MIT: Making renewable power more viable for the grid

Making renewable power more viable for the grid

“Air-breathing” battery can store electricity for months, for about a fifth the cost of current technologies.

Wind and solar power are increasingly popular sources for renewable energy. But intermittency issues keep them from connecting widely to the U.S. grid: They require energy-storage systems that, at the cheapest, run about $100 per kilowatt hour and function only in certain locations.

Now MIT researchers have developed an “air-breathing” battery that could store electricity for very long durations for about one-fifth the cost of current technologies, with minimal location restraints and zero emissions. The battery could be used to make sporadic renewable power a more reliable source of electricity for the grid.

For its anode, the rechargeable flow battery uses cheap, abundant sulfur dissolved in water. An aerated liquid salt solution in the cathode continuously takes in and releases oxygen that balances charge as ions shuttle between the electrodes. Oxygen flowing into the cathode causes the anode to discharge electrons to an external circuit. Oxygen flowing out sends electrons back to the anode, recharging the battery.

“This battery literally inhales and exhales air, but it doesn’t exhale carbon dioxide, like humans — it exhales oxygen,” says Yet-Ming Chiang, the Kyocera Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT and co-author of a paper describing the battery.

The research appears today in the journal Joule.

The battery’s total chemical cost — the combined price of the cathode, anode, and electrolyte materials — is about 1/30th the cost of competing batteries, such as lithium-ion batteries. Scaled-up systems could be used to store electricity from wind or solar power, for multiple days to entire seasons, for about $20 to $30 per kilowatt hour.

Co-authors with Chiang on the paper are: first author Zheng Li, who was a postdoc at MIT during the research and is now a professor at Virginia Tech; Fikile R. Brushett, the Raymond A. and Helen E. St. Laurent Career Development Professor of Chemical Engineering; research scientist Liang Su; graduate students Menghsuan Pan and Kai Xiang; and undergraduate students Andres Badel, Joseph M. Valle, and Stephanie L. Eiler.

Finding the right balance

Development of the battery began in 2012, when Chiang joined the Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, a five-year project that brought together about 180 researchers to collaborate on energy-saving technologies. Chiang, for his part, focused on developing an efficient battery that could reduce the cost of grid-scale energy storage.

A major issue with batteries over the past several decades, Chiang says, has been a focus on synthesizing materials that offer greater energy density but are very expensive. The most widely used materials in lithium-ion batteries for cellphones, for instance, have a cost of about $100 for each kilowatt hour of energy stored.

“This meant maybe we weren’t focusing on the right thing, with an ever-increasing chemical cost in pursuit of high energy-density,” Chiang says. He brought the issue to other MIT researchers. “We said, ‘If we want energy storage at the terawatt scale, we have to use truly abundant materials.’”

The researchers first decided the anode needed to be sulfur, a widely available byproduct of natural gas and petroleum refining that’s very energy dense, having the lowest cost per stored charge next to water and air. The challenge then was finding an inexpensive liquid cathode material that remained stable while producing a meaningful charge.

That seemed improbable — until a serendipitous discovery in the lab.

On a short list of candidates was a compound called potassium permanganate. If used as a cathode material, that compound is “reduced” — a reaction that draws ions from the anode to the cathode, discharging electricity. However, the reduction of the permanganate is normally impossible to reverse, meaning the battery wouldn’t be rechargeable.

Still, Li tried. As expected, the reversal failed. However, the battery was, in fact, recharging, due to an unexpected oxygen reaction in the cathode, which was running entirely on air. “I said, ‘Wait, you figured out a rechargeable chemistry using sulfur that does not require a cathode compound?’ That was the ah-ha moment,” Chiang says.

Using that concept, the team of researchers created a type of flow battery, where electrolytes are continuously pumped through electrodes and travel through a reaction cell to create charge or discharge.

The battery consists of a liquid anode (anolyte) of polysulfide that contains lithium or sodium ions, and a liquid cathode (catholyte) that consists of an oxygenated dissolved salt, separated by a membrane.

Upon discharging, the anolyte releases electrons into an external circuit and the lithium or sodium ions travel to the cathode.

At the same time, to maintain electroneutrality, the catholyte draws in oxygen, creating negatively charged hydroxide ions. When charging, the process is simply reversed. Oxygen is expelled from the catholyte, increasing hydrogen ions, which donate electrons back to the anolyte through the external circuit.

