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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.]

Dalhousie team reports ternary blends of electrolyte additives greatly enhance performance of NMC Li-ion cells

March 30, 2015

Batteries for electrified vehicles require much longer calendar and cycle lifetimes, as well as improved high temperature tolerance, than their portable consumer electronics counterparts. Electrolyte additives can be used to extend cell lifetime by suppressing parasitic reactions between charged electrodes and electrolyte by modifying the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) at the negative electrode or the passivation layer formed on the positive electrode.

Researchers at Dalhousie University (Canada) led by Dr. Jeff Dahn now report that Li[Ni1/3Mn1/3Co1/3]O2 (NMC111)/graphite and Li[Ni0.42Mn0.42Co0.16]O2 (NMC442)/graphite pouch cells demonstrate greatly enhanced performance when ternary blends of electrolyte additives are added to the cells. Their work is published in a paper in an open access article in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

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BNL team develops very high capacity ternary metal fluoride cathode material for Li-ion batteries

March 28, 2015

The team achieved three-times-higher storage capacity through the reversible redox reactions of copper and iron—breaking and reforming copper-fluorine and iron-fluorine bonds while absorbing and releasing lithium. Source: BNL. Click to enlarge.

A team led by researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) has found that adding copper atoms to iron fluoride—a member of the class of materials called transition metal fluorides that are potential extremely high-capacity cathodes for future Li-ion batteries—produces a group of new fluoride materials that can reversibly store three times as many Li ions as conventional cathode materials. Measurements also indicate that these new materials could yield a cathode that is extremely energy-efficient. Their research is described in an open access paper in the journal Nature Communications.

The capacity of mainstream conventional cathodes (e.g., LiCoO2 or LiFePO4) is low (140–170 mAh g−1) and currently limits the energy density of most commercial cells, the researchers note. Although a number of alternative anodes (such as ​silicon and tin) show capacities well above 500 mAh g−1, few cathodes have been identified that can the high capacity. However, transition metal fluorides, which contain the element fluorine plus one or more of the transition metals, such as iron and copper, have much higher ion-storage capacities than traditional cathodes.

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XALT Energy in major multi-year contract to supply LTO batteries to HK Group for electric buses in China

March 25, 2015

XALT Energy (originally founded in 2009 as Dow-Kokam, LLC), a leading developer and manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, signed a global exclusive agreement with Hybrid Kinetic Group (HK Group) of China for the supply of its Lithium Titanate (LTO) batteries from its manufacturing facilities in Midland, Michigan for all-electric buses in China.

Production is expected to begin during the third quarter of 2015. The multi-year contract, valued at more than $1.0 billion, will create 300 new high-tech and manufacturing jobs in Midland this year. Hiring is underway with 80 positions expected to be filled in April.

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Report: VW Group to decide how to proceed with Quantumscape solid state energy storage by July

March 24, 2015

Bloomberg reports that the Volkswagen Group will decide by July how to proceed with solid state energy storage technology under development by Quantumscape (earlier post), citing Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management, who spoke outside a press conference in Stuttgart.

According to the report, Winterkorn said that the technology’s potential to boost the range of battery-powered vehicles is compelling and tests are progressing. “Progress has been made,” he said. Quantumscape several days ago posted 11 job openings, seeking a manager or director of battery manufacturing operations; a process engineering manager to lead a team in the development of a new energy storage technology from initial process concept through demonstration of stable production; and R&D technicians, battery engineers and scientists.

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Purdue researchers convert packing peanuts into anode materials for Li-ion batteries; outperforming graphite

March 23, 2015

Purdue researchers have developed a process to manufacture carbon-nanoparticle and microsheet anodes for Li-ion batteries from polystyrene and starch-based packing peanuts, respectively. The work, performed by postdoc Vinodkumar Etacheri, Professor Vilas Pol and undergraduate chemical engineering student Chulgi Nathan Hong, is being presented at the 249th American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition in Denver.

Packing-peanut-derived carbon anodes have demonstrated a maximum specific capacity of 420 mAh/g (milliamp hours per gram), which is higher than the theoretical capacity of graphite (372 mAh/g).

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Stanford team enhances ionic conductivity of solid electrolyte by 3 orders of magnitude; potential for high-energy Li-ion batteries

March 20, 2015

Stanford researchers led by Professor Yi Cui have used ceramic nanowire fillers to enhance the ionic conductivity of polymer-based solid electrolyte by three orders of magnitude. The ceramic-nanowire filled composite polymer electrolyte also shows an enlarged electrochemical stability window.

Solid-state electrolytes could provide substantial improvements to safety and electrochemical stability in next-generation high-energy Li-ion batteries when compared with conventional liquid electrolytes. However, the low mobility of lithium ions in solid electrolytes has limited their practical application. The Stanford researchers suggest that their discovery, described in the ACS journal Nano Letters, paves the way for the design of solid ion electrolytes with superior performance.

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Researchers synthesize new 2D carbon-sulfur MAX-phase-derived material for Li-S battery electrode

March 18, 2015

Drexel researchers, along with colleagues at Aix-Marseille University in France, have synthesized two-dimensional carbon/sulfur (C/S) nanolaminate materials. Covalent bonding between C and S is observed in the nanolaminates, which along with and an extremely uniform distribution of sulfur between the atomically thin carbon layers make them promising electrode materials for Li-S batteries. A paper on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

The international research collaboration led by Drexel’s Dr. Yury Gogotsi produced the nanolaminate by extracting the titanium from a three-dimensional material called a Ti2SC MAX phase. (Earlier post.) The resulting products are composed of multi-layers of C/S flakes, with predominantly amorphous and some graphene-like structures. The paper was selected as a VIP article and will be featured on the journal cover.

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Optimized storage principle and new material increase lithium storage density in cathode material

March 16, 2015

A new intercalation compound Li2VO2F with disordered rock-salt structure enables up to ≈1.8 Li+ storage (420 mAh g−1) at ≈2.5 V with a lattice volume change of only ≈3%. A high capacity of 300 mAh g−1 at 1C rate is observed. Chen et al. Click to enlarge.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and KIT-founded Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) has developed a new Li-ion cathode material based on a new storage principle, resulting in increased energy storage density.

The new material, presented in a paper in the journal Advanced Energy Materials, allows for the reversible storage of 1.8 Li+ per formula unit. With a material of the composition Li2VO2F, storage capacities of up to 420 mAh/g were measured at a mean voltage of 2.5 V. As a result of the comparably high density of the material, a storage capacity of up to 4600 Wh/L relative to the active material was obtained.

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PANI-coated sulfur-carbon nanotube composite shows long cycle life for high-capacity Li-S batteries

March 14, 2015

Researchers from Hanyang University in Korea and the University of Maryland have developed a sulfur-carbon nanotube (S/SWNT) composite coated with polyaniline (PANI) polymer as polysulfide block to achieve high sulfur utilization, high Coulombic efficiency, and long cycle life in Li-Sulfur batteries.

As described in a open access paper published in the journal Science Reports, the PANI coated S/SWNT composite showed a superior specific capacity of 1,011 mAh/g over 100 cycles and a good rate retention, demonstrating the synergic contribution of porous carbon and conducting polymer protection to address the challenges facing the sulfur cathode in such systems.

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Ultrahigh-capacity anodes derived from natural silk for Li-ion batteries; other energy storage applications

March 13, 2015

Researchers at the Beijing Institute of Technology have found a way to process biomass-derived natural silk to create carbon-based nanosheets that could potentially be used in Li-ion batteries and other energy storage devices. A paper on their work is published in the journal ACS Nano.

