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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

IBM Research and ASELSAN to collaborate on metal-air battery technology, focusing on EVs; mm-wave ICs

November 25, 2014

IBM Research and Turkish defense industry technology company ASELSAN (Askerî Elektronik Sanayii, Military Electronic Industries) have signed collaborative development agreements concerning research and development of metal-air battery technologies and millimeter wave integrated circuits. The companies will work together on these projects, and through these efforts ASELSAN will enhance its in-house research and development activities.

In 2009, IBM and its partners launched a multi-year research initiative specifically exploring rechargeable Li-air systems (one type of metal-air battery): “The Battery 500 Project”. (Earlier post.) The “500” stands for a target range of 500 miles/800 km per charge, which translates into a battery capacity of about 125 kWh at an average use of 250 Wh/mile for a standard family car.

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Researchers develop rechargeable hybrid-seawater fuel cell; highly energy density, stable cycling

November 24, 2014

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Schematic illustration of the designed hybrid-seawater fuel cell and a schematic diagram at the charged–discharged state. Kim et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in Korea and Karlsruher Institute of Technology in Germany have developed a novel energy conversion and storage system using seawater as a cathode. As described in an open access paper in the journal NPG Asia Materials, the system is an intermediate between a battery and a fuel cell, and is accordingly referred to as a hybrid fuel cell.

The circulating seawater in the open-cathode system results in a continuous supply of sodium ions, endowing the system with superior cycling stability that allows the application of various alternative anodes to sodium metal by compensating for irreversible charge losses. Hard carbon and Sn-C nanocomposite electrodes were successfully applied as anode materials, yielding highly stable cycling performance and reversible capacities exceeding 110 mAh g−1 and 300 mAh g−1, respectively.

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ETH Zurich team shows vanadate-borate glasses as inexpensive high-capacity cathodes for Li-ion batteries

November 19, 2014

A team from ETH Zurich in Switzerland has demonstrated the use of vanadate-borate glasses (Li2O-B2O3-V2O5, referred to as V2O5-LiBO2) as high-capacity cathode materials for rechargeable Li-ion batteries for the first time. The composite electrodes with reduced graphite oxide (RGO) deliver specific energies around 1,000 Wh/kg and retain high specific capacities in the range of ~ 300 mAh/g for the first 100 cycles.

Vanadium oxide (vanadate)-based materials are attractive cathode alternatives due to the many oxidation state switches of vanadium, resulting in a high theoretical specific capacity. However, irreversible phase transformations and/or vanadium dissolution starting from the first discharge cycle result in significant capacity losses. In their open access paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the ETH Zurich team says that these problems can be circumvented if amorphous or glassy vanadium oxide phases are used.

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EALABC paper outlines approach to 48V hybrid systems with advanced lead-carbon batteries

The European Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (EALABC) is delivering a paper this week outlining the consortium’s approach to 48V hybridization at the 2nd International Conference on Advanced Automotive 48V Power Supply Systems in Düsseldorf. The EALABC focus is on the environmental and cost benefits of current and future advanced lead-carbon batteries for 48V hybrid vehicles.

The state-of-charge (SoC) of current lead-carbon batteries is typically maintained at between 30 and 50%, with the voltage and amperage meeting VDA requirements by not exceeding 54V at 150A when recovering joules of energy from vehicle deceleration (kinetic energy recovery) and exhaust gas energy recuperation (thermal energy recovery), also dropping not less than 38V at 180A when discharging energy for engine starting and torque assist. Advanced lead-carbon batteries for vehicles currently under development will be capable of operating in the 30 to 70% SoC range at 12.5kW.

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EnerG2 and BASF in strategic partnership to improve and scale-up carbon materials for supercaps and start-stop PbA batteries

November 18, 2014

EnerG2, a Seattle-based company manufacturing advanced carbon materials for next-generation energy storage devices (earlier post), and BASF have entered a strategic partnership to collaborate to improve and to scale-up the production of EnerG2’s proprietary carbon materials for use in supercapacitor electrodes and as a performance additive in start-stop lead-acid batteries.

Engineered carbons enhance storage performance by providing higher voltage and energy in supercapacitors and by significantly increasing the charging rate of lead-acid batteries at a partial-state-of-charge. EnerG2’s patented carbon technology platform enables large-scale production of carbon materials that surpass the limitations of the carbons traditionally used in energy storage.

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New lead germanate-graphene nanosheet composite as high capacity Li-ion anode material

November 17, 2014

Researchers at the University of Wollongong (Australia) have synthesized lead germanate-graphene nanosheets (PbGeO3-GNS) composites for use as anode materials for Li-ion batteries (LIBs). In the voltage window of 0.01–1.50 V, the composite anode with 20 wt.% GNS delivered a discharge capacity of 607 mAh g−1 at 100 mA g−1 after 50 cycles. Even at a high current density of 1600 mA g−1, a capacity of 406 mAh g−1 can be achieved.

In an open access paper in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, the team suggests that the PbGeO3-GNS composite can thus be considered as a potential anode material for higher performing lithium-ion batteries.

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Li-S battery company OXIS Energy reports 300 Wh/kg and 25 Ah cell, predicting 33 Ah by mid-2015, 500 Wh/kg by end of 2018

November 12, 2014

UK-based Lithium-sulfur battery company OXIS Energy (earlier post) reported developing a Lithium-sulfur cell achieving in excess of 300 Wh/kg. In addition, OXIS has achieved an increase in cell capacity to 25 Ah—a twelve-fold improvement in 18 months. OXIS predicts it will achieve a cell capacity of 33Ah by mid-2015. The company says that vehicle manufacturers are already reviewing and evaluating the cell technology.

The OXIS scientific team expects to achieve a goal of an energy density in excess of 400 Wh/kg by the end of 2016 and in excess of 500Wh/kg by the end of 2018. OXIS CEO Huw Hampson-Jones says that the company is on schedule to release commercial cells for use in applications in the USA and Europe in 2015.

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Researchers propose unified mechanism for reduction of O2 at cathode in Li-air batteries; guidance for direction of future research

Researchers from the UK and France are proposing a unified mechanism for the reduction of O2 at the cathode of a Li-air (Li-O2) battery. The results of their study, published in the journal Nature Chemistry, suggest that the future direction of research for lithium–oxygen batteries should focus on the search for new, stable, high-donor-number electrolytes, because they can support higher capacities and can better sustain discharge.

The researchers, led by Dr. Peter Bruce at the University of Oxford; Dr. Jean-Marie Tarascon, Collège de France; and Dr. Kishan Dholakia at the University of St. Andrews, investigated O2 reduction across a range of solvents. They showed that O2 reduction can be described by a single unified mechanism that embraces previous models as limiting cases.

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Researchers gain fundamental insight into key reaction for Li-air batteries

November 08, 2014

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A new study from Delft University and the University of Waterloo finds a different OER mechanism for electrochemically-generated Li2O2 than for commercial Li2O2. Credit: ACS, Ganapathy et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from Delft University in The Netherlands and the University of Waterloo in Canada has used operando X-ray diffraction to show that oxidation of electrochemically-generated Li2O2 in high energy density Li-air batteries occurs in two stages, but in only one step for commercial (crystalline) Li2O2. This discovery reveals a fundamental difference in the OER depending upon the nature of the peroxide.

In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the authors conclude that their findings not only reveal the fundamental nature of the charge reaction in Li−air batteries but also show the impact that the nature of the lithium peroxide (size, shape, and crystallinity) has on the oxidation mechanism. Controlling this process may be the key to high performance Li−air batteries, they suggest.

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Volkswagen’s Winterkorn: “great potential” in solid-state batteries, with possible 1,000 Wh/l, or 700 km range

November 07, 2014

In his remarks made at Stanford University during the award of the third Science Award for Electrochemistry to Dr. Vanessa Wood (earlier post), Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen noted again the challenges of energy density, cost, reliability and lifespan for batteries enabling longer range electric mobility.

In that context, he said that he sees “great potential” in solid-state batteries, which possibly could boost EV range to as much as 700 km (435 miles), representing a volumetric energy density of about 1,000 Wh/l. Current Li-ion batteries, with about 260 Wh/l are enabling a range of some 190 km (118 miles), he said. He then added that, with a higher nickel content, more will be feasible, although falling well short of the potential of solid-state systems. However, even “Increasing the specific energy of lithium-ion cells to as much as 380 Wh/l will reduce driving range drawbacks.”

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DOD awards EaglePicher $22M under DPA Title III to expand Li-ion production capabilities; 250 Wh/kg

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded EaglePicher $22 million in funding under the Defense Production Act Title III Program (DPA Title III) for Phase II of the Lithium-Ion Battery for Military Applications (LIMA) project. The original solicitation for the LIMA project was in 2011.

The program goal assures the affordable production of critical items deemed essential for national defense, alleviating concerns regarding market volatility and uncertainty within the current international market for Li-Ion. As a leading specialty battery manufacturer with a legacy of supplying US military power needs, EaglePicher is poised to assist the defense industrial base by providing a timely, reliable supply of Li-Ion materials and products.

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USABC awards $2.68M to Maxwell for stop-start ultracap-battery hybrid system; RFPI for high-performance Li-ion electrolytes

November 05, 2014

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a collaborative organization operated by Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors, has awarded a $2.68-million advanced battery technology development contract for the development of a high-performance, hybrid energy storage system for automotive stop-start applications to Maxwell Technologies Inc. of San Diego, Calif.

The 19-month program will focus on the technological and economic feasibility of adopting a 12-volt hybrid energy storage system consisting of lithium-ion batteries and Maxwell ultracapacitors to an automotive stop-start application meeting USABC specifications. The program goals will include development of an improved capacitor.

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Rice University researchers create dual-purpose edge-oriented MoS2 film for energy storage, hydrogen catalysis

November 03, 2014

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A new material developed at Rice University based on molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) exposes as much of the edge as possible, making it efficient as both a catalyst for hydrogen production and for energy storage. Courtesy of the Tour Group. Click to enlarge.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s two-dimensional form into a edge-oriented nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage as part of a supercapacitor device.

