will keep the crown”.

 

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


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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.

MIT: New battery technology gobbles up carbon dioxide – Ultimately may help reduce the emission of the greenhouse gas to the atmosphere + Could Carbon Dioxide Capture Batteries Replace Phone and EV Batteries?


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This scanning electron microscope image shows the carbon cathode of a carbon-dioxide-based battery made by MIT researchers, after the battery was discharged. It shows the buildup of carbon compounds on the surface, composed of carbonate material that could be derived from power plant emissions, compared to the original pristine surface (inset) Courtesy of the researchers

Lithium-based battery could make use of greenhouse gas before it ever gets into the atmosphere.

A new type of battery developed by researchers at MIT could be made partly from carbon dioxide captured from power plants. Rather than attempting to convert carbon dioxide to specialized chemicals using metal catalysts, which is currently highly challenging, this battery could continuously convert carbon dioxide into a solid mineral carbonate as it discharges.

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While still based on early-stage research and far from commercial deployment, the new battery formulation could open up new avenues for tailoring electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion reactions, which may ultimately help reduce the emission of the greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.

battery-atmosphereRead Also:  Scientists Have Created Batteries Using Carbon Dioxide From The Atmosphere Which Could Replace Phone And Electric Car Batteries

 

 

 

The battery is made from lithium metal, carbon, and an electrolyte that the researchers designed. The findings are described today in the journal Joule, in a paper by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Betar Gallant, doctoral student Aliza Khurram, and postdoc Mingfu He.

Currently, power plants equipped with carbon capture systems generally use up to 30 percent of the electricity they generate just to power the capture, release, and storage of carbon dioxide. Anything that can reduce the cost of that capture process, or that can result in an end product that has value, could significantly change the economics of such systems, the researchers say.

However, “carbon dioxide is not very reactive,” Gallant explains, so “trying to find new reaction pathways is important.” Generally, the only way to get carbon dioxide to exhibit significant activity under electrochemical conditions is with large energy inputs in the form of high voltages, which can be an expensive and inefficient process. Ideally, the gas would undergo reactions that produce something worthwhile, such as a useful chemical or a fuel. However, efforts at electrochemical conversion, usually conducted in water, remain hindered by high energy inputs and poor selectivity of the chemicals produced.

Gallant and her co-workers, whose expertise has to do with nonaqueous (not water-based) electrochemical reactions such as those that underlie lithium-based batteries, looked into whether carbon-dioxide-capture chemistry could be put to use to make carbon-dioxide-loaded electrolytes — one of the three essential parts of a battery — where the captured gas could then be used during the discharge of the battery to provide a power output.

This approach is different from releasing the carbon dioxide back to the gas phase for long-term storage, as is now used in carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS. That field generally looks at ways of capturing carbon dioxide from a power plant through a chemical absorption process and then either storing it in underground formations or chemically altering it into a fuel or a chemical feedstock.

Instead, this team developed a new approach that could potentially be used right in the power plant waste stream to make material for one of the main components of a battery.

While interest has grown recently in the development of lithium-carbon-dioxide batteries, which use the gas as a reactant during discharge, the low reactivity of carbon dioxide has typically required the use of metal catalysts. Not only are these expensive, but their function remains poorly understood, and reactions are difficult to control.

By incorporating the gas in a liquid state, however, Gallant and her co-workers found a way to achieve electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion using only a carbon electrode. The key is to pre-activate the carbon dioxide by incorporating it into an amine solution.

“What we’ve shown for the first time is that this technique activates the carbon dioxide for more facile electrochemistry,” Gallant says. “These two chemistries — aqueous amines and nonaqueous battery electrolytes — are not normally used together, but we found that their combination imparts new and interesting behaviors that can increase the discharge voltage and allow for sustained conversion of carbon dioxide.”

They showed through a series of experiments that this approach does work, and can produce a lithium-carbon dioxide battery with voltage and capacity that are competitive with that of state-of-the-art lithium-gas batteries. Moreover, the amine acts as a molecular promoter that is not consumed in the reaction.

The key was developing the right electrolyte system, Khurram explains. In this initial proof-of-concept study, they decided to use a nonaqueous electrolyte because it would limit the available reaction pathways and therefore make it easier to characterize the reaction and determine its viability. The amine material they chose is currently used for CCS applications, but had not previously been applied to batteries.

factory-air-pollution-environment-smoke-shutterstock_130778315-34gj4r8xdrgg8mj9r25a0wThis early system has not yet been optimized and will require further development, the researchers say. For one thing, the cycle life of the battery is limited to 10 charge-discharge cycles, so more research is needed to improve rechargeability and prevent degradation of the cell components. “Lithium-carbon dioxide batteries are years away” as a viable product, Gallant says, as this research covers just one of several needed advances to make them practical.

