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Power Technology Science

U.S. 5X Battery Research Sets Three Paths For Replacing Lithium 172

Posted by timothy
from the jugs-that-hold-more-juice dept.
dcblogs writes "One year ago this month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $120 million plan to develop a technology capable of radically extending battery life. 'We want to change the game, basically,' said George Crabtree, a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and a physics professor who is leading the effort. The goal is to develop a battery that can deliver five times the performance, measured in energy density, that's also five times cheaper, and do it in five years. They are looking at three research areas. Researchers are considering replacing the lithium with magnesium that has two charges, or aluminum, which has three charges. Another approach investigates replacing the intercalation step with a true chemical reaction. A third approach is the use of liquids to replace crystalline anodes and cathodes, which opens up more space for working ions."
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U.S. 5X Battery Research Sets Three Paths For Replacing Lithium

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  • Awesome! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Year-old news, right here on Slashdot!
    • by MickLinux (579158) on Friday November 15, 2013 @08:11PM (#45440205) Journal

      Nonsense, this is bleeding edge. In a few weeks, they'll realize that they can use lead, with three charges. Then if they apply that liquid bath, say with a true chemical reaction.... ...hmm, I wonder if sulfuric acid could do the trick....
      then they'll have a real, working battery that can compete with Lithium!!!

      And you thought this was last year's news?!?

      • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Friday November 15, 2013 @08:22PM (#45440263) Journal

        You know, if they ever perfect those lead batteries, I think they'd also have the benefit of providing hydrogen as a waste product, which is AWESOME because then we can run our fuel cells with it!

        It's win-win-win, baybee! Free energy is like money in the bank!

        (Now pass me that crack pipe!)

      • by bug1 (96678) on Friday November 15, 2013 @08:49PM (#45440391)

        Are you CRAZY... You cant put acid in consumer controlled devices.

        Sulfiric acid can cause severe burns, imagine what would happen if there where industrial or transport accidents and it leaked on people, and what if people take the acid out and thrown in people faces...

        No way would the government let people have control of such powerful chemistry, well at least without strict licensing and enforcment laws. You just cant trust society with this sort of technology, its just a matter of time till its used by the terrrist.

        Im going to start writting letters straight away about this !!!

      • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Friday November 15, 2013 @09:45PM (#45440663) Journal
        Sure - but what can you do with a battery? I mean, my horse doesn't need one, the buggywhip works fine! Now get out of my freshly plowed field, you youthful rapscallion...
  • Carbon Nanotubes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 15, 2013 @07:55PM (#45440107)

    What about Carbon nanotube Super Capacitors? MIT Nanotube Super Capacitor [peswiki.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Yes, Carbon is even better because it has FOUR charges!

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Screw it all, we're doing five charges. How does it work? Shut up I'm telling you how it works.

      • I know, we should just ionize lead until it is a nucleus, then we'll have 82 charges! These guys aren't thinking big enough.

        • Why aren't we just dumping batteries altogether and going straight to small portable nuclear reactors. Long lasting, and you can just toss em in a deep hole or the middle of the ocean when they are spent.

          • Why aren't we just dumping batteries altogether and going straight to small portable nuclear reactors. Long lasting, and you can just toss em in a deep hole or the middle of the ocean when they are spent.

            The Flux Capacitor hasn't been invented yet . . .

        • Re:Carbon Nanotubes (Score:5, Interesting)

          by rtb61 (674572) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @12:44AM (#45441377) Homepage

          Nature has always gone with calcium as the most energy efficient electrical energy medium, a deeper look there especially in nano structures would also be worthwhile.

        • 640 charges should be enough for anybody . . .
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Not enough, they're looking for one that goes to eleven!

      • by necro81 (917438)
        Somewhere, someone can make a joke about razor blades in here.

        inspiration [theonion.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    More for me!

  • Has....well way the !@#$% too many charges. :-P

  • by lesincompetent (2836253) on Friday November 15, 2013 @08:06PM (#45440179)
    Magnesium?
    Who doesn't like a 3,100 C fire in his pants!
    • by blagooly (897225)
      For folks unfamiliar with magnesium fire, check out Roger Williamson, Dutch Grand Prix 1973. The video is difficult to watch. Trapped, the fire starts slowly. Drivers pass by, just like these scientists future LA Freeway. David Purley stopped, tried to help. As the fire becomes more involved, his actions, movement, desperation and final obvious despair make this an unforgettable moment.
    • by pubwvj (1045960)

      Don't worry. It will only burn off one testicle. The other one will be shielded by the one that gets cooked and any other dangling bits. If you hang to the left just keep your electronics in your right pocket. Butt your back pocket is better.

    • by HiThere (15173)

      You think Lithium is any better?

  • How am I going to connect the battery cables to it? /snark

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Friday November 15, 2013 @08:56PM (#45440423) Homepage Journal
    Another liquid battery concept for grid storage was mentioned here: http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/511081/ambris-better-grid-battery/ [technologyreview.com]
    • by Hartree (191324)

      You beat me to it, mdsolar. Ambri has some very interesting ideas.