The versatile chemical compound, classified as a dichalcogenide, is inert along its flat sides; however, previous studies determined the material’s edges are highly efficient catalysts for hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), a process used in fuel cells to pull hydrogen from water. Tour and his colleagues found a cost-effective way to create flexible films of the material that maximize the amount of exposed edge and have potential for a variety of energy-oriented applications. A paper on the research appears in the journal Advanced Materials.

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Toyota working with Brookhaven National Lab on investigation of cathodes for Mg-ion batteries

As noted in a 2012 paper, Toyota researchers are interested in the potential of rechargeable magnesium-ion (Mg-ion) batteries as a possible post-Li-ion solution. (Earlier post.) To probe molecular structures and track the rapid chemical reactions in these promising batteries, Ruigang Zhang, a Toyota Motor Corporation scientist specializing in energy storage technology and his colleagues are working with the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Magnesium is divalent—i.e., it can thereby displace double the charge per ion ( Mg2+ rather than Li+). As those ions move back and forth from electrodes during each charge/discharge cycle, the nanometer structure of the battery material degrades and transforms. The degradation rates and patterns—whether uniform or asymmetrical—must be probed in a variety of conditions to understand the underlying mechanisms. Once pinpointed, scientists can then design new atomic architectures or customized compounds that overcome these obstacles to extend battery lifetimes and optimize performance.

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BMW researchers and colleagues in project ABILE develop optimized ionic-liquid-based electrolyte for efficient Li-air batteries

October 31, 2014

A multinational team including researchers from the BMW Group have optimized an ionic liquid electrolyte for Li-air batteries, which resulted in a stable electrode-electrolyte interface and a highly reversible charge-discharge cycling behavior in a test Li-air coin cell. The charge process (oxygen oxidation reaction) is characterized by a very low overvoltage, enhancing the energy efficiency to 82% (i.e, delivering 82% of the energy used to charge it compared with 60 to 70% for most existing Li-air batteries)—thus addressing one of the most critical issues preventing the practical application of lithium-oxygen batteries, the team noted in their paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters. In addition, the cell showed a charge capacity of 4,000 mAh/g and lasted at least 30 cycles without any deterioration in performance.

The study was financially supported by BMW within the project ABILE (Air Batteries with Ionic Liquid Electrolytes). BMW, together with the scientific teams of La Sapienza - University of Rome, University of Münster and Hanyang University in Seoul, initiated ABILE, which focuses on investigating the use of ionic liquids and alternative anodes as potential components for Li-air and Li-O2 batteries.

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BASF and Toda Kogyo forming a joint venture for Li-ion cathode active materials in Japan

October 30, 2014

BASF and Toda Kogyo have agreed to form a joint venture for Li-ion cathode active materials (CAM) in Japan. Under the terms of the agreement, BASF will acquire a 66% ownership stake in the new venture, with Toda Kogyo Corp. holding a 34% ownership stake. BASF and Toda Kogyo Corp. will combine their respective CAM businesses, intellectual property and production assets in Japan in the joint venture, which will operate under the trade name BASF TODA Battery Materials, LLC. (Earlier post.)

BASF Toda Battery Materials will focus on R&D, production, marketing and sales of a broad range of cathode materials including Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide (NCA), Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO) and Nickel Cobalt Manganese (NCM) in Japan. These materials are used in lithium-ion batteries for the automotive, consumer electronics and stationary storage markets.

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First look at all-new Voltec propulsion system for 2G Volt; “the only thing in common is a shipping cap”

October 29, 2014

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Cutaway of the new power electronics unit, which is much smaller than in gen 1, and which is now integrated into the drive unit housing. The power electronics and the motors use separate cooling: water for the PE and ol for the motor unit. Click to enlarge.

The second-generation Volt, which makes its world debut in about 10 weeks at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, features a clean-sheet, all-new Voltec propulsion system—new battery, new electric drive unit, new power electronics and new range-extending engine. At an introductory media briefing on the new powertrain held at the Warren Transmission Plant in Michigan, where the new drive unit will be built, Larry Nitz, GM Executive Director, Transmission and Electrification, noted that the only common part between the gen 1 and gen 2 drive units was a little yellow plastic intra-plant shipping cap for the manual selector.

The battery cells, with a tweaked NMC/LMO chemistry from LG, increase storage capacity by 20% volumetrically when compared to the original cell. The drive unit features a large number of changes: new roles for the two motors, two clutches instead of three, and a smaller power electronics unit integrated into the housing among them. (No more big orange high-voltage cables underneath the hood.) The new direct-injected 1.5 liter engine with cooled EGR features a high compression ratio and is optimized to function in its range extender role.

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Graphene 3D Lab showing prototype 3D printed battery; potential for structural batteries

October 27, 2014

Graphene 3D Lab Inc., which develops, manufactures, and markets proprietary graphene-based nanocomposite materials for various types of 3D printing, including fused filament fabrication, has developed a 3D printable graphene battery. CEO Daniel Stolyarov, presented the prototype 3D printable graphene battery at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in Santa Clara, CA last week.

Graphene 3D Labs combines graphene nanoplatelets with thermoplastics used in FFF (fused filament fabrication) 3D printing, ultimately resulting in a functionalized 3D printing filament offering electrical conductivity. Currently, the process requires the separate printing of individual components—i.e., cathode, anode, electrolyte. However, a true multi-material 3D printer would enable the printing of the entire battery in one single print, the company notes.

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Maxwell and Corning ally to advance ultracapacitor technology

October 24, 2014

Maxwell Technologies Incorporated and Corning Incorporated have entered a joint development agreement with the goal of advancing the state of capacitive energy storage technology by addressing the challenges frequently cited by ultracapacitor customers, including energy density, lifetime, operating environment, form factor and cost.

The partners suggest that Maxwell’s expertise in ultracapacitor cell design, manufacturing processes and market-leading capacitive energy storage product designs combined with Corning’s expertise in high-performance materials, analytical capabilities and technology innovations should enable the two parties, working in collaboration, to achieve superior product value for customers and end users.

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New KIT process could triple manufacturing speed of electrode foils for Li-ion batteries

October 23, 2014

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Intermittent coating with precise edges: The process developed by KIT allows for the coating of electrode foils at new record speed. (Photo: M. Schmitt/KIT) Click to enlarge.

Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a new manufacturing process for the batch-wise coating of Li-ion battery electrode foils that they say can boost the conventional processing rate by about a factor of three to 100 meters per minute. The team headed by Professor Wilhelm Schabel and Dr. Philip Scharfer of the Thin Film Technology (TFT) group of the KIT Institute of Thermal Process Engineering developed a flexible slot die process that enables production of any pattern with high precision and at high speeds.

So far, a rate of about 25-35 meters per minute has been the industrial state-of-the-art. In its just-released “Roadmap for Battery Production”, the German Engineering Association (VDMA) is targeting reaching a coating speed of 70-100 meters per minute by 2030. (In a recent techno-economic analysis of Li-ion battery manufacturing, a CMU/MIT team used 10 meters per minute as the assumed coating processing rate. Earlier post.)

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CMU/MIT study finds large-scale battery manufacturing will do little to reduce unit costs past a 200-300 MWh annual production level

October 22, 2014

A new techno-economic analysis by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and MIT has found that economies of scale for manufacturing current Li-ion batteries for light-duty EV applications (in this case, prismatic pouch NMC333-G batteries and packs) are reached quickly at around 200-300 MWh annual production. Increased volume beyond that does little to reduce unit costs, except potentially indirectly through factors such as experience, learning, and innovation, they determined.

That’s comparable to the amount of batteries produced for the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt last year,” said CMU’s Dr. Jeremy Michalek, the corresponding author of a paper on the research published in the Journal of Power Sources. “Past this point, higher volume alone won’t do much to cut cost. Battery cost is the single largest economic barrier for mainstream adoption of electric vehicles, and large factories alone aren’t likely to solve the battery cost problem.

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ORNL team finds cubic garnet material a promising solid electrolyte for high-energy aqueous lithium batteries

October 21, 2014

Batteries with an aqueous catholyte and a Li-metal anode (e.g. aqueous Li-air or Li-redox-flow) are of great interest due to their exceptional energy density and high charge/discharge rate. However, long-term operation of such batteries requires that the solid electrolyte separator between the anode and aqueous solutions must be compatible with Li and stable over a wide pH range. No such compound has yet been reported.

Now, in a paper published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, researchers from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory report that a cubic garnet material (Li7La3Zr2O12, or LLZO) is highly stable as a Li-stable solid electrolyte in neutral and strongly basic solutions, and is “a promising candidate for the separator in aqueous lithium batteries.

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Navitas Systems receives $1.55M contract for 2nd-gen 6T Li-ion battery; double energy density, +50% power density

October 20, 2014

Alion Science and Technology Corporation has awarded Navitas Systems LLC a contract worth up to $1.55 million to develop a next-generation lithium ion “6T” battery system for use in military applications, with a focus on ground combat vehicle applications. (Earlier post.)

Currently, there are three companies funded by Alion to develop a first-generation lithium 6T Battery: Navitas Systems, Saft (earlier post), and Eagle Picher. Navitas is the first, and so far the only, company to be awarded an additional contract for the development of a second-generation Li-ion 6T battery. Navitas Systems will leverage the award to enhance the capabilities of its current Ultanium Military 6T Battery by significantly increasing the energy and power density over the current first generation lithium version.

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Lawrence Livermore graphene aerogels could improve performance of carbon-based superconductors by more than 100%

October 18, 2014

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are developing modified graphene aerogels for application in supercapacitor electrodes. LLNL’s graphene aerogel material could potentially improve on the performance of commercial carbon-based supercapacitors by more than 100%, said LLNL’s Dr. Patrick Campbell, lead author of a paper on the technology published in the RSC journal Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

In the paper, the LLNL team reports a 2.9-fold increase in electrical energy storage capacity (up to 23 Wh kg−1) of their graphene materials by modifying them with anthraquinone. These hybrid electrodes demonstrate battery-like energy density, supercapacitor-like power performance, and superb long-term stability, the researchers said.