They prepared hierarchical porous nitrogen-doped carbon (HPNC) nanosheets (NS) via simultaneous activation and graphitization of the silk. The HPNC-NS show favorable features for electrochemical energy storage such as high specific surface area (SBET: 2494 m2/g); high volume of hierarchical pores (2.28 cm3/g), nanosheet structures; rich N-doping (4.7%), and defects. The team reported a reversible lithium storage capacity of 1865 mAh/g—the highest for N-doped carbon anode materials to the best of the researchers’ knowledge. Used as a supercapacitor electrode in ionic liquid electrolytes, the HPNC-NS exhibit a capacitance of 242 F/g and energy density of 102 Wh/kg (48 Wh/L), with high cycling life stability (9% loss after 10,000 cycles).

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XG Sciences silicon graphene anode material shows stability over 400 cycles with 600 mAh/gram

March 10, 2015

XG Sciences (XGS), a leading provider of graphene nanoplatelets, has demonstrated full battery cell cycle stability through more than 400 charge/discharge cycles with a charge storage capacity of 600 mAh/gram over a broad voltage window in its next generation silicon graphene (earlier post) (XG SiG) anode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

We believe our latest material is the first commercially viable silicon and graphene based anode formulation to achieve this all important performance threshold. With charge storage capacity of up to 4 times today’s typical anodes, first cycle efficiency of 85-90%, low swelling and life that is more than double our previous generation, we believe this material will open many new markets for our customers with an affordable and safe anode formulation,” said Dr. Philip Rose, XGS CEO.

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ORNL microscopy directly images lithium dendrite formation in batteries; new technique for studying electrochemical processes

March 06, 2015

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have captured the first real-time nanoscale images of lithium dendrite structures known to degrade lithium-ion batteries. A paper describing their study, which probed the mechanisms of solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) formation and dendrite growth in a standard organic battery electrolyte (LiPF6 in EC:DMC), is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

They combined quantitative electrochemical measurement and STEM (scanning transmission electron microscopy), or in situ ec-S/TEM, to estimate the density of the evolving SEI and to identify Li-containing phases formed in the liquid cell. They reported that the SEI is approximately twice as dense as the electrolyte as determined from imaging and electron scattering theory. They also observed site-specific locations where Li nucleates and grows on the surface and edge of the glassy carbon electrode. The ORNL team’s electron microscopy could help researchers address long-standing issues related to battery performance and safety.

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LLNL-led team gains insight into electronic structure changes in supercapacitor electrodes; research could lead to more efficient electrical energy storage

March 05, 2015

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers and their colleagues from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the Nanosystem Research Institute in Japan have identified electrical charge-induced changes in the structure and bonding of graphitic carbon electrodes that may one day affect the way energy is stored. The research could lead to an improvement in the capacity and efficiency of electrical energy storage systems, such as batteries and supercapacitors, needed to meet the burgeoning demands of consumer, industrial and green technologies.

The LLNL-led team developed a new X-ray adsorption spectroscopy capability that is tightly coupled with a modeling effort to provide key information about how the structure and bonding of graphitic carbon supercapacitor electrodes are affected by polarization of the electrode – electrolyte interfaces during charging. A paper describing their work is published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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Silica-coated sulfur nanoparticles with mildly reduced graphene oxide as Li-S battery cathode

March 04, 2015

One of the main obstacles to the commercialization of high-energy density lithium-sulfur batteries is the tendency for lithium polysulfides—the lithium and sulfur reaction products—to dissolve in the battery’s electrolyte and travel to the opposite electrode permanently. This causes the battery’s capacity to decrease over its lifetime.

To prevent this polysulfide shuttle, researchers in the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside have fabricated SiO2-coated sulfur particles (SCSPs) for cathode material. With the addition of mildly reduced graphene oxide (mrGO) to the material, SCSPs maintain more than 700 mAh g−1 after the 50th cycle. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Nanoscale.

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Lux Research: the $40,000, 200-mile-range EV is the biggest coming growth opportunity for energy storage in transportation

March 02, 2015

Analysis by Lux Research suggests that the market space represented by the emerging lower-cost, 200-mile-range EV will be the biggest coming growth opportunity in electric storage for transportation. By 2020, this new EV battleground should account for $5 billion or more in Li-ion battery sales, because it combines larger packs (around 50 kWh) with more sales (hundreds of thousands of vehicles).

According to Lux Research’s Automotive Battery Tracker, in 2014 EVs used $2.1-billion worth of energy storage. While selling in similar volumes, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) used three times less batteries: about $0.7 billion worth. Despite selling about 1.5 million units in 2014, an order of magnitude more than the 140,000 EVs that consumers bought in 2014, HEVs also used just $0.7-billion worth of energy storage in 2014.

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Audi to offer new R8 e-tron EV on request; almost 2x pack capacity, 280-mile range with new Li-ion technology (update 1)

February 26, 2015

Audi is presenting the second generation of its high-performance R8 sports car at the upcoming Geneva show, featuring new V10 engines, newly developed quattro drive, and a new multimaterial Audi Space Frame (ASF) combining aluminum and carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). The top of the range version delivers 449 kW (610 hp), achieving 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 3.2 seconds, with a top speed of 330 km/h (205.1 mph).

The second generation of the Audi R8 also forms the basis for two more models, including a high-performance battery-electric version, the R8 e-tron 2.0. This latest evolution of the vehicle takes up the multimaterial Audi Space Frame from the new series-production model. The new R8 e-tron, which will be available for order in 2015 upon customer request, uses a newly developed high energy density lithium-ion technology which was specially conceived for a purely electric vehicle drive. In comparison to the first technology platform (earlier post), the battery capacity has grown from 49 kWh to approximately 92 kWh—without changing the package.

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New PNNL zinc-polyiodide redox flow battery offers 2x energy density of next-best system; potential for mobile applications

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a new zinc-polyiodide redox flow battery offering more than two times the energy density of the next-best flow battery used to store renewable energy and support the power grid.

Lab tests revealed the demonstration battery discharged 167 Wh l-1 of electrolyte. In comparison, zinc-bromide flow batteries generate about 70 Wh l-1, vanadium flow batteries can create between 15 and 25 Wh l-1, and standard lithium iron phosphate batteries could put out about 233 Wh l-1. The team calculated that their new battery theoretically could discharge even more—up to 322 Wh l-1—if more chemicals were dissolved in the electrolyte. An open access paper on the work appears in Nature Communications.

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New PNNL electrolyte may enable use of lithium anodes in very high capacity advanced batteries

February 24, 2015

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a new electrolyte that allows lithium-sulfur, lithium-metal and lithium-air batteries to operate at 99% efficiency, while having a high current density and without growing dendrites that short-circuit rechargeable batteries. An open-access paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

This new discovery could kick-start the development of powerful and practical next-generation rechargeable batteries such as lithium-sulfur, lithium-air and lithium-metal batteries,” said PNNL physicist Ji-Guang Zhang, corresponding author of the paper.

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BASF and Toda Kogyo close agreement for JV specializing in cathode materials for Li-ion batteries

BASF and Toda Kogyo formally established “BASF Toda Battery Materials LLC” with the closing of their joint venture agreement announced in October 2014. (Earlier post.) The new company will provide cathode active materials (CAM) for lithium-ion batteries in Japan.

