Batteries are everywhere in today’s hyper connected electrically propelled society. I bet a battery is powering the device you’re reading this text immediately. Does one have low battery status? What if you didn’t need to charge your phone again for an additional month? What if you’re electric car could travel 1000 miles on one charge? We collaborated with a team of scientists to sort through the current battery research and evaluate the most promising new technologies based on performance, practicality and economics. We waited to publish this information until after Tesla’s battery day, so we could take their announcements into consideration and have the most accurate snapshot of the current battery landscape.
Today just about every electric car uses lithium ion batteries. They’re pretty good, but ultimately are heavy and have long charging times for the amount of energy they can store. To add insult to injury, the energy density of decomposed organisms destructively drilled from the earth still achieve more than 100 times the energy density of the batteries used in most electric cars. One kilogram of gasoline contains about 48 mega joules of energy, and lithium ion battery packs only contain about. 3 mega joules of energy per kilogram.
What’s more, lithium batteries degrade with each charging cycle, gradually losing capacity over the battery’s lifetime. Researchers often compare batteries by the number of full cycles until the battery has only 80% of its original energy capacity remaining. According to Elon Musk, battery modules are the main limiting factor in electric vehicle life. In 2019 he said the Tesla Model 3 drive unit is rated for 1 million miles, but the battery only lasts for 300,000 – 500,000 miles or about 1,500 charge cycles. While energy density and lifetime improvements to batteries appear to be the most crucial issues, there are environmental and geopolitical problems associated with current lithium ion labor. Much is illegally exported and directly funds armed conflict in the region. Additionally the camps often create conditions which drive deforestation and an array of human rights abuses. To handle the predicted demand explosion for electric vehicles over the coming decades, we’ll need to create better batteries that are cheaper, longer lasting, more durable, and more efficient. We must also address the issues of political and environmental sustainability to ensure batteries remain tenable in an increasingly electric future.
Many questions were answered after Tesla’s long awaited battery day took place on September The Palo Alto automaker announced a larger, tables 4680 battery cell with improved energy density, greater ease of manufacturing, and lower cost. The king sized cells make use of an improved design that eliminates the tabs normally found in Lithium Ion batteries that transfer the cell’s energy to an external source. Instead Tesla, “basically took the existing foils, laser powdered them, and enabled dozens of connections into the active material through this shingled spiral” This more efficient cell design alleviates thermal issues, and simplifies the manufacturing process. Tesla also introduced high-nickel cathodes that eliminate the need for cobalt, and improved silicon battery chemistry in which they stabilize the surface with an elastic ion-conducting polymer coating that allows for a higher percentage of cheap commodified silicon to be used in cell manufacture. All together these changes create an expected and the new 4680 cells expect to achieve an increase in range, and a 6 time increase in power. Tesla hopes the improved cell design will allow them to achieve an eventual production target of 3 terawatt-hours per year by 2030, and help scale the world’s transition to ubiquitous long distance electric vehicles. After Tesla’s recent battery day, the world’s attention is now more focused on batteries than ever before, but Tesla isn’t the only show in town.
In the following video below, we’re going to explore change everything. Metal air batteries have been around for a while. You might find a little zinc air button cell in a hearing aid, for example, but scaled up aluminum and lithium air chemistries are also promising for the automotive and aerospace industries. The potential for lightweight batteries with high energy storage makes this battery technology promising. Lithium air batteries could have a maximum theoretical specific energy of 3,460 W h/kg, almost 10 times more than lithium ion. Realistic battery packs would probably be closer to 1000 Wh/kg initially, but this is still three to five times higher than lithium ion batteries can achieve. As usual, this technology is not without its drawbacks. Current electrodes of lithium air batteries tend to clog with lithium salts after only a few tens of cycles – most researchers are using porous forms of carbon to transmit air to the liquid electrolytes. Feeding pure oxygen to the batteries is one solution but is a potential safety hazard in the automotive environment. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that they could prevent this clogging by using molybdenum disulphide Nano flakes to catalyze the formation of a thin coating of lithium peroxide (Li2O2) on the electrodes. Their test battery ran for an equivalent with uncoated electrodes. While this isn’t enough lifetime for a car, it’s a promising hint of things to come. More on nanotechnology later. NASA researchers have also been investigating lithium air batteries for use in aircraft. They believe that once their research cell is optimized, they should be looking at around high power requirements of takeoff. But they too are struggling with low battery life. For them, the solutions will boil down to improvements in the electrolyte. In an interview with Chemical and Engineering News, researchers commented, “From an organic chemistry perspective, the challenge of lithium oxygen (Li-O2) is that you’re basically asking an electrolyte to face many of the harshest reactive oxygen species possible.” They are now investigating molten salt electrolytes, but hope to carry over the research into solid state alternatives in the future to improve battery lifetime and cycle ability.
