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Batteries In Depth

Page history last edited by Rog Rydberg 15 years, 2 months ago

Super Batteries 2009 


Xcel Energy Launches Groundbreaking Wind-to-Battery Project





Minneapolis, MN - Xcel Energy soon will begin testing a cutting-edge technology to store wind energy in batteries. It will be the first use of the technology in the United States for direct wind energy storage.



Integrating variable wind and solar power production with the needs of the power grid is an ongoing issue for the utility industry. Xcel Energy will begin testing a one-megawatt battery-storage technology to demonstrate its ability to store wind energy and move it to the electricity grid when needed. Fully charged, the battery could power 500 homes for over 7 hours.



“Energy storage is key to expanding the use of renewable energy,” said Dick Kelly, Xcel Energy Chairman, President and CEO. “This technology has the potential to reduce the impact caused by the variability and limited predictability of wind energy generation. As the nation’s leader in distributing wind energy, this will be very important to both us and our customers.”



Xcel Energy has signed a contract to purchase a battery from NGK Insulators Ltd. that will be an integral part of a project. The sodium-sulfur battery is commercially available and versions of this technology are already being used in Japan and in a few US applications, but this is the first U.S. application of the battery as a direct wind energy storage device.



The 20 50-kilowatt battery modules will be roughly the size of two semi trailers and weigh approximately 80 tons. They will be able to store about 7.2 megawatt-hours of electricity, with a charge/discharge capacity of one megawatt. When the wind blows, the batteries are charged. When the wind calms down, the batteries supplement the power flow.



The project will take place in Luverne, Minn., about 30 miles east of Sioux Falls, S.D., with the battery installation beginning this spring adjacent and connected to a nearby 11-megawatt wind farm owned by Minwind Energy, LLC. S&C Electric Company will install the battery and all associated interconnection components. The battery is expected to go on-line in October 2008.



Partners in the project with Xcel Energy include the University of Minnesota, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Great Plains Institute and Minwind Energy, LLC. Xcel Energy is testing emerging technology and energy storage devices as part of its overall Smart Grid strategy, which modernizes and upgrades the grid to allow for easier integration of renewable energy sources.



The project has been selected to receive a $1M grant from Minnesota’s Renewable Development Fund, pending Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approval this spring.

SOURCE: Xcel Energy




SCiB Recharges in 5 Minutes, Has a Lifespan of 10 Years

Posted By Dumitru Alexandru on December 12, 2007


Toshiba SCiBGreat news for those that are planning to buy environmental-friendly electric cars. Toshiba is going to release a revolutionary battery, called SCiB ( Super Charge ion Battery ), that as stated in the press release, charges 90 percent in just 5 minutes and can be recharged more than 5,000 times, which means a lifespan of over 10 years. We’ve heard rumors that this battery is going to be used also for cell phones, laptops and other gadgets, but nothing’s sure yet.

Toshiharu Watanabe stated that “The excellent performance of the SCiB will assure its successful application in industrial systems and in the electronic vehicles markets as a new energy solution.”


The new SCiB battery might help electric cars sales, because it has a lot of advantages over the usual batteries the current electric cars use and can be recharged extremely fast, in comparison with the current ones. Toshiba announced that the SCiB will be release in March 2008 and they expect to gain 10 percent maket shares.





GM Will Make 100,000 Volts


VLNC 1.08 -0.01 * ULBI 10.08 -0.40 ALTI 3.32 +0.05 MKTY 1.27 +0.03 XDSL.OB 0.147 -0.005




The batteries of the future will be recharged in 6 minutes

- They will last 10 times longer



Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) structure

The most powerful presently available are based on a Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) structure, lasting the longest, and having a maximum of ergonomics (the best Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. energy/weight ratio), much superior to the Nickel-Cadmium

(Ni-Cd) batteries.


Unfortunately, the Li-Ion cells bear their disadvantages, such as permanence and the inability to rapidly discharge a large amount of energy, necessary, for instance, for the flashes.


Given all that, a superior type of is more and more needed. Altair might have come up with the solution, through its new Li-Ion cell type, with a considerably extended anode area.


Thus, the electron flow speed is much increased, and recharging the battery will be a matter of minutes. Also, discharging of large energy amounts will no longer be a problem.


The working mechanism consists in the ejection of the Lithium ions from the Lithium-Cobalt cathode, through an electrolyte solution, to the Carbon anode. The adjustment that Altair came up with implies the enlargement of the anode area, composed of Lithium-Titan nano-crystals. By changing the anode composition, the surface is increased from 3 square meters per gram, as for the Carbon, to 100 square meters per gram. Thanks to this adjustment, the batteries will be able to generate increased energy amounts, and the devices served by them could perform new, harder tasks.


For instance, camera-phones could be equipped with powerful flashes, similar to those used now only by the classical Error! Hyperlink reference not valid..


The new battery will also have other advantages, such as an increased number of recharging cycles. While presently, a Li-Ion battery stands up to 400 complete recharging cycles, the new generation of improved batteries will be able to last through as much as 20,000 cycles.