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Nissan leads with transfer of California ZEV credits out for year ending 30 Sep 2014

October 17, 2014

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Nissan led with California ZEV credit transfers out during the last report period. Click to enlarge.

Between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2014, Nissan transferred out 663.6 ZEV (zero emission vehicle) credits from its balance account, according to the latest report by the California Air Resources Board (ARB)—just edging out Tesla with 650.195 credits. The next closest was Fiat, with 235.2 ZEV credits transferred out; followed by Ford with 38.738.

This latest credit balance report reflects ZEV regulation compliance through model year 2013, representing a total of 3.5 million vehicles including: more than 500 fuel cell vehicles; 38,000 battery electric vehicles; 29,300 neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs); 30,000 plug-in hybrids; 570,000 hybrids; and 3 million gasoline vehicles. As of September 2014, more than 100,000 ZEVs and plug-in hybrids are on California roads.

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MIT/Stanford team refines TREC battery for harvesting low-grade waste heat

In May, researchers at MIT and Stanford University reported the development of new battery technology for the conversion of low-temperature waste heat into electricity in cases where temperature differences are less than 100 ˚Celsius. The thermally regenerative electrochemical cycle (TREC) uses the dependence of electrode potential on temperature to construct a thermodynamic cycle for direct heat-to-electricity conversion. By varying the temperature, an electrochemical cell is charged at a lower voltage than discharged; thus, thermal energy is converted to electricity. (Earlier post.)

Now, in a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the team reports a refinement of the earlier Prussian blue analog-based system system, which although it operated with high efficiency, used an ion-selective membrane which, in turn, raised concerns about the overall cost. The refined system is a membrane-free battery with a nickel hexacyanoferrate (NiHCF) cathode and a silver/silver chloride anode. When the battery is discharged at 15 °C and recharged at 55 °C, thermal-to-electricity conversion efficiencies of 2.6% and 3.5% are achieved with assumed heat recuperation of 50% and 70%, respectively.

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JLU study: oxidation catalyst in Li-O2 battery electrolyte doubles cycle life

October 14, 2014

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Proposed catalytic cycle for the electrochemical charging of Li-O2 cells with TEMPO. Credit: ACS, Bergner et al.Click to enlarge.

One of the major challenges with the realization of commercial Li-air batteries and their promise of ultra-high energy densities is the reduction of the high charge overpotential. The high potential gap leads to a low round-trip efficiency of the cell and causes electrochemical decomposition of other cell constituents. (Earlier post.)

In a new paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society a team from Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (JLU) in Germany reports that adding the oxidation catalyst TEMPO (2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidinyloxyl), homogeneously dissolved in the electrolyte to function as a mobile redox mediator, provides a distinct reduction of the charging potentials by 500 mV. Moreover, adding TEMPO enabled a significant enhancement of the cycling stability leading to a doubling of the cycle life (from 27 to 55).

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USABC reopens 4 RFPIs for development of advanced high-performance batteries for start/stop, 48V HEV, PHEV and EVs

October 10, 2014

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a collaborative organization operated by Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors, has reopened four requests for proposal information (RFPIs) for the development of advanced high-performance batteries for vehicle applications.

The RFPIs will remain active indefinitely to prompt more submissions from individual developers as well as collaborative R&D/supplier teams. Each requires a 50% minimum cost share. USABC seeks proposals the resulting technology from which will have the capability of meeting or approaching its technology targets for commercialization by 2020 for the following applications:

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Stanford’s GCEP awards $10.5M for research on renewable energy; solar cells, batteries, renewable fuels and bioenergy

October 09, 2014

The Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University has awarded $10.5 million for seven research projects designed to advance a broad range of renewable energy technologies, including solar cells, batteries, renewable fuels and bioenergy. The seven awards bring the total number of GCEP-supported research programs to 117 since the project’s launch in 2002.

The new funding will be shared by six Stanford research teams and an international group from the United States and Europe. The following Stanford faculty members received funding for advanced research on photovoltaics, battery technologies and new catalysts for sustainable fuels:

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UNIST team develops improved high power NCA cathode material for Li-ion batteries for EVs and HEVs

October 06, 2014

A team at Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), led by Dr. Jaephil Cho, has developed a new high-power NCA (nickel-cobalt-aluminum) Li-ion cathode material: LiNi0.81Co0.1Al0.09O2. Variations of NCA systems are currently used in some very high profile battery systems: the Tesla-Panasonic cell used in the Tesla Model S and the AESC cell used in the Nissan LEAF, for example.

The new UNIST NCA material exhibits an excellent rate capability of 155 mAh g−1 at 10 C with a cut-off voltage range between 3 and 4.5 V, corresponding to 562 Wh kg−1 at 24 °C. It additionally provides significantly improved thermal stability and electrochemical performance at the high temperature of 60 °C, with a discharge capacity of 122 mAh g−1 after 200 cycles with capacity retention of 59%. A paper on the work is published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

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OSU hybrid “solar battery” uses photo-assisted charging to improve performance of Li-air batteries; “negative overpotential”

October 03, 2014

Researchers at The Ohio State University have developed a novel strategy to improve the efficiency and performance of non-aqueous lithium-oxygen (Li-air) batteries. The team, led by Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, integrated a dye-sensitized photoelectrode into a lithium-oxygen battery along with the oxygen electrode to enable “photo-assisted charging” of the Li-air cell.

The basic concept of the integrated solar battery is to use the contribution of the photovoltage to reduce greatly the charging overpotential caused by the difficulty in efficiently electrochemically decomposing lithium peroxide (Li2O2), the discharge product formed on the oxygen electrode. Overpotential otherwise causes low round-trip efficiency as well as degradation of the oxygen electrode and electrolyte. A paper on their work appears in the journal Nature Communications.

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Hyundai showcasing new downsized turbo engines and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission; i40 48V Hybrid, i30 CNG

October 02, 2014

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New engines and transmission. Click to enlarge.

Hyundai Motor is showcasing two new turbocharged gasoline direct injected (T-GDI) engines at the Paris Motor Show 2014. Both engines—1.0-liter and 1.4-liter units which are part of a new generation of engines from the Kappa family—meet growing demand for small capacity, turbocharged engines to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emission without compromising performance.

In addition, Hyundai is premiering at the Paris show its first 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, fitted into the i30 CNG natural gas concept car, which contributes to improved fuel efficiency. Hyundai is also displaying the diesel i40 48V hybrid concept, featuring a lead-carbon battery.

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CXDI imaging reveals possible way to extend Li-ion battery lifetime, capacity

September 29, 2014

A new method developed for studying battery failures points to a potential next step in extending lithium-ion battery lifetime and capacity. Using a novel X-ray technique—coherent X-ray diffractive imaging (CXDI)—at the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory, researchers have revealed surprising dynamics in the nanomechanics of operating batteries.

Their findings suggest a way to mitigate battery failures by minimizing the generation of elastic energy. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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Li-ion maker Boston-Power launches module system for EV and ESS applications; no-weld integration (updated with graphic)

September 22, 2014

Li-ion battery maker Boston-Power Inc. (earlier post) recently launched its Ensemble Module System; a “kit” of standard components that provides OEMs and pack assemblers with a simple, cost-effective way to assemble large format battery pack solutions for electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage system (ESS) applications. Available in 155 Wh and 116 Wh increments, module designs can be created to meet a wide variety of voltage and capacity requirements.

Key to the Ensemble solution is its novel pressure-connect approach to module assembly which completely eliminates the need for costly and time-consuming cell welding. Fully tested to automotive quality standards, the result is a mechanically robust module that can be assembled and disassembled in a fraction of the time of conventional methods.

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MIT team improves liquid metal batteries for grid-scale storage; lower operating temperature, cost

Researchers at MIT have improved a proposed liquid battery system that could enable renewable energy sources to compete with conventional power plants. Professor Donald Sadoway and colleagues have already started a company, Ambri (initially Liquid Metal Battery Corporation), to produce electrical-grid-scale liquid batteries, which comprise layers of molten material which automatically separate due to their differing densities. (Earlier post.)

In a paper published in the journal Nature, they describe a lithium–antimony–lead liquid metal battery comprising a liquid lithium negative electrode, a molten salt electrolyte, and a liquid antimony–lead alloy positive electrode, which self-segregate by density into three distinct layers owing to the immiscibility of the contiguous salt and metal phases.

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BMW using ams data acquisition IC for battery management system in i3

September 18, 2014

BMW is using the AS8510, an integrated automotive data acquisition front-end integrated circuit (IC) from ams AG, a leading provider of high performance analog ICs and sensors, to provide extremely accurate battery voltage and current measurements in its i3 electric vehicles (EVs).

The BMW i3 model in volume production today includes an AS8510 in the battery sensor. The battery management system (BMS) monitors battery voltage and battery current of the 400V li-ion battery powering the cars’ electric motors, and ensures the functional safety of the vehicle’s battery systems.

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GM researchers develop Li-Sulfur cathode material with improved cycling stability and efficiency

September 17, 2014

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Discharge capacities and Coulombic efficiency vs cycles for the new composite at 0.6C. Capacity values were calculated based on the mass of sulfur. Credit: ACS, Zhou et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from General Motors Global Research & Development Center in Michigan has developed a new double-layered core–shell structure of polymer-coated carbon–sulfur to confine better the sulfur/polysulfides in the electrode of lithium–sulfur (Li/S) batteries and to improve the batteries’ cycling stability and Columbic efficiency.

In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they report a stable capacity of 900 mAh g–1 at 0.2 C after 150 cycles and 630 mAh g–1 at 0.6 C after 600 cycles. They also demonstrated the feasibility of full cells using the sulfur cathodes coupled with silicon film anodes, which exhibited significantly improved cycling stability and efficiency.

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Freescale introduces new Li-ion battery cell controller for 48V systems

September 16, 2014

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Freescale MC 33771 controller addresses the needs of 48V Li-ion battery packs. Click to enlarge.