This technology still features a great distance to travel before your take your next business trip is in an electrical passenger jet, but the promise of such high specific energy will hold researchers’ interest for the foreseeable future, driven on by the promising advances made in recent years. Nanotechnology has been a buzzword for several decades, but is now finding applications in everything from Nano electronics to biomedical engineering, and body armor to extra-slippery clothing irons. Nanomaterials make use of particles and structures 1-100 nanometers in size, essentially one take stock from the molecular scale. The magic is that they behave in unusual ways because this small size bridges the gap between that which operates under the principles of physics and people of our familiar macro world. As we’ve seen, one among the challenges in battery design is that the physical expansion of lithium electrodes as they charge. Researchers at Purdue University made use of antimony ‘Nano chain’ electrodes last year to enable this material to exchange graphite or carbon-metal composite electrodes. By structuring this metalloid element during this ‘Nano chain’ net shape, extreme expansion are often accommodated within the electrode since it leaves an internet of empty pores. The battery appears to charge rapidly and showed no deterioration over the Carbon nanostructures also show great promise. Graphene is one among the foremost exciting of those. Graphene is formed from one atomic thickness sheet of graphite, and it seems that this material has very interesting electrical properties, being a really thin semiconductor with high carrier mobility, meaning that electrons are transmitted along it rapidly within the presence of an electrical field, as inside a battery. It also thermally conductive and has exceptional mechanical strength, about 200 times stronger than steel. Grabat, a Spanish nanotechnology company are pursuing graphene polymer cathodes with metallic lithium anodes – a highly potent combination if their electrolyte can adequately protect the metallic anode and stop dendrite growth. This battery promises to be lighter and more robust than current technology while charging and discharging faster and with greater energy capacity. Samsung have patented a technology they call ‘graphene balls’. These are silica nanoparticles which are coated with graphene sheets that resemble popcorn. These are used because the cathode also as being applied during a protective layer on the anode. The researchers found increases within the volumetric density of a full cell of 27.6% compared to an uncoated equivalent and therefore the experimental cell retains almost 80% capacity after 500 cycles. Additionally, charging is accelerated and temperature control is improved. Nano Graf, meanwhile, are using graphene sheets to supply carbon-silicon batteries to extend stored energy by 30%. Amorous go one stage further with their anodes of ‘100% silicon nanowire’. The maker claims that they will achieve 500 Wh/kg which is within the range suitable for enabling electric aircraft – Airbus Space and Defense announced a partnership with the corporate last October. The silicon nanowires are attached to a skinny foil by vapor deposition during a continuous, roll-to-roll production process – helping keep manufacturing costs down. The clever part is that these finger-like projections are porous on a micro and macro scale, allowing them to swell freely without significant expansion of the entire electrode. Even as trees swell with leaves in spring but the forest remains an equivalent size. Some internet sleuths concluded that the corporate was recently acquired by Tesla because Amprius recently moved their headquarters right next to a Tesla facility, but Elon Musk debunked these claims on twitter. Saying, “But actually nothing. Was surprised to listen to they’re across the road. Adding silicon to carbon anode is sensible. We already do. Question is simply what ratio of silicon to carbon & what shape? Silicon expands like hell during discharge & comes apart, so cycle life is typically bad.” Nanomaterial research is promising. The University of California Irvine have even produced electrodes good for 200,000 cycles using gold nanowires and manganese dioxide with a polymer gel electrolyte and lots of other research efforts are ongoing with other diverse materials. One thing that seems to make certain though is that as soon as it’s possible to mass produce suitable nanotechnology, we’ll be seeing it in our batteries in some form and quite possibly in conjunction with silicon. Lithium sulphur batteries are one emerging technology which will offer greatly improved energy densities compared to lithium-ion. The theoretical maximum specific energy of this chemistry is 2,567 Wh/kg compared to lithium ion’s 350 Wh/kg maximum. This is often an enormous improvement: a lithium Sulphur battery might be up to seven and a half times lighter than its current equivalent. Right now, lithium Sulphur batteries are nowhere near their theoretical limit, but the ALISE, a pan-European collaboration are working towards attaining a stable automotive battery of 500 Wh/kg supported this technology. In terms of economics, Sulphur is far cheaper than the cobalt and manganese it might replace, and may be extracted as a by-product of fuel refinement or mined from abundant natural deposits. Existing lithium ion batteries are made from an anode and cathode between which a liquid electrolyte allows dissolved lithium ions to travel. Lithium Sulphur batteries are constructed similarly, except that the active element within the cathode is Sulphur, while the anode remains lithium based. Researchers face a couple of challenges in bringing this technology to plug. Firstly, Sulphur may be a poor conductor of electricity. Typically the Sulphur atoms are embedded within the matrix of carbon atoms in graphite, a superb electrical conductor.