The Future of the Automobile and Alternative Energy

posted in General Motors (GM), Toyota Motor (TM) |


In a previous article, Market Matador covered the recent slide in Toyota Motors (TM). Now, well off its highs of $138.00 per share, Toyota may be in store for some prime competition. Competition from the most unlikely place of all, General Motors (GM). If the concept and development team roll this potential car off the line, Toyota and all of GM’s competition may be forced to go on oxygen.


The car in question is cleverly named the Chevy Volt. The Volt uses an innovative electric drive system, which enables consumers to drive up to 40 miles on one rechargeable electric charge. In past attempts to create electric cars, the oil industry has helped to disable the mainstream production and charging the vehicle was only available at designated stations. The Chevy concept may appease both the oil industry and the regular driver.


The Volt plugs into a standard 3-prong outlet, more commonly known as a 110-volt household outlet. Then, on a single electric charge, commuters can drive solely on clean, electric power.


“Wide-scale use of electric-powered vehicles such as Concept Chevy Volt would help reduce our dependence on petroleum products.

Estimated annual gasoline savings: 500 gallons


Estimated cost savings: $900 after using electricity to recharge” (SOURCE)


Emphasis should be placed on reduce. Car owners everywhere would flock to a car like the Chevy Volt, but finally, there’s a vehicle that can still appeal to the oil and gas industry. Let’s say that a car owner drives over 40 miles in a day, and can’t recharge in between, an electric car might not be the right choice. Although, the Chevy Volt still may be. Because the Volt runs the exact opposite of hybrids like the Toyota Prius. The Prius runs on gasoline, which is then combined with the electric engine, to slightly boost MPG (around 50 miles per gallon). The Chevy Volt runs on a highly efficient electric engine, and is combined with either E85 (85% ethanol) or regular gasoline to tremendously boost MPG (around 150 miles per gallon).


If you are going on semi-long trips (generally 60+ area), or need to fill up the gasoline tank on a regular basis, the car can still save drivers thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the car. On 60 mile trips, the car is expected to get:

“Estimated annual gasoline savings: 570 gallons


Estimated cost savings: $1368 after using electricity to recharge” (SOURCE)


For performance hounds, the Volt uses the 120-kW electric motor to establish a 160-hp equivalent, and reachs 0-60 MPH in 8 to 8.5 second. The electric battery’s life is about 10 years, and the car has a 12 gallon tank for E85 or traditional gasoline (otherwise known as GM’s Flex-Fuel Technology).


Unfortunately for investors and consumers, the Chevy Volt is still a concept car, and not anywhere close to production status. Until then, General Motors will continue to just simply be a debt-reduction recovery story. The stock should continue to be a highly volatile stock and not necessarily a safe play on the industry. Toyota Motors will continue to be the leader and until the release of a breakthrough car like the Volt, Chevy and the General Motors Company should continue to be second rate. More serious talks about the future development of the car will immediately spark prices in GM stock.



Mud Batteries: Power Cells of the Future?


Bijal P. Trivedi

National Geographic Today

Updated May 20, 2004


Scientists have harnessed a group of naturally occurring bacteria to generate electricity from organic material in mud.


But don't expect to load a "mud battery" into your car anytime soon. In preliminary experiments, the researchers produced only enough electricity to power a small light or calculator.


Petroleum, a major source of energy, comes from organic matter. Other kinds of organic material are also a large potential source of energy, but not all are as easy to utilize as petroleum.


Now, the researchers have found that bacteria in a family of microorganisms called Geobacteraceae can serve as a source of energy as they break down organic material—anything from decaying plant and animal matter to toxic organic pollutants such as benzene.


The bacteria break down organic matter to obtain energy, and in the process they produce a stream of electrons that, if captured, can produce electricity. Normally the bacteria just transfer the electrons to minerals rich in iron. To tap into the electron supply, University of Massachusetts–Amherst microbiologist Derek Lovley and his colleagues offered the bacteria another place in which to dump their electrons: a graphite disk.


The scientists filled fish tanks with mud taken from Boston Harbor, which has heavy concentrations of polluted sediment, and buried part of a makeshift battery in the sludge.

The battery was made up of a graphite anode (the negative terminal), which was buried in the mud, and a cathode (positive terminal) in the seawater, both connected by a copper wire.


The bacteria in the mud stripped electrons from surrounding organic compounds and transferred the electrons to the anode. The electrons flowed through the copper wire to the cathode, just as they would in a battery, producing an electrical current.


Lovley found that over time, the bacteria congregated on the graphite disk, producing a steady—if weak—supply of electricity.


A report on the research was published in the January 18, 2002 issue of the journal Science.


The bacteria were already known to be capable of another important function. They can degrade toxic organic pollutants such as benzene—a carcinogenic component of petroleum contamination—and convert them into carbon dioxide.


Although this ability to degrade toxic aromatic hydrocarbons was previously recognized, Lovley said the new study will advance knowledge of how to benefit from the process.