Some automakers such as Audi (earlier post) are turning to 48V electrical systems as a technical building block for facilitating the integration of new automotive technologies while increasing the power and efficiency of its cars. Freescale Semiconductor has now introduced a highly integrated 14-cell lithium-ion battery cell controller for industrial and automotive applications that cost-effectively addresses the requirements of 48 V Li-ion battery systems.

With fourteen cell balancing transistors, a current sensor with ±0.5% accuracy from milliamps to kiloamps, and 2 Mbps communication transceiver interface integrated into a single 64-pin QFP package, Freescale’s MC33771 battery cell controller and companion MC33664 isolated communications interface deliver robust, reliable performance for 48 V battery systems, and enable economical scalability beyond 1000 volts.

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Study finds rapid charging and draining doesn’t damage lithium-ion electrode as much as thought

September 14, 2014

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X-ray microscope snapshot of nanoparticles in a battery midway through charging. Particles range from fully charged (green) to intermediate charge (orange/yellow) to drained of charge (red) The scalebar equals 500 nm. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) Click to enlarge.

A new study has found that rapid-charging a lithium-ion battery and using it to do high-power, rapidly draining work may not be as damaging as researchers had thought, and that the benefits of slow draining and charging may have been overestimated. The study, led by researchers from Stanford University and the Stanford Institute for Materials & Energy Sciences (SIMES) at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, with colleagues from Sandia National Laboratories, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology America and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is published in Nature Materials.

The results challenge the prevailing view that “supercharging” batteries is always harder on battery electrodes than charging at slower rates. The results also suggest that scientists may be able to modify electrodes or change the way batteries are charged to promote more uniform charging and discharging and extend battery life.

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Anderman report on Tesla’s battery prospects with the Gigafactory

September 12, 2014

In his new “Tesla Battery Report”, Dr. Menahem Anderman, independent battery expert, consultant and head of the Advanced Automotive Batteries conferences and publications, concludes that with the planned Gigafactory (earlier post), now targeted for Nevada, (earlier post), Tesla may succeed in accomplishing what the US Government failed to achieve—i.e., to establish a domestic Li-Ion battery industry.

However, there remain a number of questions and risk factors associated with the project for Tesla, Anderman notes, including profitability, participation of materials suppliers, and macro trends in the market such as demand, the continuation of government subsidies, competitive battery technology and the role played by ZEV credits.

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UK EPSRC awards almost $10M to two low-carbon vehicle technology projects; energy storage, engines and fuels

September 11, 2014

Two new low-carbon vehicle technology research projects will receive £6 million (US$9.7 million) funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Energy Programme. The two discrete projects—ELEVATE (ELEctrochemical Vehicle Advanced Technology) and Ultra Efficient Engines and Fuels—will involve academics from eight UK universities.

The announcement was made by UK Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark to coincide with the annual Low Carbon Vehicle Event - LCV Cenex 2014 at the Millbrook Proving Ground near Bedford.

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Proterra selects Toshiba SCiB cells for next-gen electric bus

September 10, 2014

Proterra Inc. has selected Toshiba as the battery supplier for its next-generation, all-electric bus from Proterra Inc. The new fleet will use Toshiba’s Rechargeable Batteries (SCiB), a safe rechargeable battery solution with high-rate performance and long-life capabilities that is used in a wide range of applications, from EVs to grid energy storage. (Earlier post.)

Featuring a Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO), Toshiba’s SCiB batteries have excellent thermal performance, enabling their high-rate charging capability. The lithium-titanate chemistry contained in SCiB makes the batteries highly resistant to thermal runaway and lithium metal plating, providing exceptional battery safety characteristics.

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Ohio State researchers use neutron depth profiling to track flow of Li atoms into and out of anode in real time

September 09, 2014

Using a neutron beam, chemists and engineers at The Ohio State University have been able to track the flow of lithium atoms into and out of an anode in real time as a Li-ion battery charged and discharged. The study, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, suggests that neutron depth profiling (NDP) could one day help explain why rechargeable batteries lose capacity over time, or sometimes even catch fire.

Ohio State researchers are using the technique to test new, high-capacity electrode materials, including ones containing tin, silicon, germanium and aluminum. These alternative electrodes could be capable of storing nearly three times as much energy as graphite, the material of choice in current lithium-ion batteries. They may also be less prone to overheating.

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Li-ion cell provider XALT Energy partners with Williams Advanced Engineering

September 08, 2014

Williams Advanced Engineering, the engineering services and technology business of the Williams Group, has entered a partnership agreement with XALT Energy, supplier of the lithium-ion cells for the Williams’ battery in the Formula E racing series. This new partnership will also see the two companies collaborate on future projects involving lithium-ion battery technology for a range of applications beyond motorsport.

Williams Advanced Engineering and XALT Energy have worked closely together since June 2013 after Williams was awarded the contract to produce the batteries that will power all 40 cars competing in Formula E, the world’s first fully electric racing series.

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Nevada the site for the Tesla Gigafactory pending legislative approval of incentive package estimated at up to $1.25B over 20 years

September 05, 2014

On Thursday, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Elon Musk, Chairman and CEO of Tesla Motors, confirmed what had been widely leaked the day before: that Nevada and Tesla had reached an agreement—subject to legislative review and approval—that will result in the state being the site for the Tesla Gigafactory. (Earlier post.) Five states had been in contention for the prize.

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, the incentive package assembled by the governor for Tesla is “unprecedented in size and scope for the state of Nevada” and is one of the largest in the country. The overall value of the package to Tesla is estimated to be $1.25 billion over 20 years.

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Lux: Tesla likely to miss 2020 vehicle target by >50%; Gigafactory to bring only modest reduction in costs, >50% overcapacity

September 03, 2014

Lux Research forecasts that Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory—the announced new 35 GWh lithium-ion cell production facility that is the target of hot competition between five states (earlier post)—will bring about only a modest reduction in Li-ion battery costs and create significant overcapacity, given likely Tesla EV sales in 2020 of less than half of the company’s targeted 500,000.

Tesla and its partner, Panasonic, will contribute about 45% and 35%, respectively, of the initial $4 billion required to build the Gigafactory, proposed to go on-stream in 2017. Lux Research’s new report—“The Tesla-Panasonic Battery Gigafactory: Analysis of Li-ion Cost Trends, EV Price Reduction, and Capacity Utilization”—projects sales of some 240,000 Tesla cars in 2020, leading to razor-thin margins to Panasonic and 57% overcapacity.

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High-capacity, long-life Li-S cathodes using ordered meso-microporous core-shell carbon

September 02, 2014

A team at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (China) has developed an ordered meso-microporous core–shell carbon (MMCS) as a sulfur container, which combines the advantages of both mesoporous and microporous carbon for use in high-capacity, long-life cathodes for Lithium-sulfur batteries.

This strategy, they suggest in a paper in the journal ACS Nano, can inspire some other related novel materials with multilayers and hierarchical porous structures, which have great potential applications not only in energy conversion and storage but also in catalysis, adsorption, separation, drug delivery, sensors, and so on.

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Study suggests OEMs should use a modular design for PHEV and EREV vehicle battery packs to offer capacity choices to customers

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TCO in € cents/km of EREV as a function of battery size for users with different annual mileages. Redelbach et al. Click to enlarge.

Car manufacturers should develop a modular design for plug-in hybrid and extended range electric vehicles (PHEVs and EREVs), allowing them to offer a choice of storage capacity to meet individual customer requirements rather than forcing a “one size fits all” approach, according to the results of a German-market-specific TCO study by a team from the Institute of Vehicle Concepts, German Aerospace Center (DLR).

The authors of the study, published in the journal Energy Policy, stress that they are not suggesting OEMs offer each customer an individual battery size, but rather than they offer, as an example, three different battery sizes dedicated to drivers with low, average and high mileage. The development of a modular design for battery packs could help OEMs to change the size with less effort and few implications on the rest of the vehicle, they suggested. (This is analogous to the approach taken by Tesla Motors with its two—originally three—pack capacity sizes offered in the Model S.)

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ORNL team tailors the structure of carbon black from waste tires to create higher performance carbon anode material for Li-ion batteries

August 28, 2014

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have tailored the microstructural characteristics of carbon black recovered from discarded tires to produce a higher performance, low-cost carbon anode material for Li-ion batteries.

Electrochemical studies reported in their paper published in the journal RSC Advances showed that the recovered-carbon-based anode had a a reversible capacity of nearly 390 mAh/g of carbon anode after 100 cycles—exceeding the best properties of commercial graphite. Researchers attribute this to the unique microstructure of the tire-derived carbon. Anodes made with the sulfonated tire-rubber-derived carbon and a control tire-rubber-derived carbon exhibited an initial coulombic efficiency of 71% and 45%, respectively.

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Rice University team develops new nanocomposite material for Li-sulfur battery cathode with high cycling stability

August 26, 2014

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Schematic illustration of the synthesis of SPGs. Credit: ACS, Li et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Rice University led by Dr. James Tour have developed a hierarchical nanocomposite material of graphene nanoribbons combined with polyaniline and sulfur (Sulfur-PANI-GNRs, SPG) using an inexpensive, simple method. The composite shows good rate performance and excellent cycling stability for use as a cathode material in Lithium-sulfur batteries.

As reported in an an open access paper in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, the stable reversible specific discharge capacity was 567 mAh/g at the 26th with only a 9% decay in the following 374 cycles, at the rate of 0.4 C.

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More work reported on approaches to stabilizing lithium metal anodes for high energy rechargeable batteries

August 25, 2014

Metallic lithium, with a high theoretical capacity of ~3,860 mAh g-1, is one of the most promising materials for anodes in next-generation high energy rechargeable battery systems for long-range electric vehicles. (Earlier post.) Indeed, in a paper in ACS’ Chemical Reviews, Arumugam Manthiram et al. from the University of Texas suggest that “it is reasonable to comment that the success of Li−S batteries requires a reliable lithium metal anode.