“What this does is create a charge balance by taking oxygen in and out of the system,” Chiang says.

Because the battery uses ultra-low-cost materials, its chemical cost is one of the lowest — if not the lowest — of any rechargeable battery to enable cost-effective long-duration discharge. Its energy density is slightly lower than today’s lithium-ion batteries.

“It’s a creative and interesting new concept that could potentially be an ultra-low-cost solution for grid storage,” says Venkat Viswanathan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who studies energy-storage systems.

Lithium-sulfur and lithium-air batteries — where sulfur or oxygen are used in the cathode — exist today. But the key innovation of the MIT research, Viswanathan says, is combining the two concepts to create a lower-cost battery with comparable efficiency and energy density. The design could inspire new work in the field, he adds: “It’s something that immediately captures your imagination.”

Making renewables more reliable

The prototype is currently about the size of a coffee cup. But flow batteries are highly scalable, Chiang says, and cells can be combined into larger systems.

As the battery can discharge over months, the best use may be for storing electricity from notoriously unpredictable wind and solar power sources. “The intermittency for solar is daily, but for wind it’s longer-scale intermittency and not so predictable.

When it’s not so predictable you need more reserve — the capability to discharge a battery over a longer period of time — because you don’t know when the wind is going to come back next,” Chiang says. Seasonal storage is important too, he adds, especially with increasing distance north of the equator, where the amount of sunlight varies more widely from summer to winter.

Chiang says this could be the first technology to compete, in cost and energy density, with pumped hydroelectric storage systems, which provide most of the energy storage for renewables around the world but are very restricted by location.

“The energy density of a flow battery like this is more than 500 times higher than pumped hydroelectric storage. It’s also so much more compact, so that you can imagine putting it anywhere you have renewable generation,” Chiang says.

The research was supported by the Department of Energy.


Fisker Claims New Graphene Based Battery Breakthrough – 500 Mile Range and ONE Minute Charging!

When Henrik Fisker relaunched its electric car startup last year, he announced that their first car will be powered by a new graphene-based hybrid supercapacitor technology, but he later announced that they put those plans on the backburner and instead will use more traditional li-ion batteries.

Now the company is announcing a “breakthrough” in solid-state batteries to power their next-generation electric cars and they are filing for patents to protect their IP.

Get ready for some crazy claims here.

Solid-state batteries are thought to be a lot safer than common li-ion cells and could have more potential for higher energy density, but they also have limitations, like temperature ranges, electrode current density, and we have yet to see a company capable of producing it in large-scale and at an attractive price point competitive with li-ion.

Now Fisker announced that they are patenting a new solid-state electrode structure that would enable a viable battery with some unbelievable specs.

Here’s what they claim (via GreenCarCongress):

“Fisker’s solid-state batteries will feature three-dimensional electrodes with 2.5 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. Fisker claims that this technology will enable ranges of more than 500 miles on a single charge and charging times as low as one minute—faster than filling up a gas tank.”

Here’s a representation of the three-dimensional electrodes:

Fisker has been all over the place with its new Emotion electric car and we have highlighted that in our look at Fisker’s unbelievable claims.

But its latest solid-state project is led by Dr. Fabio Albano, VP of battery systems at Fisker and the co-founder of Sakti3, which adds credibility to the effort.

Albano commented on the announcement:

“This breakthrough marks the beginning of a new era in solid-state materials and manufacturing technologies. We are addressing all of the hurdles that solid-state batteries have encountered on the path to commercialization, such as performance in cold temperatures; the use of low cost and scalable manufacturing methods; and the ability to form bulk solid-state electrodes with significant thickness and high active material loadings. We are excited to build on this foundation and move the needle in energy storage.”

Electrek’s Take

Like any battery breakthrough announcement, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Most of those announcements never result in any kind of commercialization.

For this particular technology, Fisker says that it will be automotive production grade ready around 2023.

A lot of things can happen over the next 5 years.

In the meantime, Fisker plans to launch its Emotion electric car at CES 2018 in just 2 months. Fisker already unveiled a prototype of the new electric car and started taking pre-orders this summer.

NREL Charges Forward to Reduce Time at EV Stations

Shortening recharge times may diminish range anxiety, increase EV market viability, however Speeding up battery charging will be crucial to improving the convenience of owning and driving an electric vehicle (EV). 