Moreover, he added, the genome sequences of several bacteria in the Geobacteraceae family are now known, which may help scientists engineer more efficient bacteria that degrade pollutants more quickly.


Bioremediation, or the use of organisms to clean up pollutants, is gaining popularity as a cheaper and environmentally more benign method of removing toxic pollutants.


Power Play


Certain bacteria are capable of generating an electrical current as they convert organic material into energy.


Future laptop batteries to get boost from nanotechnology


By Jeremy Reimer | Published: March 08, 2006 - 01:21PM CT

Battery life is becoming an increasingly important issue for mobile computing users. With screens getting larger and brighter and laptop CPUs getting more powerful, the strains on batteries have continued to increase, and the technology just isn't keeping pace. Five years ago, my iBook routinely got five hours from a single charge, yet new laptops struggle to achieve the same results. Some alternatives, such as fuel cells, look promising, but size and weight issues continue to limit their potential.


However, help may be at hand. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been working on (PDF file) an interesting new way of extending battery life. Their technique uses a device called an "ultracapacitor," which, unlike the time-traveling flux capacitor, actually exists as a product:

"A number of electronic devices already use commercial ultracapacitors for specialized functions," said Joel Schindall, a professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


"For example, a clock radio may use an ultracapacitor as a keep-alive source in case of power failure, and even the old Palm III used an ultracapacitor to retain its memory while the AA batteries were changed."


A capacitor is, at its most basic level, a device for storing electrical charge. Two large, flat, metal plates are positioned a tiny distance apart from each other with a non-conducting material sandwiched in the middle. An electrical charge is applied to each end. The electrons accumulate on one plate, building up a large negative charge, while an equivalent positive charge appears on the other plate. The capacitor can later discharge this energy if needed. The amount of charge that can be stored varies with the surface area of the plates, which is why large capacitors roll up the plates into large tubes to pack more area in a smaller volume. Ultracapacitors are industrial-


strength versions of capacitors, but physical constraints on electrode surface area and spacing have limited ultracapacitors to an energy storage capacity around 25 times less than a similarly sized Lithium-Ion battery.


The innovation at MIT is to use nanotechnology to increase the surface area of the plates much further. They attach millions of nanotubes, which are tiny synthesized "straws" comprised of a lattice of carbon atoms, to the capacitor plates. This increases the capacitance by a large amount, which offers huge potential increases in battery life:

"This configuration has the potential to maintain and even improve the high performance characteristics of ultracapacitors while providing energy storage densities comparable to batteries," Schindall said. "Nanotube-enhanced ultracapacitors would combine the long life and high power characteristics of a commercial ultracapacitor with the higher energy storage density normally available only from a chemical battery."


The nano-enhanced ultracapacitors are still three to five years from being ready for release in commercial products. Until these products get closer to release, there is no firm data about what kind of battery life increases can be expected, but Schindall hopes to achieve a power density of up to 100 kW/kg, which is three orders of magnitude greater than conventional Lithium-Ion batteries. The ultracapacitors also aim to achieve an energy density of 60 Wh/kg.




Super Battery


. 06.08.06



Ever wish you could charge your cellphone or laptop in a few seconds rather than hours? As this ScienCentral News video explains, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a battery that could do just that, and also might never need to be replaced.


The Past is Future


As our portable devices get more high-tech, the batteries that power them can seem to lag behind. But Joel Schindall and his team at M.I.T. plan to make long charge times and expensive replacements a thing of the past--by improving on technology from the past.


They turned to the capacitor, which was invented nearly 300 years ago. Schindall explains, "We made the connection that perhaps we could take an old product, a capacitor, and use a new technology, nanotechnology, to make that old product in a new way."


Rechargable and disposable batteries use a chemical reaction to produce energy. "That's an effective way to store a large amount of energy," he says, "but the problem is that after many charges and discharges ... the battery loses capacity to the point where the user has to discard it."


But capacitors contain energy as an electric field of charged particles created by two metal electrodes. Capacitors charge faster and last longer than normal batteries. The problem is that storage capacity is proportional to the surface area of the battery's electrodes, so even today's most powerful capacitors hold 25 times less energy than similarly sized standard chemical batteries.


The researchers solved this by covering the electrodes with millions of tiny filaments called nanotubes. Each nanotube is 30,000 times thinner than a human hair. Similar to how a thick, fuzzy bath towel soaks up more water than a thin, flat bed sheet, the nanotube filaments increase the surface area of the electrodes and allow the capacitor to store more energy. Schindall says this combines the strength of today's batteries with the longevity and speed of capacitors.

"It could be recharged many, many times perhaps hundreds of thousands of times, and ... it could be recharged very quickly, just in a matter of seconds rather than a matter of hours," he says.


This technology has broad practical possibilities, affecting any device that requires a battery. Schindall says, "Small devices such as hearing aids that could be more quickly recharged where the batteries wouldn't wear out; up to larger devices such as automobiles where you could regeneratively re-use the energy of motion and therefore improve the energy efficiency and fuel economy."