This arrangement is susceptible to a process referred to as shuttling, which causes batteries to empty when not in use, while also corroding metallic lithium anodes, reducing capacity because the battery is cycled. Next and most importantly, the electrodes physically swell as lithium ions bond to them. this is often more dramatic with lithium Sulphur than existing chemistries, the Sulphur cathode expanding and contracting by the maximum amount as 78% because the battery cycles, or eight times quite cathodes typically utilized in lithium ion batteries. As could be expected from this type of repeated strain, polymer or carbon based supports and binders fragment and may disintegrate because the battery cycles, reducing capacity and performance. One approach to solving this is often to bind the cathodes with different polymers and to scale back there thickness in order that absolutely the change in dimension isn’t so extreme. Many lithium-based batteries also must affect dendritic growth, thin fingers of metal which grow far away from the surface and may eventually reach across to the cathode, creating a brief circuit and rapid discharge. this is often an equivalent thermal runaway malfunction which has caused lithium ion battery fires within the past, so research for dealing with this effect are often carried over to lithium sulphur technology, including exciting uses of graphene and other nanostructures to act as scaffolds for the deposition of lithium. Solid state electrolytes could also offer solutions to those issues. Lithium sulphur batteries aren’t just cognitive state ideas. Airbus Defense and Space flew a 350 Wh/kg battery made by Sion Energy back in 2014 powering their Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo Satellite.
Researchers at Monash University in Australia announced in 2020 that they anticipate having a product ready for commercialization in 2-4 years which could provide electric cars with a 621 mile range. A standard theme in emerging technologies thus far has been researchers’ desire to develop solid state electrolytes. These would replace flammable organic liquids with stable, crystalline or glassy-state solids, or polymer-base. It’s hoped that using these solid electrolytes would enable the utilization of metallic lithium electrodes to supply higher output voltages and permit for increased energy density. Additionally battery safety improves in vehicle crashes, and becomes more immune to overheating and short circuiting, partially thanks to physical blocking of the dendritic growth of lithium and other electrode materials which currently plague lithium batteries. Aside from its theoretical promise, we’ll be confident that we will see solid state batteries powering us along the road within the near future because carmakers as diverse as Volkswagen, Toyota, BMW, and Hyundai have all been investing within the technology. Volkswagen, for instance, put $300 million into Quantum Scape, a Stanford University spin-off. Quantum Scape has been holding its cards on the brink of its vest because the website offers no information on their product, only an extended list of latest job openings – implying company expansion and confidence in their product. It’s notable that they hold patents on supplied-based lithium ion technology and appear to have an interest in thin, sintered ceramic films and lithium impregnated garnet. One among the difficulties in solid state electrolyte design is handling the expansion of electrodes which is harder to manage in solid materials. A solid electrolyte must be sufficiently flexible to allow this, yet also tough enough to resist dendrite penetration. Quantum cape hold a patent for ‘Composite Electrolytes’ to permit them to customize and adjust the physical properties of their electrolytes for such conflicting requirements. Panasonic have also been looking into solid state electrolytes. it’s notable that Tesla are partnered with Panasonic in their existing lithium-ion manufacturing capacity, but it’s Toyota who have publicly announced their collaboration with Panasonic to develop next generation solid state batteries. Samsung too are performing on solid state batteries, and in May 2020 described their technology supported a silver and carbon anode, claiming this might provide a generic electric a 500 mile range and survive over 1000 charging cycles. This is often probably excellent news for your phone and laptop too given their current commercial interests. It’s going to be just a matter of your time before solid state electrolytes are in your pocket and in your car. Two carbon electrodes and a non-toxic electrolyte: what’s to not like? Add the power to extract more power than from conventional lithium ion, and their ability to charge 20 times faster, and these lithium-ion variants