China is well advanced in switching to the NCM 811 type of lithium-ion cathode for EV batteries.
The new NCM 811 lithium-ion battery chemistry takes the Chinesepassenger xEV (BEV, PHEV, HEV) market like a storm.
According to Adamas Intelligence, In September, NCM 811 was responsible for18%of passenger xEV battery deployment (by capacity).
The NCM 811 is a low cobalt-content cathode (nickel:cobalt:manganese at a ratio of 8:1:1).
The expansion is tremendous compared to 1% in January, 4% in June and 13% in August.
NCM 811 cells combines high-energy density with affordability (lower content of expensive cobalt), which probably is enough for most manufacturers to make the switch from NCM 523 and LFP (often bypassing NCM 622).
“In China, for the second month in a row, NCM 811 was second-only to NCM 523 by capacity deployed, while the once-popular NCM 622 now finds itself in fifth spot with a mere 5% of the market.
In the pursuit of lower costs and higher energy density, a growing number of automakers in China have seemingly opted to bypass NCM 622, shifting instead straight from LFP or NCM 523 cathode chemistries into high-nickel NCM 811.
Since January 2019, the market share of NCM 811 in China’s passenger EV market has rapidly increased from less than 1% to 18% and shows little signs of slowing its ingress. Outside of China, however, automakers have been slow to adopt NCM 811 to-date but we expect to see the chemistry make inroads in Europe and North America by as early as next year.”
NCM 811 share globally is also growing and in September it was at 7%.
The other leading low cobalt chemistry is Tesla/Panasonic’sNCA.
How to build a better Battery through Nanotechnology
PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA (Note to Readers: This original article was published in 2016 May. Recent updates, News Releases and a YouTube Video have been provided)
On a drizzly, gray morning in April, Yi Cui weaves his scarlet red Tesla in and out of Silicon Valley traffic. Cui, a materials scientist at Stanford University here, is headed to visit Amprius, a battery company he founded 8 years ago. Amprius Latest News Release(December 2018)
It’s no coincidence that he is driving a battery-powered car, and that he has leased rather than bought it. In a few years, he says, he plans to upgrade to a new model, with a crucial improvement: “Hopefully our batteries will be in it.”
Cui and Amprius are trying to take lithium–ion batteries—today’s best commercial technology—to the next level. They have plenty of company. Massive corporations such as Panasonic, Samsung, LG Chem, Apple, and Tesla are vying to make batteries smaller, lighter, and more powerful. But among these power players, Cui remains a pioneering force.
Unlike others who focus on tweaking the chemical composition of a battery’s electrodes or its charge-conducting electrolyte, Cui is marrying battery chemistry with nanotechnology. He is building intricately structured battery electrodes that can soak up and release charge-carrying ions in greater quantities, and faster, than standard electrodes can, without producing troublesome side reactions. “He’s taking the innovation of nanotechnology and using it to control chemistry,” says Wei Luo, a materials scientist and battery expert at the University of Maryland, College Park.
“I wanted to change the world, and also get rich, but mainly change the world.”
In a series of lab demonstrations, Cui has shown how his architectural approach to electrodes can domesticate a host of battery chemistries that have long tantalized researchers but remained problematic. Among them: lithium-ion batteries with electrodes of silicon instead of the standard graphite, batteries with an electrode made of bare lithium metal, and batteries relying on lithium-sulfur chemistry, which are potentially more powerful than any lithium-ion battery. The nanoscale architectures he is exploring include silicon nanowires that expand and contract as they absorb and shed lithium ions, and tiny egg like structures with carbon shells protecting lithium-rich silicon yolks.
(Article continues below Video)
Watch a YouTube Video on the latest Update from Professor Cui (November 2018). A very concise and informative Summary of the State of NextGen Batteries.
** Amprius already supplies phone batteries with silicon electrodes that store 10% more energy than the best conventional lithium-ion batteries on the market.