Schindall thinks hybrid cars would be a particularly popular application for these batteries, especially because current hybrid batteries are expensive to replace.


Nanotube filaments on the battery's electrodes



Schindall also sees the ecological benefit to these reinvented capacitors. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 3 billion industrial and household batteries were sold in the United States in 1998. When these batteries are disposed, toxic chemicals like cadmium can seep into the ground.


"It's better for the environment, because it allows the user to not worry about replacing his battery," he says. "It can be discharged and charged hundreds of thousands of times, essentially lasting longer than the life of the equipment with which it is associated."


Schindall and his team aren't the only ones looking back to capacitors as the future of batteries; a research group in England recently announced advances of their own. But Schindall's groups expects their prototype to be finished in the next few months, and they hope to see them on the market in less than five years.


Schindall's research was featured in the May 2006 edition of Discover Magazine and presented at the 15th International Seminar on Double Layer Capacitors and Hybrid Energy Storage Devices in Deerfield Beach, Florida on December 2005. His research is funded by the Ford-MIT Consortium.


Bacteria Battery


Those electronic gadgets on many shoppers' holiday lists seem to be getting more and more high tech, but they still run on old-fashioned batteries. As this ScienCentral News video reports, instead of ending up in the trash, the batteries on your future shopping list may run on trash.


A New Kind Of Battery


For some time scientists have been interested in figuring out ways to put waste materials and garbage to work by converting the trash into electricity. Now a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst has discovered a new bacteria that can do just that and run a new kind of battery.


“At its present status we can run simple electronic equipment such as a calculator or a very small light bulb,” says Derek Lovley, an environmental microbiologist who led the research.


It's a big battery just to power a simple calculator, but it's a vast improvement over previous models using living organisms.


The micro-organism, Rhodoferax ferrireducens, feeds on simple sugars like sucrose, fructose and glucose, which are found in such things as fruits, beets and sugar cane. It will also feed on xylose—a part of wood and straw—and as long as it has a food source the microbe is self-sustaining,


Lovley brought the micro-organism, found in sediment from a Virginia aquifer, back to his lab and designed a simple two-compartment fuel cell. “The way the battery functions—it’s basically a solution of sugar, just like the table sugar you would put on your cereal,” says Lovley. “It’s in water, we dip an electrode in that sugar solution… and add these micro-organisms. The micro-organisms attach onto the electrode surface and start to grow by using that sugar. And at the same time they are growing and metabolizing the sugar, they are transferring electrons onto the electrode surface, producing electricity."


Surprising Results


What this micro-organism could do surprised Lovley and his team. “I think the fact that micro-organisms could carry out this kind of process was pretty amazing and not expected”, says Lovley. “Because for micro-organisms to accomplish this electricity formation, they have to transfer the electrons outside their cell and that’s just not something most life forms are able to do.”


R. ferrireducens belongs to a group of recently discovered micro-organisms known as “iron-breathers” —so-named because they evolved the strategy of iron respiration. Found in sediment where oxygen is scarce, they use iron for metabolic energy just as humans use oxygen to burn food.


Could organisms found in the mud power the batteries of the future?


Many research groups have been pursuing a useable biofuel cell that is powered by microbes, but have been vexed by low returns and the need for additional toxic compounds to make the reaction work. Lovley’s bacteria does the work all by itself.

“Our process does not require the addition of any toxic chemicals in order to help the electrons get transferred from the micro-organism to the electrode,” says Lovely.


Next Steps


Lovley sees this as another possible and practical solution for generating energy from alternative fuel sources, but points out that there is still a lot of work to be done. “I think it’s important to realize that we’ve now just proved the concept. There’s certainly a lot of engineering to go into developing this for commercial application, but it’s a fairly neat thing to see that you can just use a micro-organism in this way for some practical benefit.”


Lovley hopes that his “bacterial battery” may one day have many uses, like powering sensors in remote places where it's difficult to change traditional batteries, or in household devices, where one could convert grass clippings into power for an electric lawn mower.


This research, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, was funded by DARPA, the Office of Naval Research, and the Department of Energy.


Viruses may be the new batteries

Tracy Staedter

Discovery News

Tuesday, 2 May 2006



Genetically modified viruses that line up and conduct electricity could be the basis of a new generation of batteries (Image: iStockphoto)

Genetically manipulated viruses could replace standard lithium-ion batteries, packing two to three times more energy than other batteries, researchers say.


The virus batteries could be thin, transparent, and lightweight, according to a US study published online recently in the journal Science by Professor Angela Belcher of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and team.


Because less material is devoted to packaging, more of the battery is used just for generating power.


"What we're trying to do is have all of the mass and volume be used for the purpose it is to be used for, which is to power the device," says Belcher.


The researchers say such a battery should last as long as conventional batteries. And it could power anything from microelectronics, including chemical and biological sensors, 'lab on chip' devices, and security tags to larger items such as mobile phones, computer displays and even electric cars.


Building batteries, like building anything, requires assembly. The smaller the battery, the more challenging that is.