A reliable and stable lithium metal anode is extremely challenging, however; low cycle efficiency and lithium dendrite formation during charge/discharge processes consistently hinder its practical application in addition to raising safety issues. Accordingly, widespread effort is focused on devising solutions to the problem, tackling either the anode material itself, or the electrolyte, or both. The widely reported advance by Stanford researchers (earlier post) is but one of a number of such efforts underway (e.g., earlier post, earlier post, earlier post.)

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DOE awards $17M for vehicle technologies; batteries, PEEM, engines, materials, fuel

August 21, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $17.6 million in 14 cooperative agreements with small businesses and institutions of higher education to develop and to deploy efficient and environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that will help reduce petroleum use in the United States. The awards made under an Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000988) issued in January. (Earlier post.)

The newly selected projects are in five areas: energy storage; power electronics and electric motors (PEEM); advanced combustion engines; materials technologies, and fuels and lubricant technologies. Awardees are:

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MIT team proposes process to recycle lead-acid batteries to fabricate solar cells

August 18, 2014

Researchers at MIT have devised an environmentally-responsible process to recycle materials from discarded automotive lead-acid batteries to fabricate efficient organolead halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs)—a promising new large-scale and cost-competitive photovoltaic technology. The process simultaneously avoids the disposal of toxic battery materials and provide alternative, readily-available lead sources for PSCs.

The system is described in a paper in the RSC journal Energy and Environmental Science, co-authored by professors Angela M. Belcher and Paula T. Hammond, graduate student Po-Yen Chen, and three others.

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ORNL researcher suggests that most consumers better off with <100-mile EV range until battery costs drop to $100/kWh

Until battery cost is cut down to $100/kWh, the majority of US consumers for battery electric vehicles (BEV) will be better off by choosing an electric vehicle with a range below 100 miles, according to a new study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researcher Zhenhong Lin.

The research, published in Transportation Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), suggests reconsideration of the R&D goal that battery electric vehicles should have a driving range similar to that of conventional vehicles. It also implies that the focus of policy and R&D should be on continued reduction of battery costs to make short-range BEVs more price-competitive.

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U. Alberta team developing new high power and energy lithium-carbon battery system using induced fluorination; dual storage mechanism

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Ragone plot, comparing Li-CNT-F batteries with other batteries in terms of weight of cathode materials. The highest energy density for Li-CNT-F batteries, 4,113 Wh kgcarbon−1 is presented as a red star. Cui et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Alberta are developing, and, via their spin-out AdvEn Solutions working to commercialize, a new high power- and -energy density battery system: lithium-carbon-fluorine (Li-C-F). Their system is based on a lithium-carbon battery configuration, but with a different approach.

In a paper in Nature’s open access journal Scientific Reports, the team reported that a rechargeable Li-C-F battery (in this case, a Li-CNT-F battery given their use of carbon nanotubes) demonstrated a maximum discharging capacity of 2174 mAh gcarbon−1 and a specific energy of 4113 Wh kgcarbon−1 with good cycling performance.

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DOE to award more than $55M to 31 projects for plug-in and efficient vehicle technologies; Delphi receives $10M to further GDCI

August 14, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding more than $55 million to 31 new projects to accelerate research and development of vehicle technologies that will improve fuel efficiency and reduce costs under a program-wide funding opportunity announced in January. (DE-FOA-0000991, earlier post.) These new projects are aimed at meeting the goals and objectives of the President’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge (19 projects), as well as improvements in other vehicle technologies such as powertrains, fuel, tires and auxiliary systems (12 projects).

The largest single award ($10 million) goes to Delphi Automotive Systems to further the development of its Gasoline Direct-Injection Compression Ignition (GDCI) low-temperature combustion technology (earlier post) that provides high thermal efficiency with low NOx and PM emissions. The largest number of awards (9) in a single area of interest goes to developing beyond Li-ion battery technologies.

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Cornell researchers stabilize lithium metal anodes using halide salt in liquid electrolyte

A team at Cornell University led by Dr. Lynden Archer has used simple liquid electrolytes reinforced with halogenated salt blends to stabilize lithium metal anodes in a rechargeable battery. The cells exhibit stable long-term cycling at room temperature over hundreds of cycles of charge and discharge and thousands of operating hours.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Materials, they report that the addition of the salts to the electrolyte spontaneously creates nanostructured surface coatings on the lithium anode thats hinder the development of detrimental dendritic structures that grow within the battery cell. The discovery offers a potential pathway for the use of lithium metal anodes, which are enablers for cost-effective, higher-energy density systems such as Li-sulfur. (Earlier post, earlier post.)

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NASA selects proposals for advanced energy storage systems for future space missions: silicon-anode Li-ion and Li-S

August 08, 2014

NASA has selected four proposals for advanced Li-ion and Li-sulfur energy storage technologies that may be used to power the agency’s future space missions.

Development of these new energy storage devices will help enable NASA’s future robotic and human-exploration missions and aligns with conclusions presented in the National Research Council’s “NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities,” which calls for improved energy generation and storage “with reliable power systems that can survive the wide range of environments unique to NASA missions.” NASA believes these awards will lead to such energy breakthroughs.

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EV-Lite project closes with new EV battery design; lower weight, lower cost

August 07, 2014

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Click to enlarge.

Cenex, the UK-based not-for-profit consultancy focused on low carbon vehicles and associated energy infrastructure, announced the successful completion of the two-year project Sustainable Lightweight Low Cost Battery Systems for Extended Life Cycles (EV-Lite). (Earlier post.) The project was co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board. The project consortium comprises the Manufacturing Technology Centre; Unipart Manufacturing; Electrovaya; RDVS; CRR; Bluebird Innovation Group; Loughborough University; and Cenex.

The project realized a 41% reduction in weight and a 63% reduction in cost of the non-cell components. This translates to a saving of 45 kg (99 lbs) at the battery pack level. The ultimate aim of the project is to enable volume manufacturing for electric vehicle battery packs in the UK through innovative design and, in doing so, help bring electrical vehicles to the mass market.

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Supercapacitors of nanocrystalline MOFs outperform activated carbon and graphene

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The construct for nMOF Supercapacitors. Credit: ACS, Choi et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at UC Berkeley led by Dr. Omar Yaghi and at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology led by Dr. Jeung Ku Kang have shown that metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) made as nanocrystals (nMOFs) can be doped with graphene and successfully incorporated into devices to function as supercapacitors.

In a paper in the journal ACS Nano, the team reported that, among a series of 23 different nMOFs they synthesized, a zirconium MOF (nMOF-867) exhibited exceptionally high capacitance. It has stack and areal capacitance of 0.64 and 5.09 mF cm–2—26 times that of the lowest performing member of the series and about 6 times that of the supercapacitors made from the benchmark commercial activated carbon materials. Performance was preserved over at least 10,000 charge/discharge cycles.

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BNL team uses hard x-ray microscopy to provide insight into why fast charging inhibits LiFePO4 performance

August 05, 2014

With a new approach using hard x-ray microscopy to track the electrochemical reactions in a lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) material under operating conditions (in operando), scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have provided new insight into why fast charging inhibits this material’s performance. Hard X-ray microscopy offers nanoscale resolution and deep penetration of the material, and takes advantage of elemental and chemical sensitivities.

The study also provides the first direct experimental evidence to support a particular model of the electrochemical reaction. The results, published in Nature Communications, could provide guidance to inform battery makers’ efforts to optimize materials for faster-charging batteries with higher capacity.

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Stanford team reports 3D electrode structure addressing major limiting characteristics of sulfur cathodes for Li-S batteries

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Rate performance of the composite cathode at different C rates ranging from 0.05C to 1C. Credit: ACS, Liang et al.Click to enlarge.

A team at Stanford University led by Prof. Yi Cui recently reported in a paper in the journal ACS Nano the development of a three-dimensional (3D) electrode structure for Li-sulfur batteries that simultaneously achieves both sulfur physical encapsulation and polysulfides binding. The composite electrode is based on hydrogen-reduced TiO2 with an inverse opal structure that is highly conductive and robust toward electrochemical cycling.

With such a TiO2-encapsulated sulfur structure, the sulfur cathode can deliver a high specific capacity of 1100 mAh/g in the beginning, with a reversible capacity of 890 mAh/g after 200 cycles of charge/discharge at a C/5 rate. Coulombic efficiency was also maintained at around 99.5% during cycling. The researchers suggested that their results showed that the inverse opal structure of hydrogen-reduced TiO2 represents an effective strategy in improving the performance of lithium sulfur batteries.

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CD-adapco completes CAEBAT project for Li-ion battery simulation tools; combined flow, thermal and electrochemical

August 04, 2014

CD-adapco announced the successful completion of a project to develop advanced Li-ion battery stimulation tools to enable faster design and development of advanced electric drive vehicle power systems. This project, which began in August 2011, was co-funded by the US DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office, and was part of the competitive Computer Aided Engineering of electric drive Batteries (CAEBAT) activity launched by DOE in 2010. (Earlier post.)

The methods developed within this program are now available within CD-adapco’s flagship software package STAR-CCM+ (earlier post) and also in the application-specific Battery Design Studio. These solutions combine flow, thermal and electrochemical simulation.

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New liquid alloy electrode significantly lowers operating temperature of sodium-beta batteries; improved performance

August 01, 2014

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have devised an alloying strategy that enables sodium-beta batteries to operate at significantly lower temperatures. The new electrode enables sodium-beta batteries to last longer, helps streamline their manufacturing process and reduces the risk of accidental fire. A paper on the work is published in Nature Communications.

The traditional design of sodium-beta batteries consists of two electrodes separated by a solid membrane made of the ceramic material beta alumina. There are two main types of sodium-beta batteries, based on the materials used for the positive electrode: those that use sulfur are called sodium-sulfur batteries, while those that use nickel chloride are known as ZEBRA batteries. Electricity is generated when electrons flow between the battery’s electrodes.

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China team reports high-rate, high-capacity, long lifecycle Li-sulfur cell using nitrogen-doped graphene cathode material

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Top. Long-term cycling performance test of the S@NG electrode at 2 C discharge/charge rate. Inset is its corresponding Coulombic efficiency at 2 C. Bottom. The corresponding voltage-capacity profiles at different cycles. Credit: ACS, Qiu et al.Click to enlarge.