(Article continues below)
Another prototype beats standard batteries by 40%, and even better ones are in the works. So far, the company does not make batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), but if the technologies Cui is exploring live up to their promise, the company could one day supply car batteries able to store up to 10 times more energy than today’s top performers. That could give modest-priced EVs the same range as gas-powered models—a revolutionary advance that could help nations power their vehicle fleets with electricity provided by solar and wind power, dramatically reducing carbon emissions.
Cui says that when he started in research, “I wanted to change the world, and also get rich, but mainly change the world.” His quest goes beyond batteries. His lab is exploring nanotech innovations that are spawning startup companies aiming to provide cheaper, more effective air and water purification systems. But so far Cui has made his clearest mark on batteries. Luo calls his approach “untraditional and surprising.” Jun Liu, a materials scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, put it more directly: Cui’s nanotech contributions to battery technology are “tremendous.”
Making leaps in battery technology is surprisingly hard to do. Even as Silicon Valley’s primary innovation, the computer chip, has made exponential performance gains for decades, batteries have lagged. Today’s best lithium-ion cells hold about 700 watt-hours per liter. That’s about five times the energy density of nickel-cadmium batteries from the mid-1980s—not bad, but not breathtaking. In the past decade, the energy density of the best commercial batteries has doubled.
Battery users want more. The market for lithium-ion batteries alone is expected to top $30 billion a year by 2020, according to a pair of recent reports by market research firms Transparency Market Research and Taiyou Research. The rise in production of EVs by car companies that include Tesla, General Motors, and Nissan accounts for some of that surge.
But today’s EVs leave much to be desired. For a Tesla Model S, depending on the exact model, the 70- to 90-kilowatt-hour batteries alone weigh 600 kilograms and account for about $30,000 of the car’s price, which can exceed $100,000. Yet they can take the car only about 400 kilometers on a single charge, substantially less than the range of many conventional cars. Nissan’s Leaf is far cheaper, with a sticker price of about $29,000. But with a smaller battery pack, its range is only about one-third that of the Tesla.
Improving batteries could make a major impact. Doubling a battery’s energy density would enable car companies to keep the driving range the same while halving the size and cost of the battery—or keep the battery size constant and double the car’s range. “The age of electric vehicles is coming,” Cui says. But in order for EVs to take over, “we have to do better.”
He recognized the need early in his career. After finishing his undergraduate degree in his native China in 1998, Cui moved first to Harvard University and then to the University of California (UC), Berkeley, to complete a Ph.D. and postdoc in labs that were pioneering the synthesis of nanosized materials. Those were the early days of nanotechnology, when researchers were struggling to get a firm handle on how to create just the materials they wanted, and the world of applications was only beginning to take shape.
While at UC Berkeley, Cui spent time with colleagues next door at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). At the time, LBNL’s director was Steven Chu, who pushed the lab to invent renewable energy technologies that had the potential to combat climate change, among them better batteries for storing clean energy. (Chu later went on to serve as President Barack Obama’s secretary of energy from 2009 to 2013.)
“At the beginning, I wasn’t thinking about energy. I had never worked on batteries,” Cui says. But Chu and others impressed on him that nanotechnology could give batteries an edge.
As Chu says now, it offers “a new knob to turn, and an important one,” enabling researchers to control not only the chemical composition of materials on the smallest scales, but also the arrangement of atoms within them—and thus how chemical reactions involving them proceed.
After moving to Stanford, Cui quickly gravitated to the nexus between nanotechnology and the electrochemistry that makes batteries work—and accounts for their limitations. Take lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. In principle, these batteries are simple: They consist of two electrodes divided by a membrane “separator” and a liquid electrolyte that allows ions to glide back and forth between the electrodes.
When a battery is charging, lithium ions are released from the positive electrode, or cathode, which consists of a lithium alloy, commonly lithium cobalt oxide or lithium iron phosphate. They are drawn toward the negatively charged electrode, called the anode, which is usually made of graphite. There they snuggle in between the graphite’s sheets of carbon atoms. Voltage from an external power source drives the whole ionic mass migration, storing power.