Current manufacturing techniques involve arranging nanoparticles, nanotubes, or nanowires on surfaces using expensive, high-temperature methods.


Belcher and her team decided to capitalise on biology's inherent knack for organising microscopic structures and apply it to battery technology.


Viruses acting like wires?


To make the viruses work like conducting wires, the scientists genetically altered the organisms so that proteins on their surfaces would be attracted to metal particles, including cobalt and gold.


Four different solutions went into the battery component: a negatively charged polymer, a positively charged polymer, negatively charged viruses, and charged particles, or ions, of cobalt.


The scientists spread the negatively and positively charged polymer solutions onto a glass slide in alternating layers. Next, they dipped the slide into a solution containing millions of the altered viruses.


The wire-like viruses automatically spread themselves evenly across the slide, as they have a natural tendency to slightly repel each other.


When the slide was dipped into the ion solution, proteins on the surface of the viruses attracted the metal ions, causing the organisms to become, essentially, conducting wires.


And because viruses naturally replicate, scientists say that growing more to make many batteries shouldn't be hard.


"All you do is grow them in a bigger fermenter and you're done. Once you do, there's no roadblock to scale up to industrial level production," says Brent Iverson, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Texas at Austin.



Building anodes and cathodes


When the polymer solution dries, it becomes a transparent anode, the battery's positively charged terminal.


A piece of film about 10 centimetres by 10 centimetres contains about a billion conducting viruses.


Belcher and her team are working next to produce the negatively charged cathode with the viruses and believe they will have a working prototype in about two years.





Future batteries


Section: ON THE MOVE — by Nick Rosen, 11 Dec 2005


Donald Sadoway, MITComputers double in power every year, but battery technology is stuck in the Victorian era. Why is that? Better batteries are the final frontier in untethering us from the grid.


Demand for portable power will climb 26% per year, according to the Boston Consulting Group, and the latest issue of Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.explains why batteries have not been getting any more powerful. The article has pointers to the near-future of more powerful batteries which will affect the way you plan your off-grid existence. It concludes by quoting MIT battery guru Donald Sadoway, saying fuel cells are not the way to go.


The science behind the $48 billion (revenue) battery industry is little changed in the 200 years since Alessandro Volta first drew electricity off a stack of cardboard sheets soaked in a brine of zinc and silver. Today’s lithium ion rechargeables still use a voltaic stack of a positive cathode separated from a negative anode by a liquid or gel electrolyte. The electrolyte solution is especially sensitive to conducting ions between the cathode and the anode. The drawback is that these highly corrosive electrolytes force battery makers to use rigid protective enclosures and space-hogging microchips to enable the batteries to dole out the charges and keep from exploding during recharges. Maybe not, says Professor Donald Sadoway, one of a cluster of engineers who still see plenty of potential in lithium ion batteries.


Of Batteries - the ultimate informationj source on everything about batteries - $103 from Amazon


Sadoway and his cohorts are employing exotic materials to produce ribbon-thin rechargeable li-ion batteries that would go twice as long between charges as current models.


Electric Car: Development and Future of Battery, Hybrid and Fuel-Cell Cars


Companies such as Altair Nanotechnologies in Reno, Nev. and A123 in Watertown, Mass. are using nanoscale engineering to develop li-ion batteries with more power and longer lives. Sadoway is in the shadow of an even bigger research effort into miniature fuel cells, the same technology automakers use for their hydrogen-powered cars. At a Tokyo trade show in October Toshiba unveiled an MP3 player that lasted 60 hours between charges, the “charge” here being 10 milliliters of methanol inside a fuel cell slightly larger than a pack of gum. Toshiba also has an experimental fuel cell laptop battery that can go 10 hours on a charge, two times the current average.


The big battery manufacturers, along with perhaps 50 smaller firms, are working on micro fuel cells, says James Balcom, chief executive of Polyfuel, a manufacturer of the membranes used inside fuel cells. He’s seen the typical order jump from 80 units during the first six months of the year to 500 in the second half, he says. “That tells me they are moving from research into development.” The market for portable fuel cells is predicted by NanoMarkets to be $2.6 billion by 2012.


And in a decade (or longer) we could see the advent of nuclear batteries that would recharge your phone’s own battery with a trickle of electrons from the radioactive decay of the hydrogen isotope tritium. Similar nuclear batteries now provide power for deep-space probes. But a Houston startup called BetaBatt has teamed with researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology to begin work on a tritium battery that could, in theory, last 12 years–that is, if the user does not succumb first to radiation poisoning. BetaBatt Chief Executive Larry Gadeken says that radiation won’t be a problem–a piece of paper is shielding enough. But he concedes considerable PR issues must be resolved.


Fishing around a box of clunky metal batteries in a room near his MIT office, Sadoway pulls out what looks like two pieces of blue cellophane taped together, about the size of a credit card. It is an early prototype of his SlimCell battery and powerful enough to energize a transistor radio.