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is collaborating with Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and industry stakeholders to identify the technical, infrastructure, and economic requirements for establishing a national extreme fast charging (XFC) network.

Today’s high power EV charging stations take 20 minutes or more to provide a fraction of the driving range car owners get from 10 minutes at the gasoline pump. 

Porsche is leading the industry with the deployment of two XFC 350kW EV charging stations in Europe that will begin to approach the refueling time of gasoline vehicles. Photo courtesy of Porsche.

Drivers can pump enough gasoline in 10 minutes to carry them a few hundred miles. Most of today’s fast charging stations take 20 minutes to provide 50-70 miles of electric driving range. 

A series of articles in the current edition of the Journal of Power Sources summarizes the NREL team’s findings on how battery, vehicle, infrastructure, and economic factors impact XFC feasibility.

“You can charge an EV today at one of 44,000 stations across the country, but if you can’t leave your car plugged in for a few hours, you may only get enough juice to travel across town a few times,” says NREL Senior Engineer and XFC Project Lead Matthew Keyser

“We’re working to match the time, cost, and distance that generations of drivers have come to expect—with the additional benefits of clean, energy-saving technology.”

While XFC can help overcome real (and perceived) EV driving range limitations, the technology also introduces a series of new challenges. More rapid and powerful charging generates higher temperatures, which can lead to battery degradation and safety issues. 

Power electronics found in commercially available EVs are built for slower overnight charging and may not be able to withstand the stresses of higher voltage battery systems which are expected for higher power charging systems. XFC’s extreme, intermittent demands for electricity could also pose challenges to grid stability.

The XFC research team is exploring solutions for these issues, examining factors related to vehicle technology, gaps in existing technology, new demands on system design, and additional thermal management requirements. Researchers are also looking beyond vehicle systems to consider equipment and station design and potential impact on the grid.

NREL’s intercity travel analysis revealed that recharge times comparable to the time it takes to pump gas will require charge rates of at least 400 kW. 

Current DC Fast Charging rates are limited to 50-120 kW, and most public charging stations are limited to 7kW. 

XFC researchers have concluded that this will necessitate increases in battery charging density and new designs to minimize potential related increases in component size, weight, and cost. 

It appears that a more innovative battery thermal management system will be needed if XFC is to become a reality, and new strategies and materials will be needed to improve battery cell and pack cooling, as well as the thermal efficiency of cathodes and anodes.

“Yes, this substantial increase in charging rate will create new technical issues, but they are far from insurmountable—now that we’ve identified them,” says NREL Engineer Andrew Meintz.

Development of a network of XFC stations will depend on cost, market demand, and management of intermittent power demands. 
The team’s research revealed a need for more extensive analysis of potential station siting, travel patterns, grid resources, and business cases. 

At the same time, it is clear that any XFC network will call for new infrastructure technology and operational practices, along with cooperation and standardization across utilities, station operators, and manufacturers of charging systems and EVs.

These studies provide an initial framework for effectively establishing XFC technology. The initiative has attracted keen interest from industry members, who realize that faster charging will ultimately lead to wider market adoption of EV technologies.

This research is supported by the DOE Vehicle Technologies Office. Learn more about NREL’s energy storage and EV grid integration research.

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

Grid Batteries Are Poised to Become Cheaper Than Natural-Gas Plants in Minnesota

A 60-acre solar farm in Camp Ripley, a National Guard base in Minnesota.

A new report suggests the economics of large-scale batteries are reaching an important inflection point.

When it comes to renewable energy, Minnesota isn’t typically a headline-grabber: in 2016 it got about 18 percent of its energy from wind, good enough to rank in the top 10 states. 
But it’s just 28th in terms of installed solar capacity, and its relatively small size means projects within its borders rarely garner the attention that giants like California and Texas routinely get.

A new report on the future of energy in the state should turn some heads (PDF). According to the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, starting in 2019 and for the foreseeable future, the overall cost of building grid-scale storage there will be less than that of building natural-gas plants to meet future energy demand.

Minnesota currently gets about 21 percent of its energy from renewables. That’s not bad, but current plans also call for bringing an additional 1,800 megawatts of gas-fired “peaker” plants online by 2028 to meet growing demand. As the moniker suggests, these plants are meant to spin up quickly to meet daily peaks in energy demand—something renewables tend to be bad at because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.