When a device—say, a power tool or a car—is turned on and demands energy, the battery discharges: Lithium atoms in the graphite give up electrons, which travel through the external circuit to the cathode. Meanwhile, the lithium ions slip out of the graphite and zip through the electrolyte and the separator to the cathode, where they meet up with electrons that have made the journey through the circuit (see diagram below).
Nano to the rescue
Cui and colleagues have applied several nanotechnology-inspired solutions to keep silicon anodes from breaking down and to prevent battery-killing side reactions.
Graphite is today’s go-to anode material because it is highly conductive and thus readily passes collected electrons to the metal wires in a circuit. But graphite is only so-so at gathering lithium ions during charging. It takes six carbon atoms in graphite to hold on to a single lithium ion. That weak grip limits how much lithium the electrode can hold and thus how much power the battery can store.
Silicon has the potential to do far better. Each silicon atom can bind to four lithium ions. In principle, that means a silicon-based anode can store 10 times as much energy as one made from graphite. Electrochemists have struggled in vain for decades to tap that enormous capacity.
It’s easy enough to make anodes from chunks of silicon; the problem is that the anodes don’t last. As the battery is charged and lithium ions rush in to bind to silicon atoms, the anode material swells as much as 300%. Then, when the lithium ions rush out during the battery’s discharge cycle, the anode rapidly shrinks again. After only a few cycles of such torture, silicon electrodes fracture and eventually split into tiny, isolated grains. The anode—and the battery—crumbles and dies.
Cui thought he could solve the problem. His experience at Harvard and UC Berkeley had taught him that nanomaterials often behave differently from materials in bulk. For starters, they have a much higher percentage of their atoms at their surface relative to the number in their interior. And because surface atoms have fewer atomic neighbors locking them in place, they can move more easily in response to stresses and strains. Other types of atomic movement explain why thin sheets of aluminum foil or paper can bend without breaking more easily than chunks of aluminum metal or wood can.
In 2008, Cui thought that fashioning a silicon anode from nanosized silicon wires might alleviate the stress and strain that pulverize bulk silicon anodes. The strategy worked. In a paper in Nature Nanotechnology, Cui and colleagues showed that when lithium ions moved into and out of the silicon nanowires, the nanowires suffered little damage. Even after 10 repeated cycles of charging and discharging, the anode retained 75% of its theoretical energy storage capacity.
Unfortunately, silicon nanowires are much more difficult and expensive to fashion than bulk silicon. Cui and colleagues started devising ways to make cheaper silicon anodes. First, they found a way to craft lithium-ion battery anodes from spherical silicon nanoparticles. Though potentially cheaper, these faced a second problem: The shrinking and swelling of the nanoparticles as the lithium atoms moved in and out opened cracks in the glue that bound the nanoparticles together. The liquid electrolyte seeped between the particles, driving a chemical reaction that coated them in a non-conductive layer, known as a solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI), which eventually grew thick enough to disrupt the anode’s charge-collecting abilities. “It’s like scar tissue,” says Yuzhang Li, a graduate student in Cui’s lab.
A few years later, Cui and his colleagues hit on another nanotech solution. They created egg like nanoparticles, surrounding each of their tiny silicon nanoparticles—the yolk—with a highly conductive carbon shell through which lithium ions could readily pass. The shell gave silicon atoms in the yolk ample room to swell and shrink, while protecting them from the electrolyte—and the reactions that form an SEI layer. In a 2012 paper in Nano Letters, Cui’s team reported that after 1000 cycles of charging and discharging, their yolk-shell anode retained 74% of its capacity.
They did even better 2 years later. They assembled bunches of their yolk-shell nanoparticles into micrometer-scale collections resembling miniature pomegranates. Bunching the silicon spheres boosted the anode’s lithium storage capacity and reduced unwanted side reactions with the electrolyte. In a February 2014 issue of Nature Nanotechnology, the group reported that batteries based on the new material retained 97% of their original capacity after 1000 charge and discharge cycles.