The SlimCell does away with Volta’s 200-year-old liquid chemistry by using flexible and extremely thin solid laminates that can be manufactured cheaply, rolled up into a tube or molded right into a handheld device. “We have to change the image of a battery. Stop thinking soda cans. Start thinking potato-chip bags,” says Sadoway.


Solid-state, paper-thin batteries have been an unrealized goal of industry for a decade. Chemists at firms such as 3M struggled to find a solid that conducts ions with the ease of a liquid or gel. In the mid-1990s Sadoway, a Canadian metallurgist who has spent his entire career teaching at MIT, was searching with his students for ways to reduce air pollution in Los Angeles. One idea was electric cars, but a lithium ion battery of the size needed doesn’t make any sense, as it would require its own cooling system and wouldn’t work well in extreme climates. Solid electrolytes, as elusive as they seemed, would be far lighter, safer and more versatile.


He pitched the problem to MIT materials scientist Anne Mayes, who suggested a recipe: two polymers, polyoxyethylene and polylauryl methacrylate, woven together like strands of cooked spaghetti and brushed with a highly conductive goop called polyethylene oxide. The result is a dry electrolyte that is about the thickness of cellophane but could ultimately be made as thin as one micron, a thousandth of a millimeter. Prototypes of Sadoway’s SlimCell can deliver 300 watt-hours per kilogram, twice the energy density of traditional lithium ion batteries.


Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have created their own version of thin, solid-state lithium ion batteries that use phosphate glass as an electrolyte. The batteries are created by depositing the anode, electrolyte and cathode directly onto silicon, similar to the way semiconductors are made. Cymbet Corp. of Elk River, Minn., which raised $16.5 million last year from a group of funders including Intel, is looking at using Oak Ridge’s technology to create microbatteries that can be grafted directly onto microchips. And unlike traditional li-ion batteries, which typically break down after 500 recharging cycles, Cymbet’s thin-film batteries could, in theory, be recharged thousands of times.


Cymbet Chief Executive William Priesmeyer says that, with some improvements, these thin-film batteries could be scaled up to provide power separately to parts of portable electronics. Screens, which typically account for a third of the drain on the battery, would have their own power source.


Micro fuel cells hold out the promise of longer run times than li-ion batteries, but they still have serious technical hurdles to overcome. Most micro fuel cells generate power by the reaction of diluted liquid methanol with a catalyst. When the two react, the methanol releases protons and electrons. The protons on the fuel cell side pass through a membrane into an air chamber, where they bond with oxygen atoms, pulling the electrons along for the ride. That flow creates a charge, and the only by-products are water vapor, heat and a small amount of carbon dioxide.


But for Toshiba, Sony or Sharp to start selling fuel cell mobile phones, they need to do something about the fact that their customers would be carrying around a hot flask of highly combustible methanol. Most micro fuel cells in development convert only 30% or so of the latent energy in the fuel into usable electrons; the rest get dissipated as heat. Manufacturers plan on users refilling these cells, but left unanswered is how to get cartridges to consumers. In June 2004 Nokia demonstrated a headset powered by methanol, but eight months later it announced it was temporarily abandoning its micro fuel cell program.


Toshiba and the others also have to get around the airline ban on methanol. After intense lobbying by manufacturers, an advisory panel of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which regulates air safety, voted in November to begin the approval process for passengers to carry and use micro fuel cells and methanol cartridges in cabins of commercial aircraft, though not stored in checked baggage.


One hurdle already overcome is the size of a fuel cartridge. Methanol works best at a 3% to 9% concentration, which would require a tank of liquid ten times bigger than a cell phone. Toshiba claims to have solved this problem by using a 99.5% methanol solution and diluting it with the water by-product from the fuel cell. Same power, smaller package. Some methanol fuel cells get, in the laboratory, 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram.


Motorola in November made an investment in Tekion, a Burnaby, B.C. fuel cell manufacturer whose fuel is formic acid, the same acid red ants drool when they bite into flesh. The advantage is that it is less flammable than methanol. “The ultimate goal would be replacement fuel cartridges,” says Warren Holtsberg, director of Motorola Ventures. “You’d be off the grid.”


To a li-ion believer like MIT’s Sadoway, all these research dollars going to fuel cells take away money better spent on more viable, noncombustible technologies. “If you look at how we are spending money on research, it’s fuel cells or bust,” he says. “Have Americans given up on batteries? If we put that money into batteries, we’d have better ones.”


Nanobatteries – Away with Exploding Batteries


Written by Iddo Genuth Monday, 15 January 2007 Print E-Mail




25,000 parallel-connected nanobatteries



Batteries: their past, present and future.

PC Authority, April, 2007 | Features

By Tim Dean

Email to a friend Print this story



It’s easy to be lulled into thinking that the entire semiconductor industry moves at the hasty clip described by Moore’s Law. But not all technologies are created equal; while semiconductors surge ahead at a compound growth rate of around 41% per annum, battery capacity has only improved at around 6% to 10% year-on-year over the past decade. Not surprisingly, this is of concern when it comes to the growing popularity of mobile computing – after all, your supercharged microprocessor is little more than an expensive lump of silicon without electricity coursing through its silicon veins.