Storing energy from renewables could solve that problem, but it’s traditionally been thought of as too expensive compared with other forms of energy.

The new report suggests otherwise. According to the analysis, bringing lithium-ion batteries online for grid storage would be a good way to stockpile energy for when it’s needed, and it would prove less costly than building and operating new natural-gas plants.

The finding comes at an interesting time. For one thing, the price of lithium-ion batteries continues to plummet, something that certainly has the auto industry’s attention. And grid-scale batteries, while still relatively rare, are popping up more and more these days. The Minnesota report, then, suggests that such projects may become increasingly common—and could be a powerful way to lower emissions without sending our power bills skyrocketing in the process.
(Read more: Minnesota Public Radio, “Texas and California Have Too Much Renewable Energy,” 

“The One and Only Texas Wind Boom,” “By 2040, More Than Half of All New Cars Could Be Electric”)

A Holey Graphene Electrode framework that enables highly efficient charge delivery – Making Better Batteries for the Future

Holey Graphene II grapheneThis visualisation shows layers of graphene used for membranes. Credit: University of Manchester

A team of researchers affiliated with institutions in the U.S., China and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has developed a new type of porous graphene electrode framework that is capable of highly efficient charge delivery. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes how they overcame traditional conflicts arising between trade-offs involving density and speed to produce an electrode capable of facilitating rapid ion transport. Hui-Ming Cheng and Feng Li with the Chinese Academy of Sciences offer a Perspective piece on the work done by the team in the same journal issue, and include some opinions of their own regarding where such work is likely heading.

In a perfect world, batteries would have unlimited energy storage delivered at speeds high enough to power devices with unlimited needs. The phaser from Star Trek, for example, would require far more power and speed than is possible in today’s devices.

While it is unlikely that such technology will ever come about, it does appear possible that batteries of the future will perform much better than today, likely due to nano-structured materials—they have already shown promise when used as material due to their unique properties. Unfortunately, their use has been limited thus far due to the ultra-thin nature of the resulting electrodes and their extremely low mass loadings compared to those currently in use. In this new effort, the researchers report on a new way to create an electrode using that overcomes such limitations.

The electrode they built is porous, which in this case means that it has holes in it. Those holes, as Cheng and Li note, allow better charge transport while also offering improved capacity retention density. The graphene framework they built, they note, offers a superior means of electron transport and its porous nature allows for a high ion diffusion rate—the holes force the ions to take shortcuts, reducing diffusion.

Cheng and Li suggest the new work is likely to inspire similar designs in the search for better electrode materials, which they further suggest appears likely to lead to new electrodes that are not only practical, but have high mass loadings.

Explore further: New graphene framework bridges gap between traditional capacitors, batteries

More information: Hongtao Sun et al. Three-dimensional holey-graphene/niobia composite architectures for ultrahigh-rate energy storage, Science (2017). DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5852

Nanostructured materials have shown extraordinary promise for electrochemical energy storage but are usually limited to electrodes with rather low mass loading (~1 milligram per square centimeter) because of the increasing ion diffusion limitations in thicker electrodes.

We report the design of a three-dimensional (3D) holey-graphene/niobia (Nb2O5) composite for ultrahigh-rate energy storage at practical levels of mass loading (>10 milligrams per square centimeter). The highly interconnected graphene network in the 3D architecture provides excellent electron transport properties, and its hierarchical porous structure facilitates rapid ion transport.

By systematically tailoring the porosity in the holey graphene backbone, charge transport in the composite architecture is optimized to deliver high areal capacity and high-rate capability at high mass loading, which represents a critical step forward toward practical applications.


New battery coating could improve performance of smart phones and electric vehicles by 10X – But could still have Fire Safety Issues

High performing lithium-ion batteries are a key component of laptops, smart phones, and electric vehicles. Currently, the anodes, or negative charged side of lithium ion batteries, are generally made with graphite or other carbon-based materials.

But, the performance of carbon based materials is limited because of the weight and energy density, which is the amount of energy that can be stored in a given space. As a result, a lot of research is focused on lithium-metal anodes.

The success of lithium metal anodes will enable many battery technologies, including lithium metal and lithium air, which can potentially increase the capacity of today’s best lithium-ion batteries five to 10 times. That would mean five to 10 times more range for electric vehicles and smartphone batteries lasting five to 10 times more time. Lithium metal anodes are also lighter and less expensive.