BASF Toda Battery Materials was established with 66% equity from BASF Japan Ltd. and 34% from Toda Kogyo CORP. The joint venture will conduct research and development, production, marketing and sales for a broad range of cathode materials, particularly NCA (Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide), LMO (Lithium Manganese Oxide) and NCM (Nickel Cobalt Manganese) in Japan.

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Polypore sells itself; battery separators to Asahi Kasei for $2.2B, separations media to 3M for $1B

February 23, 2015

Asahi Kasei projects significant growth in demand for Li-ion battery separators in the automotive segment. Source: Asahi Kasei. growth in Click to enlarge.

Polypore International, Inc., a manufacturer of microporous membranes, signed definitive agreements for its sale. 3M will acquire the assets of Polypore’s Separations Media segment for approximately $1.0 billion; as an integrated step in the transaction, Asahi Kasei Corporation, through a US subsidiary, will then purchase what remains of Polypore for $60.50 per share in cash. Asahi Kasei will receive the cash proceeds from the sales of the Separations assets to 3M.

Polypore’s energy storage business comprises two main elements: Celgard Li-ion battery separators and Daramic lead-acid battery separators. Asahi Kasei said that Polypore is a compelling fit with its own electronic materials business, led by its Hipore lithium-ion battery separator with applications in energy storage for both consumer electronics and automotive applications.

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3M invests in Nanoscale Components to leverage its pre-lithiation process for 3M silicon anodes

February 19, 2015

3M has made an investment in Nanoscale Components, a company that has developed a novel, low-cost pre-lithiation process. 3M says its investment will expand the adoption of 3M’s unique silicon alloy anode for lithium-ion batteries. (Earlier post.)

To take advantage of promising high-capacity anode materials such as silicon, sulfur and other lithium-free materials in a next-generation Li-ion battery, either the cathode or the anode needs to be prelithiated—i.e., lithium needs to be inserted into the material. In a 2011 paper in the journal ACS Nano (earlier post) Stanford researchers led by Prof. Yi Cui noted that:

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Carbon-coated nano-silicon paper electrodes outperform graphite anodes by more than 2 times

Cycling data for C-coated SiNFs compared to uncoated SiNFs at C/10 (1C = 4 A g−1). Favors et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have developed a novel nano-silicon paper electrode material for high capacity lithium-ion batteries. A paper describing the work is published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

The free-standing (i.e., binderless) carbon-coated Si nanofiber (C-SiNF) electrodes produce a capacity of 802 mAh g−1 after 659 cycles with a Coulombic efficiency of 99.9%, which outperforms conventionally used slurry-prepared graphite anodes by more than two times on an active material basis. The silicon nanofiber paper anodes offer a completely binder-free and Cu current collector-free approach to electrode fabrication with a silicon weight percent in excess of 80%.

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CMU team finds regional temperature differences have significant impact on EV efficiency, range and emissions

February 18, 2015

Energy consumption per mile averaged across the LEAF fleet over a full year (Wh/mi). Credit: ACS, Yuksel and Michalek. Click to enlarge.

An adage about batteries is that they are like humans in performing best at moderate (e.g., room) temperatures; extremes in either direction impact performance. Thus, the efficiency of battery electric vehicles can vary with ambient temperature due to battery performance—as well as the energy required for cabin climate control.

In a new paper accepted for publication in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, Tugce Yuksel and Jeremy Michalek at Carnegie Mellon University have now characterized the effect of regional temperature differences on EV efficiency, range, and use-phase CO2 emissions in the US, based on aggregated real-world fleet data for the Nissan LEAF. Among their findings is that the resulting regional differences in efficiency, range and emissions are large enough to affect adoption patterns and the energy and environmental implications of battery EVs relative to alternatives.

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Battery charging company CTEK licenses WiTricity technology for wireless vehicle battery charging

Leading automotive battery charger manufacturer CTEK Corporation has entered a technology and patent license agreement with wireless power transfer technology company WiTricity, enabling CTEK to commercialize WiTricity’s patented technology to create high performance, efficient wireless charging systems for a wide range of battery charging and battery conditioning applications in various automotive and powersports applications.

By providing a flexible and efficient method of wireless power transfer, CTEK will begin to develop a line of products that will bring a new level of convenience and ease to battery charging. Future applications should make it possible for drivers to simply park over a contact patch in their garage or parking spot, leaving the battery to charge in their absence. Owners who have vehicles for occasional use, such as classic cars or powersports machines that only come out at the weekend, could also take advantage of such a device.

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Nemaska Lithium secures $12.87M grant from SDTC for Phase 1 lithium hydroxide plant

Nemaska Lithium Inc. has secured a $12.87-million technology commercialization grant for its Phase 1 lithium hydroxide hydromet plant from the federally-funded Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). The Phase 1 plant, designed to produce 500 tonnes per year of high purity lithium hydroxide, is designed be a module of a larger commercial hydromet plant.

Nemaska intends to use this facility to demonstrate its proprietary lithium hydroxide technology and produce commercial samples to send to end users primarily in the lithium battery market with a goal of securing off-take agreements in advance of starting operation of its lithium mine and commercial hydromet facility.

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A*STAR researchers suggest monolayer phosphorene promising anode material for high-performance Li-ion batteries

February 13, 2015

Researchers at A*STAR in Singapore are proposing the use of monolayer phosphorene—a 2D material isolated from black phosphorus—as an anode material for high charging voltage, high rate capability Li-ion batteries. In a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they described their use of density functional theory calculations to investigate the binding and diffusion behavior of Lithium in phosphorene.

Phosphorus is a low-cost abundant material with a high theoretical specific capacity of 2596 mAh·g-1 upon lithiation with most of its capacity at the discharge potential range of 0.4–1.2 V, suitable as anodes. (Earlier post.) However, in a 2014 study led by Prof. Yi Cui, researchers at Stanford noted that successful applications of phosphorus anodes have been impeded by rapid capacity fading, mainly caused by large volume change (around 300%) upon lithiation and thus loss of electrical contact. In that 2014 study, the Stanford researchers fabricated composites of black phosphorus nanoparticle-graphite; the resulting material exhibited high initial discharge capacity of 2786 mAh·g-1 at 0.2 C and cycle life of 100 cycles with 80% capacity retention.

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Researchers identify peptide to bind LMNO to improve power and performance of cathodes in Li-ion batteries

February 12, 2015

Researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) have isolated a peptide, a type of biological molecule, which binds strongly to lithium manganese nickel oxide (LMNO), a material that can be used to make the cathode in high-performance Li-ion batteries. The peptide can latch onto nanosized particles of LMNO and connect them to conductive components of a battery electrode, improving the potential power and stability of the electrode.

The researchers presented their results at the 59th annual meeting of the Biophysical Society, held 7-11 Baltimore, Maryland.

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Bosch, BMW and Vattenfall launch Second Life Batteries alliance for reuse of EV batteries

February 11, 2015

Bosch is cooperating with BMW and Vattenfall to explore second-life applications for EV batteries. The partners have launched the Second Life Batteries alliance and are interconnecting used batteries from electric vehicles to form a large-scale energy storage system in Hamburg. BMW and Vattenfall has announced the start of a research project on such second-life uses in 2013. (Earlier post.)

The current plans call for the construction of a storage unit with an output of two megawatts (MW) and an installed capacity of two megawatt hours (MWh) in Hamburg. The energy will be fed into the energy balancing market to balance out short-term fluctuations in the power grid. More than 100 vehicle batteries will be interconnected to achieve these targets.