Thankfully those unsung heroes of the semiconductor revolution – materials scientists – are coming to the rescue with new and better battery technologies that should help carry us forward into the next decade and beyond.


Explosive power


Lithium-ion batteries recently captured headlines care of a few unfortunate accidents where a few of them happened to explode. This is because, as they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Lithium-ion happens to be a superb technology when it comes to storing and releasing energy, and this same penchant for power was also its downfall in this case.


Compared to its predecessor, nickel-cadmium, lithium-ion is superior in several crucial ways, primarily energy density; lithium-ion can pack in around double the power per kilogram of nickel-cadmium. This means either twice the battery life from a similar sized cell, or a much smaller and lighter cell with the same battery life, allowing for smaller and thinner devices.


Nickel-cadmium also has the notorious problem of the ‘memory effect’. If the battery isn’t periodically completely discharged and recharged, crystals can form on the surface of the electrodes, degrading the performance of the battery. This is not such a problem if the battery is used in a predictable fashion, but it’s far from ideal for modern portable devices, which tend to be used and charged in fits and spurts. However, lithium-ion doesn’t suffer from the memory effect, and is very tolerant to sporadic use and is happy to be topped up rather than requiring a full discharge/charge each time.


Lithium-ion also has several benefits when it comes to manufacture and disposal, with the materials used being significantly more benign than the heavy metals in nickel-cadmium batteries.


However, lithium-ion isn’t without its bugbears. The batteries are actually so good at releasing energy that precautions need to be taken to ensure the battery doesn’t release it all too quickly. Were this to happen, the temperature inside the battery can rise to dangerous levels, potentially vaporising the volatile liquid electrolyte, thereby risking explosion. As such, lithium-ion batteries feature a number of built-in safety devices to prevent the battery from releasing too much energy too quickly, shutting it down and venting any built up gas if it does so.


These safety devices are generally very reliable, and it takes several of them to fail in succession for the battery to undergo a catastrophic failure. As unlikely as this scenario is, however, it has happened at least a half a dozen times recently, resulting in the recall of millions of Sony-manufactured lithium-ion batteries. This was after it was discovered that a fault in the Sony production line allowed tiny metal particles to contaminate the innards of the battery, and these particles could lead the battery to short circuit and potentially explode.


Another drawback of lithium-ion batteries is their form factor. Lithium-ion cells are manufactured in a cylindrical shape, which limits how small or thin the batteries can be made.


Even with these drawbacks, lithium-ion is still the most popular battery technology for mobile devices today, and is still undergoing development and improvement. Future lithium-ion batteries, such as the third generation batteries demonstrated by Panasonic at the recent CES 2007 show, will feature incrementally improved capacity and, as demonstrated by Toshiba recently, significantly reduced recharge time. Even so, there are other technologies that seek to improve upon and eventually supercede lithium-ion.


Flat out


From around 2000 we started hearing a lot about the rise of lithium polymer batteries, which were developed to address some of the shortcomings of lithium-ion. Lithium polymer batteries use a very similar chemistry to lithium-ion, except they replace the liquid electrolyte with a specially formed dry polymer. The benefit is the polymer can be sandwiched between the electrodes in a very thin and flexible package – as little as 1mm thick.


Lithium polymer also isn’t restricted to the cylindrical form factor of lithium-ion cells, and can be formed into virtually any shape to fit any gap. This made lithium polymer a popular choice for mobile phones and other devices that demanded the thinnest possible battery.


Lithium polymer batteries are also not quite as susceptible to the explosive dangers of conventional lithium-ion batteries. However, they do have their limitations. Early lithium polymer batteries suffered from high internal resistance, which limited the amount of power they could release in bursts, making them less suitable for demanding tasks such as powering a notebook. Recent designs have improved, and Toshiba now uses lithium polymer batteries in its Portégé R200 – a notebook that is only 9.9mm thick – with the battery located under the palm rest.


However, even with the improvements in lithium-ion and lithium polymer batteries over the past few years, they still haven’t been able to achieve the holy grail of powering a notebook for a full day. To reach that milestone, we have to turn to alternative technologies.


Next generation

Experimentation with new materials suitable for batteries never stops, with the zinc-silver combination being touted as the combination that could finally push beyond the limits of lithium-based batteries.


The biggest advantage of zinc-silver batteries is that they tout double the energy by weight compared to lithium-ion. With such a high energy density, zinc-silver may be able to power your average notebook for up to twice as long – closing on the target 12-16 hour mark – or could allow for even smaller and lighter devices.


Furthermore, zinc-silver cells feature a water-based electrolyte that isn’t flammable, which makes them considerably safer than lithium-ion batteries. The materials are also non-toxic and can be fully recycled – assuming the infrastructure is in place to do so.


That’s not to say zinc-silver is without its shortcomings. First, and most obvious, is the cost of silver. Even though the materials can be recycled, the initial cost is still likely to be higher than lithium-ion.


