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Power Technology

Stanford Researchers Invent Everlasting Battery Material 180

Posted by timothy
from the for-practical-purposes dept.
judgecorp writes "Researchers at Stanford University have invented a battery material that could allow batteries to go through 400,000 charging cycles instead of the 400 or so which today's Li-ion batteries can manage. Among the uses could be storing energy to even out the availability of renewable sources such as sun and wind." Adds a story at ExtremeTech, "The only problem is, a high-voltage cathode (-) requires a very low-voltage anode (+) — and the Stanford researchers haven’t found the right one yet; and so they haven’t actually made a battery with this new discovery."
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Stanford Researchers Invent Everlasting Battery Material

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  • by sugarmotor (621907) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @06:50PM (#38161780) Homepage

    Nice to hear the phrase "renewable sources" being used.

  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @06:51PM (#38161784)

    From TFA:

    Stanford, however, has developed a new battery electrode that can survive 40,000 charge/discharge cycles — enough for 30 years of use on the grid.

    • by skids (119237) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:12PM (#38161890) Homepage

      ...and the original article plays it loose with the 400 charge/discharge cycles figure for Li-ion. They took the low-end of the range from Wikipedia's Li-ion article. Typical is more like 1000 for standard chemistries and higher for some of the more stable chemistries like li-FePO4.

      Still, nice to see even more evidence that there's a menu of options for improving battery energy density, cycle life, and calendar life. Now if we could just make an educated guess and pick a suite of them to develop into large scale production instead of constantly dithering waiting for the next grad student to up the bar and never actually opening a factory.

      • And it would also help if there was an actual battery in the first place
        From TFA . . .
        >> "The only problem is, a high-voltage cathode (-) requires a very low-voltage anode (+) — and the
        >> Stanford researchers haven’t found the right one yet; and so they haven’t actually made a battery
        >> with this new discovery."
      • Standard batteries in use today (say in laptops or smartphones) typically don't last longer than 300-500, and that's with greater capacity loss than 20%... then again, people really beat their batteries into submission - charging a smartphone during GPS navigation while the sun shines on the damn thing, constantly charging to 100% and keeping it charged all day while the phone's on the desk, running it down to 0% regularly (usually other people than the constantly charged ones - the memory effect still live

        • by skids (119237)

          Batteries used in phones and laptops, and the charge controllers that babysit them, are not designed for battery longevity. Manufacturer firmware does keep some charge in the battery, but the amount it keeps in there is picked by the manufacturer, and so balanced in such a way as to minimize customer complaint about how long the device can go without a charge while making it unlikely that anyone will complain about having to replace the battery too often before they have gone on to start selling a new mode

  • just starting.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by harvey the nerd (582806) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @06:54PM (#38161806)
    and the Stanford researchers haven’t found the right one yet; and so they haven’t actually made a battery with this new discovery
    They have hypothesized an ideal, microscopic unit device that might be mass produced. They are just starting the applied research phase and may need some additional basic research
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      They are just starting the applied research phase and may need some additional basic research

      I don't think that's as big a deal as you seem to indicate. It took that Manhattan project about five years to go from theoretical to practical. Of course, they put in a lot of effort and resources. On the other hand, they didn't have anything like the computer modeling that we have today to help them.

      It might take a few years to get to a battery that could make renewable sources practical, and it might take a l

      • by gd2shoe (747932)

        Sure, Solyndra didn't work out as advertised, and maybe they got the money for reasons other than them having a really good idea. But I'd rather see an effort and a failure at something like solar rather than just spending the same 500 mil convincing people that tar sands and a really long pipe is going to be anything like the answer.

        Solyndra was one part bad PR move, and one part fraud. By the time the Federal government invested, it was no longer viable (and the White House was informed as much).

        The problem with the Federal Government investing in science and tech isn't the investment, it's the criteria they use to decide where and how. They're not interested in picking something that might work years from now, they're interested in things that make good photo ops today. (And yes, I can see room for federal investment in science...

  • Nothing special (Score:5, Informative)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:08PM (#38161872)

    This is nothing new. Many battery technologies can last for decades. It's only the Cobalt based lithium ones that have the abysmal 2-3 year shelf-life.

    Ni-Iron batteries have demonstrated more than 50 year life, with no noticeable degradation following deep discharge.
    LiFePO has demonstrated less than 20% capacity loss over 15 years and many thousands of cycles.
    Ni-Hydrogen has been in service without maintenance on satellites for many many years. The batteries on the Hubble went 19 years without servicing.
    Lead-Acid requires a bit of servicing and maintenance, but they can also last more than a decade when properly cared for.

    Now when it comes to energy storage to deal with renewables the problem is the shear amount of energy storage needed as well as energy lost to inefficiency. The technology exists, but the cost would be prohibitive.

    • Re:Nothing special (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jartan (219704) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:36PM (#38162044)

      Now when it comes to energy storage to deal with renewables the problem is the shear amount of energy storage needed as well as energy lost to inefficiency. The technology exists, but the cost would be prohibitive.