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ALABC showcased three 48V hybrid demonstrators at AABC featuring advanced lead-carbon batteries

February 10, 2015

The Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium (ALABC) last month showcased three hybrid electric concept vehicles resulting from its R&D program that demonstrate the real-world potential of lead-carbon batteries in 48V architectures. The cars, two of which were produced in association with major OEMs (Ford and Hyundai/Kia), exhibit substantial environmental and fuel-efficient benefits through low-cost hybridization. The vehicles were part of the ALABC display at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference (AABC Europe 2015) held at the Rheingoldhalle in Mainz, Germany.

All three vehicles feature advanced lead-carbon batteries, also known as carbon-enhanced lead-acid batteries. The batteries, Exide’s spiral-wound Orbital AGM and East Penn Manufacturing’s UltraBattery (the latest model of which was also on display at the ALABC stand), are some of the most effective lead-carbon designs for 48V hybrid electrification, ALABC said.

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Researchers use DNA to stabilize sulfur cathode for high-performance Li-sulfur batteries

DNA has a high concentration of heteroatoms, including oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus, that can anchor soluble polysulfides to improve the cycling performance of Li/S batteries. Li et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from the China University of Geosciences has taken a novel approach to stabilizing Lithium-sulfur batteries by functionalizing the carbon-sulfur cathode with DNA.

Experimental results reported in a paper accepted for publication in the RSC Journal of Materials Chemistry A showed that adding a fine adding amount of DNA into a carbon/sulfur composite enables a significant improvement to cyclic performance by anchoring the soluble polysulfides that lead to performance degradation. The DNA-decorated electrode offered a discharge capacity of 771 mAh·g-1 at 0.1 C after 200 cycles (retention 70.7% of the initial)—a three-fold enhancement in capacity retention over 200 cycles.

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Startup Blue Current seeking to commercialize non-flammable fluorinated electrolytes for Li-ion batteries

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) battery scientist Nitash Balsara and co-inventor Joseph DeSimone of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have launched Blue Current, a startup company backed by investment firm Faster LLC, to commercialize their non-flammable electrolytes for Li-ion batteries.

Conventional alkyl carbonate electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries are flammable, and incidents of fires have been reported, usually due to thermal runaway. Blue Current’s fluorinated non-flammable electrolytes are functionalized perfluoropolyethers (PFPEs). In addition to their non-flammability, these electrolytes also exhibit high transference numbers and low electrochemical polarization, indicative of longer battery life.

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High-performance slurryless Li2S cathode paper for Li-Sulfur batteries

February 09, 2015

Researchers from China and the US have developed a flexible slurryless nano-Li2S/reduced graphene oxide cathode paper (nano-Li2S/rGO paper) which can be directly used as a free-standing and binder-free cathode without metal substrate, which leads to significant weight savings in batteries. The cathode paper is intended to be paired with safer anode materials such as silicon, aluminum, tin, graphene, transition metal oxides, and so forth, rather than Li-metal anodes. (Earlier post.)

The flexible and conductive paper electrode shows excellent cycling life and rate capability with a reversible discharge capacity of 816.1 mAh g−1 after 150 cycles at 0.1 C, and 597 mAh g−1 even at 7 C. After cycling 200 times at 5 C, the capacity can still remain at 462.2 mAh g−1. A paper on the team’s work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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Battelle/Concurrent Technologies Corporation technology positioning paper: Improving Li-ion battery safety without decreasing energy density

February 05, 2015

Ed. introduction: The following technology positioning paper is a joint effort by a team from Battelle and Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC). The paper outlines the technology landscape and the opportunities that exist in the area of improved Li-ion battery safety.

Energy is a common technology area on which both research organizations focus in different ways, noted Dr. Vicki Barbur, CTC Senior Vice President and CTO. The two have decided that Li-ion battery safety is an area of opportunity for each. Supported by an ARPA-E award, Battelle recently developed an optical sensor to monitor the internal environment of a lithium-ion battery in real-time. (Earlier post.) The organizations intend to pursue further efforts directed toward safety in relation to Li-ion battery technology. Interest and involvement from external clients would be welcomed.

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Bosch CEO: 15% of new cars by 2025 to be at least a hybrid; batteries to deliver 2x energy density for 1/2 current cost by 2020

February 04, 2015

Speaking at the 15th CAR Symposium in Bochum, Germany, Dr. Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH, said that that Bosch expects roughly 15% of all new cars built worldwide to have at least a hybrid powertrain by 2025. Denner, whose responsibilities on the board of management include research and advanced development, believes that by 2020 batteries will deliver twice as much energy density for half the present cost.

The EU has set strict fleet CO2 targets for 2021. For this reason alone, Bosch expects hybrid powertrains to become the standard for SUVs. This will give diesel and gasoline engines an extra boost.

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High energy capacity Li-ion cathodes from 3D V6O13 nanotextiles

February 02, 2015

Energy density comparison of the 3D nanotextile electrode and conventional LiMn2O4, LiCoO2, LiFePO4, and LiNi0.5Mn1.5O4 electrodes. Credit: ACS, Fing et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from University of Science and Technology of China and Max Planck Institute in Germany has synthesized 3D V6O13 nanotextiles from interconnected 1D nanogrooves with diameter of 20–50 nm.

Used as cathode materials in Li-ion batteries, the 3D nanotextiles delivered reversible capacities of 326 mAh g–1 at 20 mA g–1 and 134 mAh g–1 at 500 mA g–1, and a capacity retention of above 80% after 100 cycles at 500 mA g–1. The textiles showed a specific energy as high as 780 Wh kg–1, 44–56% higher than those of conventional cathodes such as LiMn2O4, LiCoO2, and LiFePO4. Furthermore, the 3D architectures retain good structural integrity upon cycling, the researchers reported in their paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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Ioxus launches new ultracap module series for easier design and installation; under the hood for automotive

Ultracapacitor maker Ioxus has launched its iMOD X-Series, a family of 22 modules that makes the design and installation at the system level extremely easy for the end-customer. The architecture of the iMOD X-Series will be the framework for future Ioxus energy storage technologies across its ultracapacitor systems.

The X-Series was initially introduced in April 2014 during a soft launch of the product’s Alpha design. (Earlier post.) The production launch of the iMOD X-Series simplifies system design and installation for the end-user by offering customers a wide array of possible mounting configurations. This level of flexibility is made possible by the design of the iMOD X-Series’ core technology. Built modularly to maximize quality and value, the core includes integrated wire management systems to ensure proper wire location, integrated heat sinks, and unmatched 5,000 VAC hi-pot.

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SolidEnergy targeting rechargeable Li-metal smartphone battery in 2016, EV battery with 2x range in 2017

January 31, 2015

SolidEnergy, an MIT spin-out commercializing solid electrolyte technology enabling the use of lithium metal anodes for high energy density rechargeable batteries (earlier post), says that in 2016, it and its battery manufacturing partners will release a 2 Ah commercial battery for the smartphone and wearable market. This is to be followed in 2017 by a 20 Ah electric vehicle battery offering more than two times the driving range of current Li-ion batteries.

In 2014, the company announced a prototype 2Ah pouch cell with a volumetric energy density of more than 1200 Wh/L; subsequently the company said it had achieved 1337 Wh/L in a 2Ah pouch cell. Its Solid Polymer Ionic Liquid (SPIL) electrolyte enables the use of an ultra-thin lithium metal anode, and improves the cell-level energy density by 50% compared to graphite anodes and 30% compared to silicon-composite anodes.