      I don't know if the engineering problems will be worked out well enough for it to make it big. They've changed some of the chemistry from the original idea and I'm not sure what they're using now. Hopefully it'll live up to the promise when they start fielding the full up prototypes next year or so.

      Regardless of what sort of power source is feeding a grid, large fast responding battery storage would be extremely useful.

      I'm a big fan of Don Sa

      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        I guess next he needs to put up a Liquid State Physics class? I agree that we'll need grid storage. One aspect that is not all that well appreciated is that the electric cars sold now are going to shed some batteries that are still pretty useful starting in the next several years. I've calculated that fully converting our passenger auto fleet to electric provides about half a day's worth of storage for our entire use of electricity from the aftermarket batteries alone, no V2G complexities, just stationar
    • by somepunk (720296)
      Vanadium redox [wikipedia.org] are liquid batteries that have been around a while, and are produced commercially. Not great energy density, but they have other qualities that make them useful in stationary applications. They don't need high temps, either.
      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        I thought the cathodes and anodes were solid. Lead acid batteries also sometimes have a liquid electrolyte but they are not considered liquid batteries. I think the interest in liquid batteries is that the cathodes and anodes refresh their structure and so don't suffer degradation the way solids do. But, for the redox battery, is seems like the cathode and anodes are really just electrodes, so maybe you've got the right of it where it counts.
  • how does the heat dissipation compare to said to-be-replaced lithium batteries?

    all the same, it's good to see progress in the energy storage field.

    • by Teancum (67324)

      Heat dissipation isn't the only issue to worry about. Lithium batteries (of multiple chemistries) certainly don't last the same length of time that the batteries built for the Baker Electric automobiles were able to get away with. Heck, even after a century of usage those old Baker batteries can still be used with only a minor refurbishing of the connectors and making sure you fill up each cell with water before you decide to charge it up. I dare any Lithium battery manufacturer to make that claim.

      I anti

  • This is the type of stuff the governments all over the world should be doing to combat global warming if they actually thought it was real and a threat instead of using it as an excuse to raise taxes.

    Now if we could just get them to extend this into other areas like internal combustion engines being more efficient while not tripling their costs or maybe even a drop in replacement for a standard ICE motor in existing vehicles as well as industrial processes and such and I don't think most people who think gl

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:36PM (#45440891)
    The Germans are spending tens of Billions getting batteries into homes to smooth out solar power. Their idea is simple; by encouraging people to actually buy the stuff it will create a market and get the companies moving on research and development. I am willing to bet that 90% of the American money will go to a select group of companies and universities that lobbied hard for that money. Then over the next few years we will read in Popular Science and here on Slashdot about "BATTERY BREAKTHROUGH! New battery tech is 100x better and 100x cheaper!!!" but when you read the article it will be a pile of hype over a test-tube battery that is the size of a postage stamp that can barely power an LED and requires 3 hours of CERN LHC time to make.

    The real (boring) article will be about a German factory employing 8,000 people that is selling 3 billion in home batteries per year that work quite well and provide good value to their customers.
    • If the Germans build new battery tech, then all the world benefits.
      If the Americans build new batter tech, then all the world benefits.

      No reason to disparage scientific research just because someone else is doing it differently.
      • Sure there is! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @03:18AM (#45441675)

        This is Slashdot, where it is trendy to hate on anything America does. Also there's the risk that the DoE might succeed (the DoE has some top research labs, Ames, Argonne, Fermi, Livermore, Los Alamos, NREL, Oak Ridge, Sandia, to name a few). In this case Argonne is leading the battery project, working with Berkley, PNNL, Sandia, and SLAC. There are also some public universities participating as well. So gotta get that hate in now!

        As you say, the reality is that all this battery research is beneficial. Doesn't matter where it is developed, it'll be sold to the world. Nobody is going to drop millions or billions in the tech and say "Ya, that was neat, no reason to sell it though!"

        • the DoE has some top research labs, Ames, Argonne, Fermi, Livermore, Los Alamos,

          Had. The keyword is had, and this is something I'm personally very bitter about. I worked at Los Alamos and it was an amazing place. Clearly someone was not making enough money sice they privatised the running of it. These days it's running on momentum since the good people have built lives there and are reluctant to leave. That won't remain.

      • I would much rather see the money go to something like a darpa challenge. This way anybody can join the party. The reality in the US is that a few well lobbied organizations will scoop up all that money. But then they will have to spend it on making reports and whatnot to show that they spent it properly. In Canada if they had a battery project, all the money would go to a few politically connected companies in either Quebec or in the Ottawa area.
    • by stenvar (2789879)

      The Germans are spending tens of Billions getting batteries into homes to smooth out solar power. Their idea is simple; by encouraging people to actually buy the stuff it will create a market and get the companies moving on research and development. I am willing to bet that 90% of the American money will go to a select group of companies and universities that lobbied hard for that money.

      Germany tried the same thing with photovoltaic. The result? No demonstrable increase in the rate of innovation, a temporar

      • by khallow (566160)

        Why would it work any better with batteries?

        This time will be different!