Researchers in China, with colleagues from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, have synthesized an additive-free nanocomposite cathode in which sulfur nanoparticles are wrapped inside nitrogen-doped graphene sheets (S@NG). Used as a cathode material for a Li-sulfur battery, the Li/S@NG can deliver high specific discharge capacities at high rates: 1167 mAh g–1 at 0.2 C; 1058 mAh g–1 at 0.5 C; 971 mAh g–1 at 1 C; 802 mAh g–1 at 2 C; and 606 mAh g–1 at 5 C.

The cells also exhibited an ultralong cycle life exceeding 2000 cycles and an extremely low capacity-decay rate (0.028% per cycle)—among the best performance demonstrated so far for Li/S cells, according to the researchers. Furthermore, the S@NG cathode can be cycled with an excellent Coulombic efficiency of above 97% after 2000 cycles.

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Panasonic and Tesla sign Gigafactory agreement

July 31, 2014

Panasonic Corporation and Tesla Motors, Inc. signed an agreement that lays out their cooperation on the construction of a large-scale battery manufacturing plant in the United States (the specific location yet to be announced) known as the Gigafactory. (Earlier post.) During Tesla’s Q4 earnings call in February, Tesla CEO Elon Musk had noted that because Panasonic is Tesla’s primary partner on battery production, the “default assumption” was that Panasonic would continue to partner with Tesla in the Gigafactory.

According to the agreement, Tesla will prepare, provide and manage the land, buildings and utilities. Panasonic will manufacture and supply cylindrical lithium-ion cells and invest in the associated equipment, machinery, and other manufacturing tools based on their mutual approval. A network of supplier partners is planned to produce the required precursor materials. Tesla will take the cells and other components to assemble battery modules and packs.

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PNNL team develops hybrid Mg-Li battery; excellent rate performance, safety and stability

July 30, 2014

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Schematic illustration of the the hybrid Mg-Li battery designed in this work. This battery has a piece of Mg foil as the anode, Mo6S8 as the cathode, and the electrolyte contains both Mg2+ and Li+. Cheng et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have devised hybrid batteries assembled with a magnesium (Mg) metal anode; a Li+ ion intercalation cathode (Mo6S8), and a dual-salt electrolyte containing Mg2+ and Li+ ions. The objective was to combine the advantages of lithium and magnesium electrochemistries.

In a paper in the RSC journal Chemical Communications, they reported that such hybrid batteries delivered strong rate performance (105 mAh g-1 at 15 C) and superior cycling stability (B5% capacity drop for 3000 cycles at 10 C), along with reasonable output voltages. The researchers suggested that the inherent safety and stability features of such devices make them very promising for many applications, especially for large-scale static energy storage.

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Stanford team reports progress toward stable Li-metal anode for high-energy-density batteries

July 28, 2014

Dr. Yi Cui and colleagues at Stanford University—including Dr. Steven Chu, Nobel Laureate and the former Secretary of Energy, now a professor in the Physics department at Stanford—report progress toward a stable lithium metal anode for use in high-energy-density batteries such as Li-sulfur or Li-air systems.

Lithium metal is a very promising anode material for rechargeable batteries due to its theoretical high capacity (3,860 mAh g−1—i.e., ~10x that of the 372 mAh g−1 of graphite anodes in Li-ion batteries), but it fails to meet cycle life and safety requirements due to electrolyte decomposition and dendrite formation on the surfaces of the lithium metal anodes during cycling. Thus, numerous efforts are being made to develop a safe, extended cycling lithium-metal electrode and/or supporting electrolyte (Earlier post, earlier post.)

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U Tokyo team proposes new high-capacity rechargeable battery system based on oxide-peroxide redox reaction

July 27, 2014

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(a) Charge and discharge voltage curves in repeated charge/discharge cycles at 45 mA g−1. (b) Charge and discharge voltage curves at various current densities (13.5–1080 mA g−1). Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo, led by Dr. Noritaka Mizuno (“oxygen rocking”, earlier post), in collaboration with Nippon Shokubai Co., Ltd. are proposing a new sealed rechargeable battery system operating on a redox reaction between an oxide (O2-) and a peroxide (O22-) in the cathode. As described in a paper in the Nature open access journal Scientific Reports, the proposed battery system would have a theoretical specific energy of 2,570 Wh kg-1 (897 mAh g-1, 2.87 V)—about on par with Li-sulfur’s very high theoretical energy density of ~2,600 Wh kg-1 (based on lithium-sulfur redox couple, e.g., earlier post).

The team showed that a cobalt-doped Li2O cathode exhibited a reversible capacity above 190 mAh g-1, a high rate capability, and good cyclability with a superconcentrated lithium bis(fluorosulfonyl)amide electrolyte in acetonitrile. The present specific capacity of the Co-doped Li2O cathode is lower than its theoretical capacity of 556 mAh g−1 (based on the weight of Li2O in the Co-doped Li2O).

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Kyoto team develops new cathode material for high-energy-density rechargeable magnesium batteries

July 25, 2014

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Charge–discharge profiles of ion-exchanged MgFeSiO4. Three-electrode cells using Mg metal counter electrode and silver reference electrode were used. Electrolyte was 0.5 M magnesium (trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide (Mg(TFSI)2) in acetonitrile (solvent). Measurement temperature was 55°C. Current density was 6.62 mA·g−1 (MgFeSiO4). Orikasa et al. Click to enlarge.

A team of researchers from Kyoto University has demonstrated ion-exchanged MgFeSiO4 as a feasible cathode material for use in high-energy-density rechargeable magnesium batteries. A paper on their work is published in the Nature open access journal Scientific Reports.

The ion-exchanged MgFeSiO4 cathode materials provide a capacity of more than 300 mAh·g−1 at an average potential of 2.4 V vs. Mg2+/Mg, with good retention upon cycling. Batteries using a combination of ion-exchanged MgFeSiO4 and a magnesium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide–triglyme electrolyte system represent a prototype for a low-cost, high-energy-density rechargeable magnesium battery in which no toxic or explosive components are used, the researchers concluded.

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Optimized Li-ion battery with LiFePO4 cathode and graphene nanoflake anode

July 24, 2014

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Schematic of graphene/lithium iron phosphate battery. Credit: ACS, Hassoun et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in Italy have developed an advanced lithium-ion battery based on a graphene nanoflake ink anode and a lithium iron phosphate cathode. By balancing the cell composition and suppressing the initial irreversible capacity of the anode in the round of few cycles, they reported an optimal specific capacity of 165 mAhg–1, of an estimated energy density of about 190 Wh kg–1 and a stable operation for more than 80 charge–discharge cycles.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they observed that—to the the best of their knowledge—complete, graphene-based, lithium-ion batteries having comparable performances are rarely reported. They suggested that their results disclosed might open up new opportunities for exploiting graphene in lithium-ion battery science and development.

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ABB and Volvo Buses partnering on fast-charging system for hybrid and electric buses

July 22, 2014

ABB and Volvo Buses are partnering to co-develop and to commercialize electric and hybrid buses with open standards-based direct current (DC) fast charging systems. The cooperation will create a city-wide standardized charging system for electric and electric hybrid buses that can charge buses quickly through an automatic roof-top connection system at bus stops or through cabled charging systems overnight.

This approach, based on internationally accepted standards (EN61851-23), enables maximum re-use of existing e-mobility technologies, thereby ensuring a rapid deployment of urban e-mobility. The first joint project will be the implementation of Volvo Electric Hybrids and ABB’s automatic e-bus chargers in the Luxembourg public transport system, where as many as 12 Volvo Electric Hybrid buses operated by Sales-Lentz will be running on existing lines by 2015.

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USABC awards $7.7M contract to Envia Systems for advanced EV battery development; layered-layered cathode, Si-based anode

July 21, 2014

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a collaborative organization operated by Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors, has awarded a $7.7-million advanced battery technology development contract for electric vehicle applications to Envia Systems. The competitively bid contract award is co-funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and includes a 50% Envia Systems cost-share.

The 36-month, lithium-ion layered-layered cathode/silicon-based anode program will focus on the development of high-energy cathode and anode material appropriate for vehicle applications and the development and scale up of pouch cells that exhibit performance metrics that exceed the minimum USABC targets for electric vehicles.

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CALEB and CalBattery to combine their Li-ion battery materials in new line-up; 2nd gen to use SiGr anode, targeting EVs

CALEB Technology and California Lithium Battery (CalBattery)—both based in California—signed an MOU to establish a joint venture to produce a new line of safe, high performance lithium ion batteries for consumer electronic devices, power tools, and electric vehicles (EVs). The new line of advanced LIBs will initially be made in the Los Angeles area starting in 2016.

The JV will combine the best LIB materials developed by both Calbattery and CALEB over the past 5 years. The first Calbattery/CALEB LIB will utilize novel high-voltage lithium cobalt oxide cathode, high voltage dual-phase electrolyte, and conventional anode materials that can be used for power tools, laptops, and cell phones.

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Driving the VW e-Golf; strategy, assembly in Wolfsburg, Braunschweig battery plant

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The e-Golf. Click to enlarge.

The e-Golf (“Das e-Auto” earlier post), the Volkswagen brand’s second series production battery-electric vehicle after the e-up!, is a key model, as it is the best and most current implementation of its strategic decision to begin providing e-mobility based on large-scale production models rather than special “small niche” cars. The Golf is core to Volkswagen; the company has sold more than 30 million units worldwide since the first introduction in 1974. The e-Golf is based on current 7th generation Golf, itself based on the strategic MQB toolkit.

Put another way, Volkswagen’s goal, based on its strategic approach, is for the e-Golf to deliver the performance and handling of a Golf which happens to have a battery-electric powertrain. Based on a second, and slightly longer, chance to drive the new e-Golf unsupervised, we think Volkswagen has succeeded splendidly in this goal; we find the e-Golf to be a nimble and quiet electric delight.