Earlier this year, Cui and colleagues reported a solution that outdoes even their complex pomegranate assemblies. They simply hammered large silicon particles down to the micrometer scale and then wrapped them in thin carbon sheets made from graphene. The hammered particles wound up larger than the silicon spheres in the pomegranates—so big that they fractured after a few charging cycles. But the graphene wrapping prevented the electrolyte compounds from reaching the silicon. It was also flexible enough to maintain contact with the fractured particles and thus carry their charges to the metal wires. What’s more, the team reported in Nature Energy, the larger silicon particles packed more mass—and thus more power—into a given volume, and they were far cheaper and easier to make than the pomegranates. “He has really taken this work in the right direction,” Jun Liu says.
Powered by such ideas, Amprius has raised more than $100 million to commercialize lithium-ion batteries with silicon anodes. The company is already manufacturing cellphone batteries in China and has sold more than 1 million of them, says Song Han, the company’s chief technology officer. The batteries, based on simple silicon nanoparticles that are cheap to make, are only 10% better than today’s lithium-ion cells. But at Amprius’s headquarters, Han showed off nanowire-silicon prototypes that are 40% better. And those, he says, still represent only the beginning of how good silicon anodes will eventually become.
Now, Cui is looking beyond silicon. One focus is to make anodes out of pure lithium metal, which has long been viewed as the ultimate anode material, as it has the potential to store even more energy than silicon and is much lighter.
But there have been major problems here, too. For starters, an SEI layer normally forms around the lithium metal electrode. That’s actually good news in this case: Lithium ions can penetrate the layer, so the SEI acts as a protective film around the lithium anode. But as the battery cycles, the metal swells and shrinks just as silicon particles do, and the pulsing can break the SEI layer. Lithium ions can then pile up in the crack, causing a metal spike, known as a dendrite, to sprout from the electrode. “Those dendrites can pierce the battery separator and short-circuit the battery and cause it to catch fire,” says Yayuan Liu, another graduate student in Cui’s group.
Conventional approaches haven’t solved the problem. But nanotechnology might. In one approach to preventing dendrite formation, Cui’s team stabilizes the SEI layer by coating the anode with a layer of interconnected nanocarbon spheres. In another, they’ve created a new type of yolk-shell particle, made of gold nanoparticles inside much larger carbon shells. When the nanocapsules are fashioned into an anode, the gold attracts lithium ions; the shells give the lithium room to shrink and swell without cracking the SEI layer, so dendrites don’t form.
Improving anodes is only half the battle in making better batteries. Cui’s team has taken a similar nano inspired approach to improving cathode materials as well, in particular sulfur. Like silicon on the anode side, sulfur has long been seen as a tantalizing option for the cathode. Each sulfur atom can hold a pair of lithiums, making it possible in principle to boost energy storage several fold over conventional cathodes. Perhaps equally important, sulfur is dirt cheap. But it, too, has problems. Sulfur is a relatively modest electrical conductor, and it reacts with common electrolytes to form chemicals that can kill the batteries after a few cycles of charging and discharging. Sulfur cathodes also tend to hoard charges instead of giving them up during discharge.
Seeking a nanosolution, Cui’s team encased sulfur particles inside highly conductive titanium dioxide shells, boosting battery capacity fivefold over conventional designs and preventing sulfur byproducts from poisoning the cell. The researchers have also made sulfur-based versions of their pomegranates, and they have trapped sulfur inside long, thin nanofibers. These and other innovations have not only boosted battery capacity, but also raised a measure known as the coulombic efficiency—how well the battery releases its charges—from 86% to 99%. “Now, we have high capacity on both sides of the electrode,” Cui says.
Down the road, Cui says, he intends to put both of his key innovations together. By coupling silicon anodes with sulfur cathodes, he hopes to make cheap, high-capacity batteries that could change the way the world powers its devices. “We think if we can make it work, it will make a big impact,” Cui says.
It just might help him change the world, and get rich on the side.