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EaglePicher Licenses OneD Material’s SiNANOde silicon-nanowire anode technology

January 30, 2015

EaglePicher Technologies, LLC has entered into a License Agreement and an Engineering Services Agreement with OneD Material to set up a new EaglePicher production facility in Joplin to produce SiNANOde, a silicon-nanowire-based anode material originally developed by Nanosys (earlier post) for building high energy density lithium-ion cells and batteries. (In 2013, OneD Material acquired Nanosys’ nanowire technologies and related assets including its R&D activities.)

This new technology will be used in part with EaglePicher’s initiative to increase lithium-ion cell production and expand the product portfolio for defense and aerospace applications. (Earlier post.) The addition of SiNANOde raw material is a key component for improving the performance of lithium-ion cells and batteries for niche applications.

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Li-S battery with novel solid-state electrolyte shows capacity approaching theoretical value and high Coulombic efficiency

Voltage profiles of charge-discharge cycles of the solid-state Li-S battery. Current density of 0.05 C). The specific capacity is given per g of sulfur. Yamada et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from Samsung R&D and the University of Rome “La Sapienza” have fabricated a novel all solid-state Li-S battery that exhibits a capacity (∼ 1600 mAhg−1) approaching the theoretical value and an initial charge-discharge Coulombic efficiency approaching 99% (the average in ten cycles was 98%). An open access paper on their work is published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

In addition to these and its other favorable properties (ie.e, smooth stripping-deposition of lithium), the activation energy of the charge transfer process was 44.5 kJmol−1—much smaller than that of a corresponding liquid electrolyte Li-S cell. These results, the team concluded, “are convincing in demonstrating that the solid electrolyte is very effective in physically preventing polysulfide migration.

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New Kevlar-based nanocomposite serves as dendrite-suppressing Li-ion battery separator with high ionic conductivity

January 27, 2015

Researchers at the University of Michigan, with colleagues at Ford and the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, have developed a dendrite-suppressing membrane exhibiting high modulus, ionic conductivity, flexibility, ion flux rates and thermal stability for Li-ion batteries by using a composite made from Kevlar-derived aramid nanofibres assembled in a layer-by-layer manner with poly(ethylene oxide).

In a paper published in Nature Communications, they report that the porosity of the ion-conducting membrane (ICM) is smaller than the growth area of the dendrites; the aramid nanofibers thus eliminate “weak links” where dendrites can pierce a membrane. The aramid nanofiber network also suppresses poly(ethylene oxide) crystallization detrimental for ion transport.

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Researchers exploring Li-Tellurium for high energy density batteries

Researchers at the Kumoh National Institute of Technology in Korea have developed a new, high-performance Li-Tellurium (Li-Te) secondary battery system using a Li metal anode and a Te-based cathode.

As described in an open access paper in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the mechanically reduced (MR) Te/C nanocomposite electrode material exhibited high energy density (initial discharge/charge: 1088/740 mAh cm−3); excellent cyclability (ca. 705 mAh cm−3 over 100 cycles); and fast rate capability (ca. 550 mAh cm−3 at 5C rate). The researchers suggested that their Te/C nanocomposite electrodes were suitable for use as either the cathode in Li-Te secondary batteries or as a high-potential anode in rechargeable Li-ion batteries.

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DOE to award $55.8M for advanced vehicle technologies; $35M for fuel cell and hydrogen

January 22, 2015

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a new Vehicle Technologie program-wide funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001201) for $55.8 million. DOE also announced up to $35 million to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, including enabling the early adoption of fuel cell applications, such as light duty fuel cell electric vehicles. This new funding opportunity announcement will be available in early February.

The Vehicle Technologies funding is targeted at a wide range of research, development, and demonstration projects that aim to reduce the price and improve the efficiency of plug-in electric, alternative fuel, and conventional vehicles. Topics addressed include: advanced batteries (including manufacturing processes) and electric drive R&D; Lightweight materials; Advanced combustion engine and enabling technologies R&D; and Fuels technologies (dedicated or dual-fuel natural gas engine technologies).

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USABC to evaluate Seeo Li-poly batteries with an eye to EV applications

January 14, 2015

Seeo, a developer of advanced lithium polymer batteries, announced the award of a contract for technology assessment from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a collaborative organization of FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors. Under the contract, Seeo will deliver its DryLyte battery modules to USABC for testing under a nine month technology assessment program. These modules are based on Seeo’s current cell technology, which provides an energy density of 220 Wh/kg.

The contract encompasses a third-party assessment of the technical characteristics of Seeo’s high energy density batteries and validation of characteristics anticipated for electric vehicle applications. Co-funded by the US Department of Energy, the contract has a value of $298,736, including a 50% cost share by Seeo.

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U. Waterloo / BASF team reports new strategy for stabilizing high-performance Li-S cathodes; “transfer mediator”

A team from the University of Waterloo in Canada and BASF has devised a successful new strategy to stabilize cathode in Li-S batteries, thereby significantly improving performance and cycle life. In a study exploring the mechanism published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers, led by Prof. Linda Nazar at the University of Waterloo, showed a capacity of 1,300  mAh g−1 at C/20 with only a modest drop in capacity at a 20x higher current density (a C rate) to 950 mAh g-1.

At C/5, the initial discharge capacity was 1,120 mAh g-1, with 1,030 mAh g-1 sustained after more than 200 cycles—representing excellent capacity retention of 0.04% per cycle. At higher current densities (1C), the composite cathode still delivered reversible capacity of 800 mAh g-1 after 200 cycles.

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Chevrolet unveils Bolt EV Concept; 200+ electric miles for ~$30,000

January 12, 2015

At the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Chevrolet introduced the Bolt EV concept crossover—a vision for an affordable, long-range all-electric vehicle designed to offer more than 200 miles of range starting around $30,000. The Bolt EV concept is designed to offer long-range performance in all 50 states and many global markets.

Drivers will be able to select operating modes designed around preferred driving styles such as daily commuting and spirited weekend cruising. The modes adjust accelerator pedal mapping, vehicle ride height and suspension tuning. The Bolt EV concept is also designed to support DC fast charging.

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BNL/Stony Brook study provides insight into optimized electrode architectures

Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University have combined in situ EDXRD with ex situ XRD and XAS measurements to visualize the formation of the conductive silver matrix within an Ag2VP2O8 electrode used in a specialized medical battery. From this, they were able to elucidate a rate-dependent discharge mechanism: that by using lower current densities early in the discharge of a multifunctional bimetallic cathode–containing cell, it is possible preferentially to form metallic silver that is more evenly distributed, resulting in the opportunity for more complete cathode use and higher functional capacity. The work (Kirshenbaum et al.) appears in the journal Science.

Although silver compounds may be too expensive for applications other than medical ones, observed Nancy J. Dudney and Juchuan Li from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in a Perspective in the same issue of Science, the study is “an exciting step toward understanding how optimized battery electrode architectures can maximize the energy per unit volume and weight.

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Fuji Pigment unveils rechargeable Aluminum-air battery; targeting initial commercialization this spring

January 09, 2015

A schematic diagram of the ALFA cell, showing the placement of the ceramic material. Mori 2015. Click to enlarge.

Fuji Pigment Co. Ltd. has developed a new type of aluminum-air battery which can be recharged by refilling with salt or fresh water and which uses a modified structure to ensure longer battery lifetime. The company said it is constantly improving the battery performance and plans to commercialize the technology in the market by spring 2015. The technology, developed by Dr. Ryohei Mori, has been described in several papers over the past few few years, the most recent being an open access paper in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

Metal-air batteries use a catalytic air cathode in combination with an electrolyte and metal anode such as lithium, aluminum, magnesium or zinc. With very high theoretical energy densities, metal air technology is considered a promising technology candidate for “beyond Li-ion” next-generation batteries enabling future long-range battery-electric vehicles—assuming the development obstacles can be overcome.