The problem with lithium ion batteries made with metal is that during charge cycles they uncontrollably grow dendrites, which are microscopic fibers that look like tree sprouts. The dendrites degrade the performance of the battery and also present a safety issue because they can short circuit the battery and in some cases catch fire.

A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside has made a significant advancement in solving the more than 40-year-old dendrite problem. Their findings were just published in the journal Chemistry of Materials (“In Situ Formation of Stable Interfacial Coating for High Performance Lithium Metal Anodes”).

Methyl Viologen Process

These are illustrations of the design principles of using methyl viologen to form a stable coating to allow the stable cycling of lithium metal. (Image: UC Riverside) (click on image to enlarge)

The team discovered that by coating the battery with an organic compound called methyl viologen they are able to stabilize battery performance, eliminate dendrite growth and increase the lifetime of the battery by more than three times compared to the current standard electrolyte used with lithium metal anodes.

“This has the potential to change the future,” said Chao Wang, an adjunct assistant professor of chemistry at UC Riverside who is the lead author of the paper. “It is low cost, easily manipulated and compatible with the current lithium ion battery industry.”

The researchers designed a new strategy to form a stable coating to enhance the lifetime of lithium-metal anodes. They used methyl viologen, which has been used in other applications because of its ability to change color when reduced.

The methyl viologen molecule used by the researchers can be dissolved in the electrolytes in the charged states. Once the molecules meet the lithium metal, they are immediately reduced to form a stable coating on top of the metal electrode.

By adding only .5 percent of viologen into the electrolyte, the cycling lifetime can already be enhanced by three times. In addition, methyl viologen is very low in cost and can easily be scaled up.

The stable operation of lithium metal anodes, which the researchers have achieved with the addition of methyl viologen, could enable the development of next generation high-capacity batteries, including lithium metal batteries and lithium air batteries.

Wang cautioned that while the coating improves battery performance, it isn’t a way to prevent batteries from catching fire.

Source: University of California – Riverside

MIT: The Internet of Things ~ A RoadMap to a Connected World And  … The Super-Capacitors and Batteries Needed to Power ‘The Internet of Things”

The Internet of Things: Roadmap to a Connected World ~ The Sensors ~ The Super Capacitors and Batteries Needed to Power the IoT

Provided by: MIT PE: Dr. S. Sarma

The rapidly increasing number of interconnected devices and systems today brings both benefits and concerns. In this column and a new MIT Professional Education class, the head of MIT’s open and digital learning efforts discusses how to successfully navigate the IoT.

What if every vehicle, home appliance, heating system and light switch were connected to the Internet? Today, that’s not such a stretch of the imagination.

Modern cars, for instance, already have hundreds of sensors and multiple computers connected over an internal network. And that’s just one example of the 6.4 billion connected “things” in use worldwide this year, according to research by Gartner Inc. DHL and Cisco Systems offer even higher estimates—their 2015 Trend Report sets the current number of connected devices at about 15 billion, amidst industry expectations that the tally will increase to 50 billion by 2020.

The Internet of Things (IoT)—a sophisticated network of objects embedded with electronic systems that enable them to collect and exchange data—is disrupting technology and changing the way we live. 

Fewer than two decades ago, if I’d predicted that the IoT would transform the auto-rental industry, people would have laughed. Yet here we are now in the age of Zipcar. By pioneering a range of connected technologies, the car-sharing company has unlocked greater convenience for customers and kick-started the sharing economy. Now the functionality of IoT-enabled cars is transforming the auto industry—from the ultra-connected Tesla to Google’s self-driving cars—and Uber hopes one day to chauffeur you to your destination in an autonomous vehicle.

The IoT is ultimately bound to affect almost every aspect of daily life. In fact, I encourage you to try to figure out where the IoT will not be. But how “smart” is it to let the IoT pervade everything in our lives, without active and purposeful design?

Read About: How Smart-Nano Materials will Change the World Around Us

Watch a Video Presentation About a New Energy Company Making the Super-Capacitors and Batteries that will Power the IoT


The IoT: Then and Now

About 18 years ago, as a mechanical engineering professor at MIT, I worked with my colleagues to launch the research effort that laid some of the groundwork for the IoT.