Bio – Professor Yi Cui
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, of Photon Science, Senior Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy and Prof, by courtesy, of Chemistry PhD, Harvard University (2002)
Cui studies nanoscale phenomena and their applications broadly defined. Research Interests: Nanocrystal and nanowire synthesis and self-assembly, electron transfer and transport in nanomaterials and at the nano interface, nanoscale electronic and photonic devices, batteries, solar cells, microbial fuel cells, water filters and chemical and biological sensors.
Rolls Royce leads a group of UK Government funded projects under the name ACCEL, which is an abbreviation of “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight” somehow. With the group’s newest flight project,the Spirit of Innovation, they aim to exceed 300 miles per hour, and sustain speed for at least forty minutes, enough to cross over from London to Paris. It’s an ambitious project, and one that Rolls hopes will kick off a “third wave of aviation.”
Rolls Royce was at the absolute forefront of airplane propeller driven technology in 1931 with the Supermarine S.6B, which won the Schneider Trophy for top speed that year with a max speed of 343 miles per hour. That plane kicked off a series of innovations for Rolls Royce and gave the company the notoriety it needed to become the leader in British flight.
The current electric plane record is held by Siemens, which put up a plane to 210 miles per hour in 2017. ACCEL team manager Matheu Parr wants to blow that speed out of the water, and is using the Supermarine’s speed record as the benchmark for the new Spirit of Innovation.
“We’re monitoring more than 20,000 data points per second, measuring battery voltage, temperature, and overall health of the powertrain, which is responsible for powering the propellers and generating thrust. We’ve already drawn a series of insights from the unique design and integration challenges,” says Parr. “And we’re gaining the know-how to not only pioneer the field of electric-powered, zero-emissions aviation – but to lead it. At this point, our confidence is sky high.”
This all-electric plane is set to fly sometime in 2020, and the specifications look absolutely wild. For maximum frontal area efficiency, the battery pack has to be small and compact, merging 6000 lithium cells with an advanced cooling system to help keep the batteries stable. With three stacked YASA 750R electric motors, the plane will have around 500 horsepower available to spin the modern design propeller.
Watch a YouTube Video: The Top 10 Electric Planes that are Already Here and … Flying on Batteries!
Humanity has dreamt about reaching the skies throughout its existence, and even though today we can easily take a plane and travel across the world, airflight still remains rather expensive and harmful to our environment. But what if we told you that all electric aircraft are already here and they will drastically change the way we experience air travel and cut down the costs in half. Enjoy this list of these emission free planes that are pioneering their way into the future.
In order to make this project a reality, the highest tier aerodynamics engineers from all over the UK were hired, primarily from within Rolls Royce’s aerospace engineering division, as well as some from within the motorsport community. This is truly an all-in mission for the British industrial complex.
Lithium-sulfur batteries could be the energy storage devices of the future, if they can get past a chemical phenomenon that reduces their endurance. Drexel researchers have reported a method for making a sulfur cathode that could preserve the batteries’ exceptional performance. (Image from Drexel News)
Drexel’s College of Engineering reports that researchers and the industry are looking at Li-S batteries to eventually replace Li-ion batteries because a new chemistry that theoretically allows more energy to be packed into a single battery.
This improved capacity, on the order of 5-10 times that of Li-ion batteries, equates to a longer run time for batteries between charges.
However, the problem is that Li-S batteries have trouble maintaining their superiority beyond just a few recharge cycles. But a solution to that problem may have been found with new research.
The new approach, reported by in a recent edition of the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, shows that it can hold polysulfides in place, maintaining the battery’s impressive stamina, while reducing the overall weight and the time required to produce them.
“We have created freestanding porous titanium monoxide nanofiber mat as a cathode host material in lithium-sulfur batteries,” said Vibha Kalra, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Engineering who led the research.
“This is a significant development because we have found that our titanium monoxide-sulfur cathode is both highly conductive and able to bind polysulfides via strong chemical interactions, which means it can augment the battery’s specific capacity while preserving its impressive performance through hundreds of cycles.