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Johnson Controls partners with Toshiba on new Li Titanate start-stop battery with SCiB cells

January 08, 2015

Johnson Controls’ 12-V Lithium Titanate battery will power advanced start-stop vehicles. Click to enlarge.

At the upcoming Detroit Auto Show, Johnson Controls will unveil a new 12V Lithium Titanate battery developed in collaboration with Toshiba for advanced start-stop applications. Toshiba is supplying its SCiB cells (earlier post) to Johnson Controls for the application.

The SCiB Lithium Titanate chemistry is effective at quickly recharging, works well in a wide range of temperatures and can be easily integrated into a vehicle’s 12-volt electrical system. Further, SCiB cells feature long life of more than 10,000 charge-discharge cycles. Toshiba, with SCiB, is the established market leader for Lithium Titanate systems.

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ARPA-E issues $125M open solicitation for energy R&D; transportation and stationary applications

January 07, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) has issued a $125-million open Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). OPEN 2015 (DOE-FOA-0001261) will support the development of potentially disruptive new technologies in all areas of energy research and development, for both transportation and stationary applications.

OPEN 2015 is the third open funding solicitation issued by the agency. Open solicitations ensure that ARPA-E does not miss opportunities to support potentially transformational projects outside the scope of existing ARPA-E programs. The projects selected under OPEN 2015 will pursue novel approaches to energy innovation and support the development of potentially disruptive new technologies across the full spectrum of energy applications.

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Li-ion sulfur polymer battery shows high energy density as well as safety

A team from the University of Rome Sapienza has developed a rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery based on the combination of a high capacity sulfur-carbon cathode, nanostructured LixSn-C anode and polysulfide-added PEO-based gel membrane. The cell shows very good electrochemical performances in terms of stability and delivered capacity; this electrolyte configuration allows the achievement of a stable capacity ranging from 500 to 1500 mAh gS-1, depending on the cycling rate.

Further, the use of a polymer electrolyte and the replacement of lithium metal with a Li-Sn-C nanostructured alloy for the anode should provide high safety content, they noted in their open access paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports.

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BMW i ChargeForward Program to demo contribution of intelligent EV charging to grid efficiency

January 05, 2015

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, BMW announced the BMW i ChargeForward Program—a pilot study to be undertaken by the BMW Group Technology Office, together with Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E). Working with a select group of BMW i3 drivers, BMW i ChargeForward will demonstrate how intelligent management of electric vehicle charging can contribute to improved electric power grid efficiency while reducing total cost of electric vehicle ownership.

BMW i ChargeForward is designed to explore how to better match the impact of electric vehicles with other dynamic energy supply and demand sources. The study has two parts, a managed charge pilot program involving BMW i3 owners and a battery second life energy storage system. In the managed charge pilot program, select BMW i3 owners will allow PG&E to request a delay in the charging of their vehicles by up to an hour, when grid loads are at their peak. The program also includes a “second life” for used MINI E batteries, by repurposing these batteries into a stationary solar-powered electric storage system located at the BMW Technology Office in Mountain View, California.

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Sulfur nanodots on nickel foam as high-performance Li-S cathode materials; carbon- and binder-free

January 03, 2015

A team at Nankai University in China has devised high-performance Li-sulfur battery cathode materials consisting of sulfur nanodots (2 nm average) directly electrodeposited on flexible nickel foam; the cathode materials incorporate no carbon or binder.

An optimized cathode with 0.45 mg/cm2 S on the Ni foam exhibited high initial discharge capacity (1458 mAh/g at 0.1 C); high rate capability (521 mAh/g at 10 C); and long cycling stability (895 mAh/g after 300 cycles at 0.5 C and 528 mAh/g after 1400 cycles at 5 C). In their paper, published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the researchers suggested that their fast, facile, one-step cathode preparation method with the resulting excellent electrochemical performance can lead to technological advances for sulfur cathode materials in Li–S batteries.

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Review paper: Graphene and related materials (GRMs) may play major role in energy applications

January 02, 2015

The large specific surface area (SSA)—i.e., the surface-to-mass ratio—of graphene, combined with its high electrical conductivity, high mechanical strength, ease of functionalization, and potential for mass production, makes it an extremely attractive platform for energy applications, such as a transparent conductive electrode for solar cells or as flexible high-capacity electrode in lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors, notes a team of researchers from Europe, the US and Korea, in a paper reviewing the role of graphene and related systems for energy conversion and storage published in the journal Science. The combination of chemical functionalization and curvature control also opens new opportunities for hydrogen storage.

In addition to graphene, they note, other two-dimensional crystals such as the transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) display insulating, semiconducting (with band gaps in the visible region of the spectrum), and metallic behavior and can enable novel device architectures also in combination with graphene. As with graphene, these materials can be integrated on flexible surfaces and can be mass-produced. Yet another class of 2D crystals is the MXenes (e.g., earlier post)—layered, hexagonal carbides and nitrides that can accommodate various ions and molecules between their layers by intercalation. MXene sheets are promising for energy applications, such as lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors, and hydrogen storage.

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SINANO team demonstrates sulfur’s theoretical capacity in Li-S cells using ultra-small nanoparticles at low discharging rate

January 01, 2015

Theoretical discharging behavior and high cycle stability of 5 nm NPs. (a) Discharge/charge profile of 5 nm S NPs at 0.1 C. (b) XRD patterns of discharge products of 20 and 5 nm S NPs discharged to 1.0 V. (c) XPS spectra of discharge products of 5 nm S NPs at DoD of 72 and 100%. (d) Cycling performance of 5 nm SNPs at 0.5 C and 1 C. Credit: ACS, Chen et al. Click to enlarge.

A team at the Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics (SINANO) has demonstrated that the electrochemical performance of sulfur nanoparticles (NPs) in the cathode of a Lithium-sulfur battery is critically dependent on the sulfur particle size. Further, they demonstrated that sulfur’s theoretical discharging behavior can be experimentally realized with ultra-small sulfur nanoparticles.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, they report that 5 nm S NPs display sulfur’s theoretical discharging/charging capacity of 1672 mAh g–1 at a 0.1 C rate and a discharge capacity of 1089 mAh g–1 even at 4 C. Specific capacity remained at 1017 and 965 mAh g−1 after 500 cycles at 0.5 C and 1 C, respectively.

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Yale team introduces new Li-O2 cell architecture with mesoporous catalytic membrane; improved cycling stability

December 31, 2014

Schematic illustration of a Li-O2 cell employing a mesoporous catalytic polymer membrane. Credit: ACS, RYu et al. Click to enlarge.

A team at Yale University has introduced a new Li-O2 cell architecture that uses a mesoporous catalytic polymer-based membrane between the oxygen electrode and the separator to achieve high reversibility and efficiency, rather than placing the catalyst particles on the oxygen electrode itself.

A modified Li-O2 battery with a catalytic membrane showed a stable cyclability for 60 cycles with a capacity of 1000 mAh/g and a reduced degree of polarization (∼0.3 V) compared to cells without a catalytic membrane. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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High-capacity GQD-coated VO2 nanoarray electrodes for high-performance Li- and Na-ion batteries

December 29, 2014

Researchers from Nanyang Technical University (NTU) in Singapore have shown high-capacity, high-rate, and durable lithium- and sodium-ion battery (LIB and NIB) performance using single-crystalline long-range-ordered bilayered VO2 nanoarray electrodes. The VO2 nanoarrays are supported on graphene foam (GF) and coated with a thin (∼2 nm) layer of graphene quantum dots (GQDs) to enhance the electrochemical performance both in LIBs and NIBs.

