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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s Super Battery!

By Matt Simpson - Friday, December 02, 2011

What if you could charge your battery 10xs faster, get it to run 10x longer and have it last for thousands of charges instead of hundreds?  All these things may soon come to pass due to a great deal of research being done in the area of battery tech.

Super Battery

Batteries have come a long way. At first it the glass jar full of acid, then on to the ubiquitous but not much more advanced lead acid batteries we use to start our cars.

Dry cell batteries were great for small current application but they had their own problems too. In the last couple of decades battery tech has been a hot topic for research around the globe. New terms started appearing in battery nomenclature, such as Nickel Cadnium (Ni-Cad) Nickel, Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Lithium Ion (LI).

Each of these was a large step forward in some respects from the standard lead acid battery, but none were a perfect replacement. We still use Lead Acid batteries in all of cars even at the close of 2011, after all. There are issues with each of these technologies from charge memory to power density to simple overall cost of production. At present, it seems as though the future of batteries will be using some variation of the Lithium Ion technology.

 

Lithium

While the most common name is Lithium Ion, there are dozens of different chemistries that can be used in conjunction with Lithium to store electricity. These different production methods do have different pros and cons, but they are all generally superior to the other battery technologies. They also all share some of the negatives associated with the technology as well. Lithium batteries can be discharged at a high current rate, but this generates a great deal of heat and can lead to fire or explosion. This problem has led to some concern over large format batteries of this technology such as those used in hybrid or electric cars.

The same problem occurs during charging, they must be charged slowly to avoid heat buildup. These batteries also have a finite number of times they can be recharged before they degrade beyond the point where they can hold a charge. Likely the greatest problem with Lithium batteries is the density of power that they can hold. This is the amount of amp-hours a specific sized battery is capable of holding between charges. Just in the last month, some of the country’s finest institutes for research have announced findings which could change the whole way we use our battery devices.

North Western University

They have announced a technology which they say will be ready for market in a 3-5 year window. They have redesigned the anode portion of the battery using graphene and silicon to allow a 10 fold improvement in the yield of charge the battery can hold, and it is capable of charging 10 times faster than current technology. They use a special sandwich of silicon between layers of grapheme to stabilize the silicon. They expect even greater results as they have now turned their attention to the cathode for improvements.

MIT

A group of researchers has developed a new battery technology with hybrid and electric vehicles in mind. They have developed a battery system that uses particles suspended in a liquid and separated by porous membranes. They are calling the battery a semi-solid flow cell and it works by using the suspended particles as the actual anode and cathode in the battery. This battery design also separates the storage and charging functions. This will allow a more efficient design for their batteries. However, this technology is still in its early stages and it may be many years before the engineering issues are all resolved and it is a cost effective battery.

Stanford

They have taken an existing but cost prohibitive design and improved upon it. They are working with a potassium ion battery, which is a similar tech to lithium ion. The biggest problem in the past has been that these batteries required a significant amount of platinum to function. With the price of platinum, no battery that used it would ever be feasible for low cost applications. The team has replaced that platinum with a copper based compound that performs as well, but is inexpensive and plentiful.  This could, in a few years, lead to a inexpensive and powerful battery cell that would replace current techs.           




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