      • The key is that far less money now leaves Germany to go to various oil producing countries. So if you don't save money on the surface when you dig deep you will find that keeping the money circulating in your own economy is far better for your economy. This is why the US economy, despite its many structural problems, will thrive over the next decade due to the huge increase in domestic oil production combined with greater fuel economy. That is the US will send far less money to the middle east, Venezuela, N
        • by stenvar (2789879)

          The key is that far less money now leaves Germany to go to various oil producing countries.

          German renewable energy comes mainly from wind and "biomass", not solar. Solar is about 5%, but Germany is effectively dependent on Chinese imports to maintain even that. And Germany has a frightening dependence on foreign energy sources, making it very vulnerable. In contrast, the US has become largely energy independent due to fracking.

          This is why the US economy, despite its many structural problems, will thrive ove

    • The real (boring) article will be about a German factory employing 8,000 people that is selling 3 billion in home batteries per year that work quite well and provide good value to their customers.

      Like this?

      http://www.nexeon.co.uk/news/nexeon-secures-strategic-investment-and-forms-partnership-with-world-class-chemicals-company/ [nexeon.co.uk]

    • by prefec2 (875483)

      You can be sure that the present and the next German government will ruin the country's goal to go re-newable energy in the next four month. Furthermore, Germany is subsidizing re-newable energy at present by guaranteeing prices to producers of that energy. Of course thew public has to pay for that, but that is no different from that US program which is most likely sponsored by public or newly printed money.

      Anyway, the two efforts are quite different. Germany is seeking for cheap electricity storage with a

      • The thing that amazes me about Germany's solar is that they have accomplished so much while being quite close to the North Pole. They seem to know that every watt not Generated by imported fuel is a boon to their economy as that money can circulate at least one more time before leaving. One thing that many people don't connect is that Germany began their quest for alternate energy shortly after a dispute between Russia and the Ukraine nearly cut off all their natural gas. I suspect that they had an all hand
        • by prefec2 (875483)

          While the population in Germany is strongly behind the renewable energy idea, the government never was, beside a short period of seven years including the German Green party. Since then, the renewable energy program has been attacked by the conservative party and the social-democratic party of certain federal states which are the base of large nuclear and fossil fuel power plants. So most of the achievements are based on the peoples persistence.

  • Aren't the commercial implications of such an advancement enticing enough to make the private sector throw many more millions, if not billions, into this research, if they haven't done so already? Granted, they would only allow new batteries to come to market if they lasted for fewer charge cycles.
    • by stenvar (2789879)

      Private companies aren't doing this research because they believe that (1) they are very unlikely to succeed, and (2) even if they did, there would be no market. Given how much money they would stand to make, they are probably right.

  • An all-liquid formulation is probably the most worthy of these goals, for increasing energy density still further without losing the seriously impressive power density and charge rate of LFP batteries [wikipedia.org]. The voltage will also be a factor in some devices -- already many devices can be powered by single cells, simplifying charge circuits (no need for balancing or detecting a failing cell) and possibly improving reliability (since one failed cell = a dead pack).

  • by Jack Malmostoso (899729) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @02:52AM (#45441629)

    I am a battery scientist, and while I think that Argonne is one of the places where great work is done, they have set very ambitious goals for themselves.

    1) Replacing Li with Mg is a lovely idea, but currently there is no fully stable electrolyte and as far as I know nobody has good candidates for electrode materials. Don't even get me started on Al.

    2) Lithium-air batteries have been debated to death also here on /.. The current status is again that there seems to be no stable electrolyte, no clear idea of what exactly happens, and if we factor in the weight and complexity of adding various components to the battery assembly to make a real device out of it, the great theoretical energy density of Li-O2 is reduced to Li-ion levels, if not even less.

    3) The liquid slurry electrode is an interesting concept which at least recycles materials that are available and known to be working. This is more of an engineering problem than a scientific one, and could see quick advancement in 5 years.

    I hope the community as a whole will be able to find the breakthrough to finally have people stop cursing batteries.
    Batteries: you hate them since 150 years!

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      So in the end we end up with batteries that are 25 times as explosive too?

      In my opinion batteries sucks as energy storage for heavy loads like cars. Using capacitor banks to manage start/stop in city traffic and uphill/downhill is another thing.

      Room temperature liquids that mix with air to get combustion are easier to manage - contain them if they start to burn and it will stop. Contain a runaway battery and it just accelerates. What we should look at is cheaper processes to produce liquid fuels that are as

      • by Agripa (139780)

        In my opinion batteries sucks as energy storage for heavy loads like cars. Using capacitor banks to manage start/stop in city traffic and uphill/downhill is another thing.

        Once you have enough of a battery to give you the range you want, then the power density is not a problem. The only capacitors you need are for high frequency decoupling and they only need to be selected based on ripple current and design lifetime.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five-Year_Plans_for_the_National_Economy_of_the_Soviet_Union [wikipedia.org]

    Just saying... :D

    It would be great if this worked. I just fear that the government might kill some of this technology instead of helping it along.

    There are various ways they can do this unintentionally.

    1. Take all the profit out of dominating the market removes most of the profit incentive to developing new technologies. If the government just owns this thing or gives it away then the factories that tool up to build it

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