In lithiation (for LIBs), the electrode delivers a capacity more than 420 mAh/g and a capacity retention of 94% after 1500 cycles at 18 A/g. During sodiation (for NIBs), it can also exhibit a high capacity of 306 mAh/g and superior rate tolerance and good capacity retention (88% after 1500 cycles at 18 A/g) with a power density of 42 kW/kg at an energy density more than 100 Wh/kg.

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ORNL teams embeds crown ethers in graphene for increased performance; potential for separations, sensors, batteries, biotech & more

December 28, 2014

This sheet of graphene contains an array of crown ethers that can strongly bind select guest ions or molecules. Image credit: ORNL. Click to enlarge.

A team led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has discovered a way to increase significantly the selectivity and binding strength of crown ethers by embedding them within a rigid framework of graphene. The results, published in Nature Communications, may enable broader use of crown ethers in diverse applications. Their strong, specific electrostatic binding may advance sensors, chemical separations, nuclear-waste cleanup, extraction of metals from ores, purification and recycling of rare-earth elements, water purification, biotechnology, energy production in durable lithium-ion batteries, catalysis, medicine and data storage.

Ethers are simple organic molecules in which an oxygen atom bridges two carbon atoms. When linked together in crown-shaped large molecular rings, they have the ability selectively to incorporate various atoms or molecules within the cavity formed by the ring. The size and shape of the cavity formed within a crown ether molecule confers selectivity for complementary ions and small molecules that fit it, like a lock and key. Crown ethers come in different sizes, so they can accommodate ions of different diameters.

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Study finds flooded lead-acid battery performance & cycle life increased by adding dCNT to PAM and NAM; benefit for start-stop

December 26, 2014

Researchers with Molecular Rebar Design report that the addition of discrete carbon nanotubes (dCNT), which they call Molecular Rebar, to both the positive and negative electrodes (Positive Active Material, PAM and Negative Active Material, NAM) in conventional flooded lead-acid batteries results in: little change to reserve capacity; improved cold cranking, increased charge acceptance, and enhanced overall system efficiency. The company had earlier reported on the impact of dCNT addition primarly to the negative electrode. (Earlier post.)

Life cycle tests show >60% increases when dCNT are incorporated into the negative electrode and up to 500% when incorporated into both electrodes, with water loss per cycle reduced >20% (High-Rate Partial State of Charge, HRPSoC and SBA S010 idling start-stop testing). A paper describing the study and the results is published in an open access paper in the Journal of Power Sources.

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U Maryland team devises new method to stabilize high-capacity Si anodes for Li-ion batteries: interfacial oxygen

December 20, 2014

Interfacial oxygen between the silicon and carbon improves electrode performance. Credit: ACS, Son et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have improved the cycle life of silicon/carbon matrix-composite electrodes by 300%, even at mass loadings, solely by the chemical tailoring of the interface between the silicon and the carbon with atomic oxygen.

The interface-tailored electrodes simultaneously attained high areal capacity (3.86 mAh/cm2); high specific capacity (922 mAh/g based on the mass of the entire electrode); and excellent cyclability (80% retention of capacity after 160 cycles)—among the highest reported. Even at a high rate of 1C, the areal capacity approaches 1.61 mAh/cm2 at the 500th cycle. In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the team sugests that interfacial bonding—“a new dimension that has yet to be explored,”—can play an unexpectedly important role in addressing the multifaceted challenge of Si anodes.

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U Texas Austin team finds P2S5 electrolyte additive enables use of Li2S bulk particles for high-capacity cathodes in lithium-sulfur batteries; ~800 mAh/g

December 19, 2014

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, led by Prof. Arumugam Manthiram, have found that using phosphorus pentasulfide (P2S5) as an electrolyte additive enables the direct use of commercially available bulk Li2S particles as high-capacity cathode materials for rechargeable Li−S batteries, without intricate synthesis or application of a high charging cut-off voltage that deteriorates the electrolyte stability and safety.

The ability to use commercially available bulk particles could significantly decrease the manufacturing cost of Li−S batteries with a LiS cathode. In a paper published in the ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, the team suggested that this strategy is both of significance for the safe and effective use of Li2S as a cathode material and as a promising step toward the low-cost fabrication of metallic-lithium-free Li−S batteries.

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New high-voltage electrolyte additive supports high energy density and stability in LMNC Li-ion battery; 2x energy density over LiCoO2

December 18, 2014

Discharge capacity and cycle numbers for LMNC cathode with and without DFDEC in the electrolyte. Pham et al. Click to enlarge.

A team led by researchers at Chungnam National University (S. Korea) has developed a novel high-voltage electrolyte additive, di-(2,2,2 trifluoroethyl)carbonate (DFDEC), for use with the promising lithium-rich layered composite oxide high-energy cathode material xLi2MnO3·(1-x)LiMO2 (M = Mn, Ni, Co).

In a study reported in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society, the team, led by Professor Seung-Wan Song, operated a 0.6Li2MnO3·0.4LiNi0.45Co0.25Mn0.3O2 (Li1.2Mn0.525Ni0.175Co0.1O2, LMNC) cathode at 2.5–4.8 V with 5 wt% of the fluorinated linear carbonate DFDEC as an additive. The cathode with DFDEC-enhanced electrolyte outperformed that in electrolyte only, delivering a high capacity of 250 mAhg−1 with an excellent charge-discharge cycling stability at the rate of 0.2C. A full cell based on the LMNC cathode and graphite anode successfully demonstrated doubled energy density (∼278 Wh kg−1) compared to ∼136 Wh kg−1 of a commercialized cell of graphite/LiCoO2 as well as an excellent cycling stability.

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European automotive and automotive battery industries call for extension of the exemption of lead-based batteries from the EU ELV Directive

The EU must continue to allow the use of lead-based batteries in vehicles as they are essential for the needs of future generations of European cars, according to the automotive and automotive battery industries in Europe. Lead battery and car manufacturers have requested that the current exemption for lead-based batteries within the ELV Directive’s wider ban on lead in light-duty vehicles is maintained for at least another eight years.

The comments are part of the formal submission made by the industry group to EU regulators who concluded the public consultation phase of the review of the End of Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive this week. Following the consultation the Commission is expected to release its opinion in the first half of 2015.

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Scania to test wirelessly charged plug-in hybrid city bus for the first time in Sweden

December 17, 2014

Starting June 2016 a prototype for a new Scania plug-in hybrid bus (based on Scania Citywide Low Entry) will go into daily operation in Södertälje. Click to enlarge.

Scania is undertaking intensive research into various types of electrification technologies that could replace or complement combustion engines. Inductive charging is among the options the company is exploring and would enable vehicles wirelessly to recharge their batteries via electrified roads.

Now, for the first time in Sweden, Scania and the Stockholm based Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) plan to test the wireless charging technology in real-life conditions. Starting June 2016, a prototype for a new Scania plug-in hybrid bus (based on Scania Citywide Low Entry) will go into daily operation in Södertälje as part of a research project into sustainable vehicle technology.