We can also demonstrate the complete elimination of binders and current collector on the cathode side that account for 30-50 percent of the electrode weight — and our method takes just seconds to create the sulfur cathode, when the current standard can take nearly half a day.”
Please find the full report here: LINK
TiO Phase Stabilized into Free-Standing Nanofibers as Strong Polysulfide Immobilizer in Li-S Batteries: Evidence for Lewis Acid-Base Interactions
Arvinder Singh and Vibha Kalra
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, Just Accepted Manuscript
We report the stabilization of titanium monoxide (TiO) nanoparticles in nanofibers through electrospinning and carbothermal processes and their unique bi-functionality – high conductivity and ability to bind polysulfides – in Li-S batteries. The developed 3-D TiO/CNF architecture with the inherent inter-fiber macropores of nanofiber mats provides a much higher surface area (~427 m2 g-1) and overcomes the challenges associated with the use of highly dense powdered Ti-based suboxides/monoxide materials, thereby allowing for high active sulfur loading among other benefits.
The developed TiO/CNF-S cathodes exhibit high initial discharge capacities of ~1080 mAh g-1, ~975 mAh g-1, and ~791 mAh g-1 at 0.1C, 0.2C, and 0.5C rates, respectively with long term cycling. Furthermore, free-standing TiO/CNF-S cathodes developed with rapid sulfur melt infiltration (~5 sec) eradicate the need of inactive elements viz. binders, additional current collectors (Al-foil) and additives. Using postmortem XPS and Raman analysis, this study is the first to reveal the presence of strong Lewis acid-base interaction between TiO (3d2) and Sx2- through coordinate covalent Ti-S bond formation.
Our results highlight the importance of developing Ti-suboxides/monoxide based nanofibrous conducting polar host materials for next-generation Li-S batteries.
“Reprinted with permission from (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b11029). Copyright (2018) American Chemical Society.”
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.
“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!
A Major Milestone on the Path to Production of the Lucid Air
Lucid Motors announced today that it has executed a $1bn+ (USD) investment agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, through a special-purpose vehicle wholly owned by PIF.
Under the terms of the agreement, the parties made binding undertakings to carry out the transaction subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.
The transaction represents a major milestone for Lucid and will provide the company with the necessary funding to commercially launch its first electric vehicle, the Lucid Air, in 2020. Lucid plans to use the funding to complete engineering development and testing of the Lucid Air, construct its factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, begin the global rollout of its retail strategy starting in North America, and enter production for the Lucid Air.
Lucid’s mission is to inspire the adoption of sustainable energy by creating the most captivating luxury electric vehicles, centered around the human experience. “The convergence of new technologies is reshaping the automobile, but the benefits have yet to be truly realized. This is inhibiting the pace at which sustainable mobility and energy are adopted. At Lucid, we will demonstrate the full potential of the electric connected vehicle in order to push the industry forward,” said Peter Rawlinson, Chief Technology Officer of Lucid.
Lucid and PIF are strongly aligned around the vision to create a global luxury electric car company based in the heart of Silicon Valley with world-class engineering talent. Lucid will work closely with PIF to ensure a strategic focus on quickly bringing its products to market at a time of rapid change in the automotive industry.
A spokesperson for PIF said, “By investing in the rapidly expanding electric vehicle market, PIF is gaining exposure to long-term growth opportunities, supporting innovation and technological development, and driving revenue and sectoral diversification for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The spokesperson added, “PIF’s international investment strategy aims to strengthen PIF’s performance as an active contributor in the international economy, an investor in the industries of the future and the partner of choice for international investment opportunities. Our investment in Lucid is a strong example of these objectives.”
The latest rechargeable battery technology could drastically improve the capabilities of mobile phones and electric vehicles.
It seems that nearly every household electronic item these days requires a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, from a vacuum cleaner to a pair of headphones.
This results in many of us having a multitude of different devices hooked up to various chargers at any given time, which isn’t exactly ideal.