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New process for nanocomposite silicon-based powders for high-capacity Li-ion anodes

July 15, 2014

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Capacity change with number of cycles for PS-PVD powders with different C/Si ratios. The battery was charged at a constant current of 0.1 mA for the first three cycles and at 0.5 mA for the rest of the cycles. Homma et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed an approach which potentially has industrially compatible high throughputs to produce nano-sized composite silicon-based powders as a strong candidate for the anode of next-generation high density lithium ion batteries. The powders are fundamentally an aggregate of primary ∼20 nm particles, which are composed of a crystalline Si core and SiOx shell structure.

In an open access paper published in the journal Science and Technology of Advanced Materials, they report that half-cell batteries made with their nanocomposite Si/SiOx powders exhibited improved initial efficiency and maintenance of capacity as high as 1000 mAh g−1 after 100 cycles.

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BMW Group and Samsung SDI expand partnership on electric drive batteries; i3, i8 and additional hybrid models

The BMW Group and Samsung SDI have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to expand their supply relationship for battery cells for electro-mobility. Samsung SDI will supply the BMW Group with battery cells for the BMW i3, BMW i8 and additional hybrid models over the coming years.

The most important elements of the agreement are the increase in quantities delivered over the medium-term in response to growing demand for electro-mobility, and further technological development of battery cells.

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High capacity, long-life porous nano-silicon Li-ion anode material from beach sand

July 09, 2014

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have synthesized a porous nano-silicon material from beach sand (SiO2) via a highly scalable heat scavenger-assisted magnesiothermic—i.e., using a combination of heat and magnesium—reduction. The addition of NaCl as a heat scavenger for the highly exothermic magnesium reduction process promotes the formation of an interconnected 3D network of nano-silicon with a thickness of 8-10 nm.

Coated with carbon, the nano-silicon electrodes achieve high electrochemical performance with a capacity of 1024 mAhg−1 at 2 Ag−1 after 1,000 cycles. A paper on their work is published in the Nature open access journal Scientific Reports.

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PNNL silicon sponge delivers high capacity with long cycle life as Li-ion anode material

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The porous, sponge-like nanomaterial made of silicon. Source: PNNL. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), with colleagues at UC San Diego, have developed a “mesoporous silicon sponge” material that, when applied as an anode in a lithium-ion battery, can deliver capacity of up to ~750 mAh g−1 based on the total electrode weight with more than 80% capacity retention over 1,000 cycles.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, they also report that the first cycle irreversible capacity loss of the pre-lithiated electrode is less than 5%. Bulk electrodes with an area-specific-capacity of ~1.5 mAh cm−2 and ~92% capacity retention over 300 cycles were also demonstrated.

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Researchers use bacterial biogeneous iron oxide particles as anode material for Li-ion batteries

July 07, 2014

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Left. High-magnification SEM images of L- BIOX. Right. Discharge−charge curves at 33.3 mA/g (0.05 C) between 0.5 and 3.0 V. Insets show the cycle-life performance. Credit: ACS, Hashimoto et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in Japan report in a paper in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces that amorphous Fe3+-based oxide nanoparticles produced by Leptothrix ochracea, an aquatic bacteria living worldwide, show a potential as an Fe3+/Fe0 conversion anode material for lithium-ion batteries. The presence of minor components of silicon (Si) and phosphorous (P), in the original nanoparticles leads to a specific electrode architecture with Fe-based electrochemical centers embedded in a Si, P-based amorphous matrix.

They reported relatively high capacity and good cyclability were found for L-BIOX (L. ochracea’s biogeneous iron oxide), which was used as produced, by simple washing and drying steps. After an “unreasonably high capacity” for the first discharge of ~1500 mAh/g (which they attributed to an extrinsic phenomenon resulting from the formation of the solid−electrolyte interface), the material settled down to reduced yet still high reversible capacity of ~ 900 mAh/g for the second and subsequent cycles.

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USC team develops novel organic redox flow battery for large-scale energy storage

June 27, 2014

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Schematic of ORBAT. Click to enlarge.

Scientists at USC have developed a novel water-based Organic Redox Flow Battery (ORBAT) for lower cost, long lasting large-scale energy storage. An open access paper on their work is published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

ORBAT employs two different water-soluble organic redox couples on the positive and negative side of a flow battery. Redox couples such as quinones are particularly attractive for this application, the researchers said. (Quinones are oxidized derivatives of aromatic compounds.) No precious metal catalyst is needed because of the fast proton-coupled electron transfer processes. Furthermore, in acid media, the quinones exhibit good chemical stability. These properties render quinone-based redox couples very attractive for high-efficiency metal-free rechargeable batteries, they found.

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DOE awards $100M in 2nd funding round for 32 Energy Frontier Research Centers

June 24, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $100 million in the second round of funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs); research supported by this initiative will enable fundamental advances in energy production, storage, and use.

The 32 projects receiving funding were competitively selected from more than 200 proposals. Ten of these projects are new while the rest received renewed funding based both on their achievements to date and the quality of their proposals for future research.

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6 DOE-funded applied battery research projects targeting Li-ion cells with >200 Wh/kg for PHEVs and EVs

June 19, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has six recently launched applied battery research (ABR) projects as part of its Vehicle Technologies portfolio. ABR, noted Peter Faguy, the DOE manager of the applied battery research program, during his presentation at the Annual Merit Review in Washington, DC, is the difficult regime between the discovery of materials and their application in batteries that can be commercialized.

The objective of the projects is to develop cells that provide more than 200 Wh/kg energy density, along with long cycle life and excellent abuse tolerance to enable 40-mile-range plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric vehicles (EVs). One common attribute of all the projects is the use of some form of silicon-based material for the anode. The projects end in 2015.

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A123 Systems acquires lithium titanate and Li-imide electrolyte technology from Leyden Energy; micro-hybrid focus

June 16, 2014

A123 Systems LLC, a developer and manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion batteries and systems, has acquired Leyden Energy’s intellectual property in battery materials covering lithium titanate (LTO) and non-flammable electrolyte (Li-imide) developments for an undisclosed amount. As a part of the deal, key technical staff of Leyden Energy have also agreed to join A123 Systems’ R&D organization.

Leyden is the recent recipient of significant development funding from United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), an organization whose members include Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors. (Earlier post.) Under that program, Leyden achieved progress on development of its technology for micro-hybrid (i.e., start-stop vehicles, SSVs) applications in the automotive market. In particular, the inherent LTO properties of long cycle life and exceptional power capability were extended to operate over a substantially wider temperature range.

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Team TAISAN and Power Japan Plus form partnership to develop electric go-kart powered by Ryden Dual Carbon Battery

Racing group Team TAISAN and materials engineer Power Japan Plus—a company that is commercializing a dual carbon battery technology (earlier post)—have formed a partnership to develop an electric racing vehicle, which will be the first to use the Ryden dual carbon battery.

Under this partnership, Power Japan Plus will provide Ryden cells and Team TAISAN will leverage its international racing experience to optimize the battery and develop a battery pack and management circuit. A go-kart powered by the Ryden dual carbon battery will begin test driving August of this year.

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Elastic wire-shaped lithium-ion batteries with high electrochemical performance

June 13, 2014

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Structure of the flexible wire-shaped lithium-ion battery. The aligned MWCNT/LTO and MWCNT/LMO composite yarns are paired as the anode and cathode, respectively. Ren et al. Click to enlarge.

A team led by Huisheng Peng from Fudan University in Shanghai has developed a stretchable wire-shaped lithium-ion battery produced from two aligned multi-walled carbon nanotube/lithium oxide composite yarns as the anode and cathode without extra current collectors and binders. As the researchers report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, they were able to weave their batteries into light, flexible, elastic, and safe textile batteries with a high energy density.

The two composite yarns can be well paired to obtain a safe battery with energy densities of 27 Wh kg−1 or 17.7 mWh cm−3 and power densities of 880 W kg−1 or 0.56 W cm−3, which are an order of magnitude higher than the densities reported for lithium thin-film batteries. These wire-shaped batteries are flexible and light, and 97% of their capacity was maintained after 1,000 bending cycles.

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Toyota working on all-solid-state batteries as mid-term advanced battery solution; prototype cell with 400 Wh/L

June 12, 2014

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Ragone plot showing various types of secondary batteries. An internal combustion engine and Toyota’s targeted “Sakichi battery” are added for reference. Toyota reports that it has developed prototype cells of all-solid-state batteries and Li-air batteries with energy densities of 400 Wh/L and 1000 Wh/L, respectively. Source: Iba and Yada 2014. Click to enlarge.

Toyota Motor, like many automakers and suppliers, is pursuing the development of Li-air batteries as a very high energy density technology that would enable battery-powered vehicles with a much greater range. In an invited presentation at the 17th International Meeting on Lithium Batteries (IMLB 2014) in Como, Italy, Dr. Hideki Iba from Toyota’s Battery Research Division and Dr. Chihiro Yada from Toyota Motor Europe’s Advanced Technology group noted that Li-air batteries—assuming the attendant issues are resolved—may not be commercialized until FY 2030.

Concurrent with its work on Li-air, Toyota is also pursuing the development of all-solid-state batteries, and has already developed prototype cells with an energy density of 400 Wh/L. These, the Toyota researchers noted (again, assuming development challenges are overcome), could be commercialized by FY 2020 and see subsequent substantial improvement by FY 2025. (Earlier post.)

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New DuraBlue ultracaps from Maxwell increase shock and vibration tolerance, energy and power capacity

June 11, 2014

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DuraBlue cell. Click to enlarge.

Maxwell Technologies, Inc. has introduced its new DuraBlue Shock and Vibration Technology with the latest addition to its K2 series of ultracapacitor cells. The new 2.85-volt, 3400-farad DuraBlue ultracapacitor cell increases the range of available specific power by 17% and stored energy by 23% in the industry-standard 60 mm cylindrical “K2” form factor. The new cells offer up to 1,000,000 duty cycles, with up to 18 kW/kg of specific power and up to 4.00 Wh of stored energy. The cells offer threaded terminals or laser-weldable posts.