But the concept offers great potential, according to Gallant. Carbon capture is widely considered essential to meeting worldwide goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but there are not yet proven, long-term ways of disposing of or using all the resulting carbon dioxide. Underground geological disposal is still the leading contender, but this approach remains somewhat unproven and may be limited in how much it can accommodate. It also requires extra energy for drilling and pumping.

The researchers are also investigating the possibility of developing a continuous-operation version of the process, which would use a steady stream of carbon dioxide under pressure with the amine material, rather than a preloaded supply the material, thus allowing it to deliver a steady power output as long as the battery is supplied with carbon dioxide. Ultimately, they hope to make this into an integrated system that will carry out both the capture of carbon dioxide from a power plant’s emissions stream, and its conversion into an electrochemical material that could then be used in batteries. “It’s one way to sequester it as a useful product,” Gallant says.

“It was interesting that Gallant and co-workers cleverly combined the prior knowledge from two different areas, metal-gas battery electrochemistry and carbon-dioxide capture chemistry, and succeeded in increasing both the energy density of the battery and the efficiency of the carbon-dioxide capture,” says Kisuk Kang, a professor at Seoul National University in South Korea, who was not associated with this research.

“Even though more precise understanding of the product formation from carbon dioxide may be needed in the future, this kind of interdisciplinary approach is very exciting and often offers unexpected results, as the authors elegantly demonstrated here,” Kang adds.

MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering provided support for the project.

Self-heating, fast-charging batteries could speed up EV adoption


Image above] Researchers at Penn State have developed a fast-charging battery for all outside temperatures that rapidly heats up internally prior to charging battery materials. Credit: Chao-Yang Wang, Penn State University

A barrier to universal adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) has to do with charging the battery. It can take anywhere from a half hour up to 12 hours, depending on the charging point used and the EV’s battery capacity.

And of course, there needs to be a massive charging infrastructure in place so that drivers will feel confident driving long distances on a single charge.

One factor that significantly impacts EV driving range is the outside temperature. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, cold weather can affect the driving range of plug-in EVs by more than 25%. In a project at Idaho National Laboratory, researchers found that plug-in hybrid electric Chevy Volts driven in winter in Chicago had 29% less range than those driven in spring in Chicago.

It’s common knowledge that batteries, in general, don’t do well in freezing temperatures. But if we’re ever to move beyond gas-powered vehicles, we need a battery that can charge quickly, hold its charge in cold weather, and not cost an arm and a leg.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have been thinking about this for a while. A little over two years ago, William E. Diefenderfer Chair of mechanical engineering, professor of chemical engineering, and professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Electrochemical Engine Center,  Chao-Yang Wang and his team developed a self-heating lithium battery that uses thin nickel foil with one end attached to the negative terminal and the other end extending outside the battery, creating a third terminal.

The foil serves as a heater of sorts. A temperature sensor sets off electron flow through the foil—heating it up and warming the battery. The sensor switches off after the battery reaches 32oF, allowing electric current to continue flowing normally.

Now, Wang and his team have taken their technology a step further by enabling the battery to charge itself in 15 minutes at temperatures as low as –45oF.

When the battery’s internal temperature reaches room temperature and above, the switch opens to allow electric current to flow in and quickly charge the battery.

“One unique feature of our cell is that it will do the heating and then switch to charging automatically,” Wang explains in a Penn State news release.

He says their battery would not affect the current charging infrastructure. “Also, the stations already out there do not have to be changed,” he adds. “Control of heating and charging is within the battery, not the chargers.”

According to the researchers, charging a lithium-ion battery quickly at temperatures under 50 degrees contributes to its degradation and lithium plating—which can make a battery unsafe. Long, slow charging at 50oF, they say, can avoid lithium plating.

And Wang says their technology can work for other batteries as well.

“The self-heating battery structure is also essential for all solid-state ceramic batteries because it thermally stimulates uniform lithium deposition at the lithium metal anode and compensates for insufficient ionic conductivity of ceramic or glass electrolytes,” he explains in an email. “Plus, solid-state batteries are inherently safe and more efficient to operate at high temperatures. Indeed, a solid state battery would be much inferior without the self-heating battery structure.”

He also says their technology is “pretty mature and readily commercialized by auto OEMs and battery manufacturers.”

That’s good news for those of us who have been hesitant to trade in our gas-powered vehicles for electric ones.

The paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, is “Fast charging of lithium-ion batteries at all temperatures” (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1807115115).