Now, however, a team of scientists from the University of Michigan is heralding a major breakthrough that could drastically increase the power of rechargeable batteries, with the added bonus of not catching on fire.
Existing rechargeable batteries are made from lithium-ion, a technology that enables a quick charge but has the massive drawback of its exposure to open air causing it to explode and catch fire. It also requires regular charging and can degrade quickly due to overcharging.
But, in a paper soon to be published to the Journal of Power Sources, the research team describe how by using a ceramic, solid-state electrolyte, it was able to harness the power of lithium-metal batteries without any of the traditional negatives of lithium-ion.
In doing so, it could double the output of batteries, meaning a phone could run for days or weeks without charging, or an electric vehicle (EV) could rival fossil fuel-powered cars in range.
Jeff Sakamoto, leader of the research team, said: “This could be a game-changer, a paradigm shift in how a battery operates.”
In the 1980s, lithium-metal batteries were seen as the future, but their tendency to combust during charging led researchers to switch to lithium-ion.
10 times the charging speed
These batteries replaced lithium metal with graphite anodes, which absorb the lithium and prevent tree-like filaments called dendrites from forming, but also come with performance costs.
For example, graphite has a maximum capacity of 350 milliampere hours per gram (mAh/g), whereas lithium metal in a solid-state battery has a specific capacity of 3,800 mAh/g.
To get around the ever so problematic exploding problem in lithium-metal batteries, the team created a ceramic layer that stabilises the surface, keeping dendrites from forming and preventing fires.
With some tweaking, chemical and mechanical treatments of the ceramic provided a pristine surface for lithium to plate evenly.
Whereas once it would take a lithium-metal EV up to 50 hours to charge, the team said it could now do it in three hours or less.
“We’re talking a factor of 10 increase in charging speed compared to previous reports for solid-state lithium-metal batteries,” Sakamoto said.
“We’re now on par with lithium-ion cells in terms of charging rates, but with additional benefits.”
You hear a lot about the shortcomings of lithium-ion batteries, mostly related to the slow rate of capacity improvements. However, they’re also pretty expensive because of the required lithium for cathodes. Sodium-ion batteries have shown some promise as a vastly cheaper alternative, but the performance hasn’t been comparable. With the aid of lasers and graphene, researchers may have developed a new type of sodium-ion battery that works better and could reduce the cost of battery technology by an order of magnitude.
The research comes from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. Much of the country’s water comes from desalination, so there’s a lot of excess sodium left over. Worldwide, sodium is about 30 times cheaper than lithium, so it would be nice if we could use that as a battery cathode. The issue is that standard graphite anodes don’t hold onto sodium ions as well as they do lithium.
The KAUST team looked at a way to create a material called hard carbon to boost sodium-ion effectiveness. Producing hard carbon usually requires a complex multi-step process that involves heating samples to more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 Celsius). That effectively eliminates the cost advantage of using sodium in batteries. The KAUST team managed to create something like hard carbon with relative ease using graphene and lasers.
It all starts with a piece of copper foil. The team applied a polymer layer composed of urea polymides. Researchers blasted this material with a high-intensity laser to create graphene by a process called carbonization. Regular graphene isn’t enough, though. While the laser fired, nitrogen was added to the reaction chamber. Nitrogen atoms end up integrated into the material, replacing some of the carbon atoms. In the end, the material is about 13 percent nitrogen with the remainder carbon.
Making anodes out of this “3D graphene” material offers several advantages. For one, it’s highly conductive. The larger atomic spacing makes it better for capturing sodium ions in a sodium-ion battery, too. Finally, the copper base can be used as a current collector in the battery, saving additional fabrication steps.
The researchers tested a sodium-ion battery with 3D graphene anodes, finding the system outperformed existing sodium-ion systems.
It’s still not as potent as lithium-ion, but these lower cost cells could become popular for applications where high-performance lithium-ion tech isn’t necessary. Your phone will run on lithium batteries for a bit longer.