In those early days, our goals were to help implement the radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems that would become integral to connected devices, and to work on developing a standard for data from those devices. At that time, we were excited by the potential for a world of networked things.

Since then, the IoT has expanded into many corners of society and industry, but I’ve become increasingly concerned about its security implications.

How ‘smart’ is it to let the Internet of Things pervade everything in our lives, without active and purposeful design?

I will address such concerns in my new MIT Professional Education online course, Internet of Things: Roadmap to a Connected World.

While we’ll focus on the future of IoT and its business potential, we’ll also tackle its significant challenges, which range from security, privacy, and authenticity issues to the desirable features of a distributed architecture for a network of things.

The IoT’s underlying challenge is that there are no clear and agreed-upon architectures for building connected systems. Your light switch may have one level of data-security encryption, while your TV remote control has another.
Wireless protocols may differ, too: One device might use ZigBee while others rely on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Bridges to connect across all these options will proliferate. And even if independent systems are secure, we will have to cobble them together—and the resulting chain will only be as strong as the weakest link.

Controlling the Chaos

By creating new procedures, standards, and best practices, we can bring order to the disorder the IoT generates. As the IoT grows, we should focus on three primary issues:

1. Agreement on system architecture. Today, the IoT is an abstract collection of uses and products. It’s imperative that we establish paradigms for effective implementation and use.

2. Development of open standards reflecting the best architectural choices. Standards for communication between connected things do exist. But there are simply too many standards, each serving a different purpose. The result: a series of silos. For instance, think about how the blood oxygen sensor on a patient’s finger can be affected by what’s happening with the blood pressure monitor on his or her arm. Neither device is necessarily designed to share data.

Open standards, rather than a series of private ones, are necessary to facilitate genuine inter-connectedness. But the deeper question is how and why we need to make these connections, as well as how to extract value from them. This is where cloud computing comes in. Perhaps instead of having the sensors talk to each other directly, they need to talk in the cloud. (I’ll discuss this more in our online course.)

3. Creation of a “test bed” where best practices can be designed and perfected. While the first two needs are best handled by industry, the test bed platform is best created by the government. Remember that the current Internet would not have existed without the early leadership of the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency (now called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.) Today, the government could create a similar agency to incubate academic institutions, labs, and companies testing and working on best practices for the IoT.

A ‘Smarter’ Future  
No question about it: The IoT will influence everything from robots and retail to buildings and banking. To leverage the power of the IoT responsibly and profitably, you need to develop and implement your own IoT technologies, solutions, and applications.

Dr. Sanjay Sarma: MIT Professional Education Course: Internet of Things: Roadmap to a Connected World. This six-week course is designed to help you better understand the IoT—and, ultimately, harness its power. 

Nanotechnology to “Super-Size” Green Energy


Nanotechnology is a field that’s receiving a lot of attention at the moment as scientists learn more every day about the benefits it can bring to both the environment and our health. There are various ways in which nanotechnology has proved itself useful including in developing enhanced solar cells and more efficient rechargeable batteries, and in saving raw materials and energy.


When it comes to nanotechnology, even the smallest achievements make huge differences, and on November 23, 2016, future technologies were presented to the international congress as part of the “Next Generation Solar Energy Meets Nanotechnology.” Out of the ten projects, three of them were located in Wurzburg and are explained in a little more detail below:

  • Eco-friendly inks for organic solar cells: Over at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Professors Vladimir Dyakonov and Christoph Brabec have created eco-friendly photovoltaic inks using nanomaterials and have developed a new simulation process at the same time. Dyakonov explains, “They allow us to predict which combinations of solvents and materials are suitable for the eco-friendly production of organic solar cells.”
  • Nanodiamonds for ultra-fast electrical storage: If we want to have powerful, yet highly efficient electric vehicles then we need some way of storing the energy as a standard battery couldn’t handle it. Supercapacitors are great regarding acting as an efficient energy storage system. But, because their energy density is so low they need to be quite large in order to deliver any reasonable amount of energy. However, further work is being done in this area currently, and progress is promising.  Professor Anke Kruger, head of the project, says “Based on these findings, it is now possible to build application-oriented energy stores and test their applicability.”