might be the longer term for electric vehicles. PJPEye, an offshoot of Japan Power Plus have developed this technology with the National Kyushu University in Fukuoka and are currently supplying their ‘Cambr ian’ batteries to an electrical bicycle company, Maruishi Cycle. Currently these are single carbon electrode batteries, and details of their exact makeup are hard to seek out, but they’re simultaneously performing on a totally dual carbon battery with two carbon electrodes, eventually to be manufactured from natural, agriculturally grown products. They anticipate achieving a performance almost like graphene based batteries. Although their Cambrian batteries have a lower specific energy and lower energy density than lithium ion – meaning that their batteries are both heavier and bulkier than their equivalents – they boast higher specific power. For an equivalent mass of battery as a lithium ion based alternative, it’s possible to extract the energy much faster, translating into faster vehicle accelerations. Additionally to the present, unlike lithium-ion, these carbon-based batteries are often discharged fully. The maker claims that this changes the equation for actual usable energy density, boasting a 40% improvement in range over lithium ion batteries of an equivalent capacity. Moreover, they assert that the battery runs cool and doesn’t require the heavy cooling systems of current electric vehicles. Their claim that a proof-of-concept battery degraded only 10% after 8000 cycles is extremely promising.
They decide to gradually upscale from low volume applications, like medical devices and satellites, towards mass market aerospace and automotive customers with a battery made up of carbonized cotton fibers instead of exotic, toxic metals. With fast charging and exceptionally low battery degradation over thousands of charging cycles, maybe these will provide future, sustainable solutions for commercial vehicles within the coming decades. With fast charging and exceptionally low battery degradation over thousands of charging cycles, maybe these will provide future, sustainable solutions for commercial vehicles within the coming decades. Such a lot diverse research is underway in battery technology that it’s almost impossible just to select five selections. Lithium batteries are found in almost any modern battery powered product: cars, computers, cameras and phones. Quadcopters and drones have happen due to advances in battery technology also as and uses for these machines are mostly held back by current battery life limitations. Better batteries also are important for the advancement of stationary storage from renewable energy sources like solar energy. Tesla is additionally making headway into this sector, with products just like the power wall home battery, and power pack commercial energy storage products. Consumers, technology companies and industry are all clamoring for safer, lighter, more energy dense solutions – and concern is additionally mounting worldwide at the environmental impact of this growing demand for batteries. With all of those exciting new battery technologies on the horizon, it’s clear the longer term are going to be electric. An excellent initiative to organize for the approaching electric revolution is to find out the basics of electricity and magnetism. Brilliant does an excellent job of taking complicated science and breaking it down into bite sized pieces with fun and challenging interactive explorations. Master concepts, and build a base of data so you’ll develop your intuition to raise understand how the planet is changing. I’ve taken brilliant courses on electricity & magnetism and solar power, and was really impressed with how well they structure their lessons with clever analogies, examples, and quizzes to check your knowledge. It almost makes learning desire a game and that i found myself wanting to advance through the course. Brilliant offers a good range of other content in topics from mathematical fundamentals to quantitative finance, from scientific thinking to special theory of relativity, from programming with python to machine learning. To all those that believe the longer term are going to be electric, attend brilliant dot org slash Electric Future and check in for free of charge. And also, the primary 200 folks that attend that link will get 20% off the annual Premium subscription. The technologies discussed during this video could have huge implications on different battery powered transportation options besides just electric cars. Imagine the potential in everything from electric bikes to electric scooters and electric boats to electric airplanes. Consumer electronics also stand to experience vast improvements in battery life in devices like smart phones, laptops, cameras, and more. Good luck!