The DuraBlue cell also increases vibrational resistance by approximately 300% and shock immunity by 400% when compared to ultracapacitor-based competitive offerings. This enhanced shock and vibration tolerance is particularly important in the transportation market—especially mass transit—and in developing markets in which the road infrastructure might not be quite as smooth as in more developed ones, noted Chad McDonald, director of product marketing.

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MIT team reveals inner workings of LiFePO4 cathodes in Li-on batteries; direct observation of predicted SSZ

June 09, 2014

New observations by researchers at MIT have revealed the inner workings of a lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) cathode—a material widely used in lithium-ion batteries. The new findings, published in a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, explain the unexpectedly high power and long cycle life of such batteries, the researchers say.

The MIT researchers found that inside this electrode during charging, a solid-solution zone (SSZ) forms at the boundary between lithium-rich and lithium-depleted areas—the region where charging activity is concentrated, as lithium ions are pulled out of the electrode. Professor Ju Li, one of the authors, noted that the SSZ “has been theoretically predicted to exist, but we see it directly for the first time” in transmission electron microscope (TEM) videos taken during charging.

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Sulfur/carbon nanotube composite for high performance Li-Sulfur cathode material

June 07, 2014

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Left. Rate performance of the S-SACNT cathode. Inset is a photograph of the binder-free nano S-SACNT composite. Right. Cartoon of the S-SACNT composite. Credit: ACS, Sun et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Tsinghua University have developed another approach to high-capacity cathode materials for Lithium-sulfur batteries: a binder-free nano sulfur/carbon nanotube composite featuring clusters of sulfur nanocrystals anchored across a super-aligned carbon nanotube (SACNT) matrix.

In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the team from the Department of Physics and Tsinghua-Foxconn Nanotechnology Research Center report that the nano S-SACNT composite cathode delivered an initial discharge capacity of 1,071 mAh g–1, a peak capacity of 1,088 mAh g–1, and capacity retention of 85% after 100 cycles with high Coulombic efficiency (100%) at 1 C. At high current rates the nano S-SACNT composite displays capacities of 1,006 mAh g–1 at 2 C, 960 mAh g–1 at 5 C, and 879 mAh g–1 at 10 C.

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Carbon nanotube additive increases charge acceptance and performance of lead-acid batteries

June 06, 2014

Carbon nanotube engineering company Molecular Rebar Design has developed Molecular Rebar Lead Negative, a new additive for lead acid batteries comprising discrete carbon nanotubes (dCNT) which uniformly disperse within battery pastes during mixing.

In an open access paper published in the Journal of Power Sources, a Molecular Rebar team reports that NS40ZL 12V automotive lead-acid batteries containing dCNT showed enhanced charge acceptance of more than 200%, reserve capacity, and cold-cranking performance; decreased risk of polarization; and no detrimental changes to paste properties, when compared to dCNT-free controls. The study focused on the dCNT as Negative Active Material (NAM) additives only, but early-stage research is underway to test their functionality as a Positive Active Material (PAM) additive as well.

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ANSYS Fluent now includes Li-ion battery models; ANSYS, GM, NREL, ESim CAEBAT project

June 05, 2014

ANSYS Fluent software—a leading, fully featured fluid dynamics solution for modeling flow and other related physical phenomena—now includes as standard Li-ion battery models, due to the efforts of ANSYS, GM, the Energy Department’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and ESim.

Over the last two and half years, the team worked on a DOE-funded project, Computer-Aided Engineering for Electric Drive Vehicle Batteries (CAEBAT) (earlier post), to combine new and existing battery models into engineering simulation software to shorten design cycles and optimize batteries for increased performance, safety and lifespan.

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Swedish researchers explore use of carbon fiber as active electrode in structural battery for electric vehicles

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Woven carbon fiber can act as an electrode for lithium ion batteries. (Photo: Peter Larsson) Click to enlarge.

Researchers in Sweden are exploring the use of carbon fiber as an active electrode in a multifunctional structural Li-ion battery in an electric car; i.e., electrical storage is incorporated into the body of the car. Carbon fiber material is a good candidate for structural electrodes since it has high specific tensile stiffness and ultimate tensile strength (UTS) as well as high lithium (Li)-intercalation capability.

Mats Johansson at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology says the work is about improving the mechanical properties of batteries so that it not only stores energy but is part of the design. For example, he suggests, the hood of the car could be part of the battery. The concept of such a multifunctional structural vehicle battery has attracted a great deal of other research interest, including:

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Ford and Samsung outline R&D efforts for next-generation non-hybrid battery technology; dual-battery systems and lightweight Li-ion

June 04, 2014

In an event in San Francisco, Ford Motor Company and Samsung SDI, an affiliate of Samsung Group, outlined several collaborative research efforts on next-generation battery technology for non-hybrid vehicles. For the near term, they have been working on a dual-battery combining a lithium-ion battery with a 12-volt lead-acid battery that could enable regenerative braking technology in non-hybrid vehicles for greater fuel savings. Ford suggested the dual battery system might go into production soon.

Ford and Samsung SDI said they are also are researching a longer-term (e.g., about 10 years) ultra-lightweight lithium-ion battery that could one day supplant lead-acid batteries. The research advances lithium-ion battery technology currently available on Ford’s electrified vehicles.

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New binder/solvent system from Argonne, FMC facilitates use of stabilized Li metal powder in Li-ion electrodes; lower cost, higher energy density

June 01, 2014

As part of a four-year DOE-funded project, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, working with FMC Corporation, have developed a novel polymer binder and solvent system facilitating the use of FMC’s unique Stabilized Lithium Metal Powder (SLMP) as a performance-enhancing additive in Li-ion battery electrodes.

SLMP-based materials can enable commercialization of batteries with simplified formation process, lower irreversible capacity losses (leading to higher energy densities) and allow for a wider range of cathode materials—e.g., non-lithium-providing materials—to be utilized for transportation applications. Argonne has patents pending on the polymer binder and solvent technologies, as well as a new activation method.

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Industry study finds lead-acid to remain most wide-spread automotive energy storage for foreseeable future; new chemistries continue to grow

May 28, 2014

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Overview of the three vehicle classes identified in the study, and their corresponding battery technologies. Click to enlarge.

There would be a significant impact on the overall performance and cost of vehicles, plus an effect on targets for fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions, if established battery applications were to be replaced with alternative technologies, according to a new study published by associations representing the European, Japanese and Korean automotive industry (ACEA, JAMA and KAMA); EUROBAT (the Association of European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers) and the International Lead Association (ILA).

The study, which provides a joint industry analysis of how different types of batteries are used in different automotive applications, concludes that lead-based batteries will by necessity remain the most wide-spread energy storage system in automotive applications for the foreseeable future.

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Researchers present lower temperature version of ultra-high capacity molten air battery

May 27, 2014

Last year, researchers at George Washington University led by Dr. Stuart Licht introduced the principles of a new class rechargeable molten air batteries that offer amongst the highest intrinsic electric energy storage capabilities. (Earlier post.) The iron, carbon and VB2 molten air batteries they proposed offered intrinsic volumetric energy capacities of 10,000 (for Fe to Fe(III)); 19,000 (C to CO32-) and 27,000 Wh liter-1 (VB2 to B2O3 + V2O5), compared to 6,200 Wh liter-1 for a lithium-air battery.

Now, in a new paper in the RSC’s Journal of Materials Chemistry A, Baochen Cui and Licht report on a lower-temperature iron molten air battery that they suggest would be more compatible with electric vehicle applications.

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MIT/Stanford team develops battery technology for the conversion of low-grade waste heat to power; TREC

May 22, 2014

Researchers at MIT and Stanford University have developed new battery technology for the conversion of low-temperature waste heat into electricity in cases where temperature differences are less than 100 degrees Celsius. Their approach is based on a phenomenon called the thermogalvanic effect—the dependence of electrode potential on temperature—and is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications by postdoc Yuan Yang and professor Gang Chen at MIT, postdoc Seok Woo Lee and professor Yi Cui at Stanford, and three others.

The MIT and Stanford team devised an electrochemical system using a copper hexacyanoferrate cathode and a Cu/Cu2+ anode to convert heat into electricity. The thermally regenerative electrochemical cycle (TREC) entails a four-step process: (1) heating up the cell with waste heat; (2) charging at high temperature; (3) cooling down the cell; (4) discharging at low temperature.

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NEI Corporation developing Li-ion batteries with water-based electrolyte; targeting energy densities of 250 Wh/kg and 750 Wh/l

May 21, 2014

NEI Corporation, a nanotech materials company (earlier post), is developing a lithium-ion battery in which the electrolytes are dissolved in water instead of an organic solvent. Such an aqueous-based lithium-ion battery has the potential to eliminate the risks associated with conventional lithium-ion batteries, in which the organic solvents are highly flammable. In addition, there are toxicity and other environmental concerns associated with the non-aqueous electrolyte solvents. Aqueous-based lithium-ion batteries also have the potential to reduce cost.

However, while the concept of a lithium-ion cell using a water-based electrolyte has been known and studied, a major limitation is the narrow electrochemical stability window for water, which restricts the cell voltage. The electrochemical stability window for water is within the range of 0 to 1.25V; electrolysis of water occurs outside this voltage range.

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New ruthenium oxide/graphene and CNT foam material improves supercapacitor performance

May 20, 2014

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Microstructure of RGM electrode. (a) Schematic illustration of the preparation process of RGM nanostructure foam. SEM images of (b–c) as-grown GM foam (d) Lightly loaded RGM, and (e) heavily loaded RGM. Source: UCR. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a novel nanometer scale ruthenium oxide (RuO2) anchored graphene and CNT foam architecture (RGM) for high-performance supercapacitor electrodes.

In an open access paper in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, the team reports that supercapacitors based on RGM show superior gravimetric and per-area capacitive performance (specific capacitance: 502.78 F g−1, areal capacitance: 1.11 F cm−2) which leads to a high energy density (for supercapacitors) of 39.28 Wh kg−1 and power density of 128.01 kW kg−1. The electrochemical stability, excellent capacitive performance, and the ease of preparation suggest this RGM system is promising for future energy storage applications, the researchers suggest.

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