  • Increased storage capacity of hybrid capacitors: Better energy storage systems were also the focus of Professor Gerhard Sextl and his team’s project. Their hybrid capacitors can store more energy due to the embedded lithium ions and can do it quickly through the use of a supercapacitor. Sextl says, “We have managed to develop a material that combines the advantages of both systems. This has brought us one step closer to implementing a new, fast and reliable storage concept.”

Read More:

Read the rest of the story (click here) NEW SUPER-BATTERIES ARE FINALLY HERE

Czech Battery NanotechnologyCompany HE3DA President Jan Prochazka shows qualities of a new battery during the official start of a battery production line in Prague, on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. The new battery is based on nanotechnology and is supposed to be be more efficient, long-lasting, cheaper, lighter and above all safer. The battery is designed to store energy from renewable electric sources and cooperate with smart grids. Next planned type will be suitable for electric cars. (Michal Kamaryt /CTK via AP)

It’s been a long time coming, but the wait is now over for a battery that lasts longer than your milk. Having to replace batteries in games, remotes, and other electrical devices are annoying, especially when you seem to be doing it every month. But, that may all be a thing of the past thanks to the Prague-based company, HE3DA. New superbatteries have finally been created that are capable of charging faster and lasting longer than any other technology out there and are being mass produced as you read this.


Michigan Tech: A Bright future for energy devices

sodium-161220175546_1_540x360A scanning electron microscope image of sodium-embedded carbon reveals the nanowall structure and pores of the material. Credit: Yun Hang Hu, Michigan Tech

A little sodium goes a long way. At least that’s the case in carbon-based energy technology. Specifically, embedding sodium in carbon materials can tremendously improve electrodes.

A research team led by Yun Hang Hu, the Charles and Carroll McArthur Professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Tech, created a brand-new way to synthesize sodium-embedded carbon nanowalls. Previously, the material was only theoretical and the journal Nano Letters recently published this invention.

High electrical conductivity and large accessible surface area, which are required for ideal electrode materials in energy devices, are opposed to each other in current materials. Amorphous carbon has low conductivity but large surface area. Graphite, on the other hand, has high conductivity but low surface area. Three-dimensional graphene has the best of both properties — and the sodium-embedded carbon invented by Hu at Michigan Tech is even better.

“Sodium-embedded carbon’s conductivity is two orders of magnitude larger than three-dimensional graphene,” Hu says. “The nanowall structure, with all its channels and pores, also has a large accessible surface area comparable to graphene.”

This is different from metal-doped carbon where metals are simply on the surface of carbon and are easily oxidized; embedding a metal in the actual carbon structure helps protect it. To make such a dream material, Hu and his team had to create a new process. They used a temperature-controlled reaction between sodium metal and carbon monoxide to create a black carbon powder that trapped sodium atoms. Furthermore, in collaboration with researchers at University of Michigan and University of Texas at Austin, they demonstrated that the sodium was embedded inside the carbon instead of adhered on the surface of the carbon. The team then tested the material in several energy devices.

In the dye-sensitized solar cell world, every tenth of a percent counts in making devices more efficient and commercially viable. In the study, the platinum-based solar cell reached a power conversion efficiency of 7.89 percent, which is considered standard. In comparison, the solar cell using Hu’s sodium-embedded carbon reached efficiencies of 11.03 percent.

Super-Capacitors can accept and deliver charges much faster than rechargeable batteries and are ideal for cars, trains, elevators and other heavy-duty equipment. The power of their electrical punch is measured in farads (F); the material’s density, in grams (g), also matters.

Activated carbon is commonly used for supercapacitors; it packs a 71 F g-1 punch. Three-dimensional graphene has more power with a 112 F g-1 measurement. Sodium-embedded carbon knocks them both out of the ring with a 145 F g-1 measurement. Plus, after 5,000 charge/discharge cycles, the material retains a 96.4 percent capacity, which indicates electrode stability.

Hu says innovation in energy devices is in great demand. He sees a bright future for sodium-embedded carbon and the improvements it offers in solar tech, batteries, fuel cells, and supercapacitors.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Michigan Technological University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Wei Wei, Liang Chang, Kai Sun, Alexander J. Pak, Eunsu Paek, Gyeong S. Hwang, Yun Hang Hu. The Bright Future for Electrode Materials of Energy Devices: Highly Conductive Porous Na-Embedded Carbon. Nano Letters, 2016; 16 (12): 8029 DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.6b04742