      RTFA and all that. The interesting thing about this is the electrolyte is supposedly cheap as hell. Thus the idea is making some long lasting batteries the size of a house on the cheap.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tomato42 (2416694)
        Battery charge and discharge has efficiency in the order of 60%. That's pathetic in electricity land. Pumped storage (making use of huge lakes) has efficiency in the area of 90%. Wasting the space for warehouses to store batteries is, err, let me say, "not smart".
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Pumped storage (making use of huge lakes) has efficiency in the area of 90%

          Bull Fucking Shit. The full load efficiency of a large electric motor isn't often over 92-95% on its own--a lot of that is lost in frictional losses to windage and bearings, you see, not forgetting losses through conductors and eddy currents. In other words: you're already dangerously close to your 90% threshold right in the motor. Then you have the frictional losses of a turbine to pump the water up, and friction head losses due to

          • I just commented on the parent, but just so you know, there are at least two such systems in operation in the US. I forget where ... They use excess power (night time?) to pump water up to a lake, then use that water to generate power during peak demand.

          • Re:Nothing special (Score:5, Informative)

            by FireFury03 (653718) <`slashdot' `at' `nexusuk.org'> on Friday November 25, 2011 @03:52AM (#38164064) Homepage

            Then once you get the water up to a lake: if it's an open body of water, you're going to have evaporation. That reduces the net efficiency all the same.

            A tiny amount of evaporation.. so tiny it isn't really worth caring about. Also, if you're going to start calculating such minor things, rain will improve your efficiency a tiny amount.

            Even if you went to heroic efforts in turbine mechanics and used hydrogen cooled motors and generators to reduce loss to air friction, I'd bet net efficiency over 70% would be very, very difficult to achieve, even in the best and most optimistic scenario involving an open body of water.

            Dinorwig Power Station averages 74-75% efficiency with open bodies of water. (No where near the 90% that the grand parent suggested, but still better than what you claim would be optimistic).

            Not to say that's a bad thing, but whether or not that would be useful is entirely dependent on the needs of the grid and the type of power supply on that grid. If you've got a nuclear station that needs to run at 90%+ 100% of the time (or whatever the case may be), hydro storage might make a lot of sense; use the surplus to store energy during the low demand times.

            It makes sense just to cope with demand peaks. The aforementioned Dinorwig power station can hit peak capacity in 6 seconds if they have presynchronised the generators (75 seconds if not). There aren't many "traditional" power stations that can do that (I suspect even gas turbines would struggle to hit the 6 second mark).

        • Re:Nothing special (Score:5, Interesting)

          by canajin56 (660655) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @11:11PM (#38163134)
          You have that backwards. Batteries (at least high end lithium ion batteries) have an efficiency of about 90%, and pumped storage is about 70%. Good job.
          • by Tomato42 (2416694)
            When you store the energy for how long? Self discharge for Li-Ion is over 5% per month. If you would want to store energy for 6 months you'd end up with 74% of original charge, add 90% efficiency of charge/discharge and you are at 66% efficiency for long term storage. 70% for pumped is the lowest estimate.

            Both systems are pathetic.
    • Thanks. Somebody mod parent up.

      Utilities also won't want that new battery because it will be way more expensive than any molten salt design, and they can deal quite well with all limitations of molten salt batteries (like size, weight, and temperature).

    • Re:Nothing special (Score:5, Insightful)

      by skids (119237) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @08:08PM (#38162296) Homepage

      There are three ways to rate battery life: "calendar life" (actual age deterioration), "shelf life" (how long it retains a charge), and "cycle life" (number of cycles of some depth that may be processed). While there are some chemistries with very high cycle life, this is higher than anything in production, save of course for ultra-capacitors. So yes, it is new.

  • where has he been any ways?

  • by IceFoot (256699) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:27PM (#38161984)

    Researchers at Stanford University have invented ONE HALF OF A BATTERY....

  • It is to be commercially released in an infinite number of years from now, for an infinite price per unit.

    Meanwhile manufacturers of consumer electronics can continue using 90's Li-Ion technology that has the huge advantage of dieing after a couple of years keeping the upgrade cycle going
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:54PM (#38162172) Homepage Journal

    >The only problem is, a high-voltage cathode (-) requires a very low-voltage anode (+)

    I know technology has been moving fast, but have they repeated Kirchhoff's laws now?

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <<gterich> <at> <aol.com>> on Thursday November 24, 2011 @10:09PM (#38162844) Journal

    Can we please try to use language accurately?

    • by JustOK (667959)

      No. Do or do not. There is no try.

    • by Twinbee (767046)
      Perhaps they didn't mean it literally.
    • If you charge/discharge once per day, then it'll last for ~1000 years. From a practical standpoint, that's everlasting. It'll probably age to bits before the cycles run out, and it will probably be superceeded before it ages to bits.

      Yeah, strictly speaking "everlasting" means "lasts forever". But nothing lasts forever, so it's an acceptable approximation.

    • by Confuse Ed (59383)

      The battery gives unlimited cycles*

      --
      *fair use policy applies.

  • Still impressive, but not nearly as impressive as it would've been if it had actually been 400,000.

    Yes, it is just a simple typo... but it would be nice if people could at least get key details like this right when submitting stories...

  • WTF does "a high-voltage cathode requires a very low-voltage anode" even mean? I think ExtremeTech tried to paraphrase something technical, and something got lost in translation.
  • to see that battery technology is starting to reap the sort of advances that permeate other areas.

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