There’s also a problem with the zinc being highly soluble in the electrolyte. When the battery is recharged, the dissolved zinc reforms on the electrode in the form of small spikes, called dendrites. These spikes can then damage the internals of the battery, such as by puncturing the separator membrane between the two electrodes. Without compensating for this effect, a zinc-silver battery might have only a dozen or so recycle charges in it before it fails.


There are several companies actively pursuing zinc-silver technology at the moment, such as the California-based Zinc Matrix Power, which has developed a new technique to prevent the formation of dendrites by placing the electrodes within a special polymer. Zinc Matrix Power has already released prototype batteries to hardware manufacturers for testing. CEO, Ross Dueber, suggests we should see batteries using its technology some time around the end of 2007 or early 2008. Analysts at Gartner are a little more pessimistic, stating it could be 2010 or later before zinc-silver takes off.


Alcohol powered

When talking about the holy grail of batteries, it’s hard not to mention fuel cells. Fuel cells share some similarities with batteries, but they differ in that they don’t just store an electrical charge in a chemical state, but they consume fuel, converting it into electricity. A fuel cell works by allowing protons from the fuel to pass through a special membrane, which is also an electrical insulator. This forces the freed electrons to pass around the membrane through an electric circuit, thus producing a current. The principle has been proven, and fuel cells can potentially offer incredibly high efficiencies – as high as 80 percent in some cases.


The fuel cell design that shows the most promise for portable devices is called direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC). Not surprisingly, the fuel used is simple methanol, or wool alcohol. The waste product of a DMFC is carbon dioxide and water, although the water is usually recycled internally to be mixed with the methanol on injection into the cell.


According to Garnter’s latest figures, fuel cells could potentially offer up to 10 times the life of a lithium-ion battery, although the fuel cell needs to be replenished with methanol when it runs out. This raises the question of how to refuel it, with several companies, such as UltraCell, suggesting small methanol fuel cartridges. Another issue is the lifetime of the fuel cell itself, as the methanol has the tendency to degrade the membrane after only a few uses.


Fuel cells are currently under development by swathe of technology companies, including Toshiba, Sony, Hitachi, NEC, Intel and others. The first generation of fuel cell devices are likely to be external chargers for mobile devices, with internal fuel cells coming in the more distant future.


However, it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean batteries are going to disappear altogether. Fuel cells output a constant wattage, but are unable to provide ‘peak’ power, such as when a notebook boots or the hard drive spins up. As such the fuel cell will likely work in tandem with a battery – much like in a hybrid car like the Toyota Prius – constantly recharging the battery while the battery handles the varying load of the device.


The first fuel cell chargers are already on the market, albeit in small numbers and with a high sticker price. We can expect to see more throughout 2007, with internal fuel cells appearing in the next few years.


New batteries could be a thing of the future.


J. Micah Grunert - Tuesday, May 8th, 2007 | 1:38PM (PST)


A new battery technology could more than double the efficiency and charge of future batteries.

The current batteries have it pretty rough. I mean, the work constantly, have to run all of our portable digital toys to our demanding human satisfaction, and if built by Sony, occasionally commit chemical suicide in a flaming ball of searing acid smoke. But perhaps that promise (and its been promised before) of a long lasting, ultra-efficient.




The research folks at Argonne National Labs (established in 1946 by the U.S. Department of Energy) have develop a new type of battery that could boast more than twice the efficiency of todays conventional batteries. And though this may seem just a little too simple to believe, all they did was replace one of the electrodes. This new experimental electrode is comprised of multiple layered materials, one of which includes lithium-manganese oxide. This new material apparently transferrers an electrical charge by freeing the lithium ions and also through reactions with the manganese oxide.


So what does all this mean? It means a battery (or at least a prototype) with a 250 mAh/g (miliamp hour per gram) rating. That's more than double the current charge capacity of todays lithium ion batteries. Wen all is said and done, this new development could help produce batteries with a mAh/g rating just below that 250 mark. But the real kicker was when the research team at Argonne tested this battery under different conditions. They actually broke the 300 mAh/g rating when they pushed the ambient testing temperature to 50 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, they have deemed this higher efficiency at higher temperature an "anomalous" occurrence. They had said further that the "possible reasons for the anomalously high capacity and the electrochemical cycling stability of these manganese-rich electrodes will be discussed in this presentation."


Sounds great, but it's still some years in the final coming. One problem they must overcome is how the manganese reactions damage the electrodes. Testing has indicated thus far that perhaps 10 charge cycles could diminish the batteries efficiency by up to 16 percent. Consumers probably wouldn't like that, nor would our landfills. There is also the consideration that the chemical reaction involved produces oxygen as a by product. That oxygen must be dissipated somehow. But the biggest plus; manganese is far-far cheaper than the materials presently used in current batteries.




It'll be interesting to see what develops, especially if this new type of battery could eventually make its way into say, my iPod. Yeah, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. life sucks when you watch an entire movie on it. If you're interested, you can read more about this new battery here.


Article Link: Manganese electrode could double lithium ion battery capacity


Refuelable zinc/air batteries



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