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Graphene sheet-sulfur/carbon composite cathode for higher performance Li-sulfur batteries

December 16, 2014
Cycling performance of the GS-S/CZIF8-D composite and the unwrapped S/CZIF8-D composite. Chen et al. Click to enlarge.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Vasant Kumar at the University of Cambridge and Professor Renjie Chen at the Beijing Institute of Technology has devised a three-dimensional hierarchical sandwich-type graphene sheet-sulfur/carbon (GS-S/CZIF8-D) composite to address performance-related issues in Lithium-sulfur batteries such as low efficiency and capacity degradation.

The thin graphene sheet, wrapped around the sulfur/zeolitic imidazolate framework-8 derived carbon (S/CZIF8-D) composite, has excellent electrical conductivity and mechanical flexibility. This facilitates rapid electron transport and accommodates the changes in volume of the sulfur electrode. Compared with an unwrapped S/CZIF8-D sample, Li-S batteries with the GS-S/CZIF8-D composite cathode showed enhanced capacity, improved electrochemical stability up to 120 cycles, and relatively high Coulombic efficiency. An open access paper on the work is published in the journal APL Materials.

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Electrochemical Society & Toyota announce ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship for projects in green energy technology

ECS, in partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North American (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), has launched the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship and is requesting proposals from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

The purpose of the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship is to encourage young professors and scholars to pursue research in green energy technology that may promote the development of next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels. Electrochemical research has already informed the development and improvement of innovative batteries, electrocatalysts, photovoltaics and fuel cells. Through this fellowship, ECS and TRINA hope to see more innovative and unconventional technologies borne from electrochemical research.

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U Alberta team develops hybrid sodium-ion capacitor; intermediate in energy & power between ultracaps and batteries

December 15, 2014

A team led by researchers from the University of Alberta (Canada) Scientists has developed a hybrid sodium-ion capacitor (NIC) using active materials in both the anode and the cathode derived entirely from peanut shells—a green and highly economical waste globally generated at more than 6 million tons per year. The hybrid NIC stores charge both electrostatically and electrochemically, and sits between ultracapacitors and batteries in terms of power (ultracaps) and energy (batteries) storage capability.

According to their paper, published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the electrodes deliver among the most promising sodiation capacity–rate capability–cycling retention combinations reported in the literature. The resultant NIC also offers an advanced cyclically stable combination of energy and power, not only in respect to previously developed sodium-ion capacitors, but also as compared to Li-ion capacitors (LICs).

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Ioxus introduces high-temperature ultracapacitors with Titan technology; targeting automotive and transport

December 12, 2014

Ioxus, a manufacturer of premium performance ultracapacitor technology for use in transportation, industrial and energy applications, has introduced high-temperature 1250 Farad (F) cells with Titan high-temperature technology. Titan follows Ioxus’ earlier release of the results of an extensive durability test of its flagship hybrid bus product, the 48V / 165F module. (Earlier post.)

Ioxus’ Titan technology meets a key automotive industry requirement: a system with a wider operating range that meets both cold and high temperature standards. Ioxus’ newest line of cells, designed with novel chemistry solutions for this market, function properly at temperature ranges of -40 to 85 °C, and deliver 2.7 volts at these temperatures.

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Report: VW invests in novel energy storage company QuantumScape and its solid-state “All Electron Battery”

December 09, 2014

Bloomberg recently reported that the Volkswagen Group has made an investment in QuantumScape, a Silicon Valley stealth startup commercializing a novel solid-state energy storage technology—the “All-Electron Battery” (AEB), originally developed at Stanford and supported by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) ARPA-E BEEST program (earlier post), as noted by Katie Fehrenbacher at GigaOM.

Volkswagen executives have been hinting for awhile now about taking a different approach to high-energy-density electrical storage for long-range electric vehicles than the more “conventional” next-generation Li-ion or Li-metal battery pathways. Volkswagen at this point is steadfastly returning official “No comments” to questions here in the US and in Germany about the veracity of the Bloomberg report. However, if the Group has indeed taken a position in QuantumScape with the intention of supporting the development of the AEB for vehicle applications, that would certainly qualify as “a different approach.” In the AEB, energy storage is via the movement of electrons in bulk rather than ions (as in Li-ion batteries) and uses electron/hole redox instead of capacitive polarization of a double-layer (e.g., conventional capacitors).

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Penn State researchers develop thermally regenerative ammonia battery (TRAB) for efficient waste heat recovery

December 08, 2014

Researchers at Penn State University have demonstrated the efficient conversion of low-grade thermal energy into electrical power using a thermally regenerative ammonia-based battery (TRAB). A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

The battery uses copper-based redox couples [Cu(NH3)42+/Cu and Cu(II)/Cu]. Ammonia addition to the anolyte (the electrolyte surrounding the anode) of a single TRAB cell produced a maximum power density of 115 ± 1 W m−2 (based on projected area of a single copper mesh electrode), with an energy density of 453 Wh m−3 (normalized to the total electrolyte volume, under maximum power production conditions).

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Li-S battery company OXIS Energy receives 2014 European Frost & Sullivan Award for Technology Innovation

Consultancy Frost &Sullivan has selected UK-based lithium-sulfur battery developer OXIS Energy to receive the 2014 European Frost & Sullivan Award for Technology Innovation. OXIS Energy has developed a lithium-sulfur battery technology that resolves some of the issues in the batteries currently used in military, automotive, and solar energy storage applications. The battery technology currently offers energy density greater than 300Wh/kg, is lightweight and offers enhanced safety chemistry that prevents fires and retains functionality, even after accidents. (Earlier post.)

The significant weight reduction makes the technology promising for soldiers or electric vehicles. For specific military applications, OXIS Energy is confident of achieving a significant weight reduction in excess of 50% in the near future.

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Study elucidates mechanism of alucone MLD coating that extends cycle life of high capacity Si anodes for Li-ion batteries

December 02, 2014

A team of researchers has elucidated the mechanism through which the surface modification of silicon nanoparticles on a high capacity silicon electrode via molecular layer deposition (MLD) of “alucone” enhances the Coulombic efficiency and preserves the capacity of silicon anodes for high-capacity Li-ion batteries. The study also clarified the role of the native oxide on silicon nanoparticles during cyclic lithiation and delithiation.

More broadly, the research team suggested in a paper published in the journal ACS Nano, the work also demonstrates that the effect of the subtle chemical modification of the silicon surface during the coating process may be of equal importance to the coating layer itself.

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PNNL team reports growth of dendrite-free lithium films with self-aligned and compact nanorod structure

Suppressing lithium (Li) dendrite growth is one of the most critical challenges for the development of Li-metal batteries—i.e., high-energy density batteries using a Li-metal anode such as Li-sulfur or Li-air. (Earlier post.) Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) report for the first time the growth of dendrite-free lithium films with a self-aligned and highly compacted nanorod structure. Their paper appears in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

Lithium metal is a very promising anode material for high-capacity rechargeable batteries due to its theoretical high capacity of 3,860 mAh g−1 (~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 have been and are being made to develop a safe, extended cycling lithium-metal electrode and/or supporting electrolyte (e.g., earlier post, earlier post, earlier post, earlier post.)

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Daimler investing ~€100M in Deutsche ACCUmotive to expand lithium-ion battery system production; stationary storage

December 01, 2014

Daimler AG is expanding its production capacities for lithium-ion battery systems with investments of around €100 million (US$125 million) in its Deutsche ACCUmotive subsidiary in coming years. Currently, a new building to be completed by mid-2015 is under construction in Kamenz, Germany. With the completion of the third construction phase Deutsche ACCUmotive will have nearly 20,000 m² of production and logistics space at its disposal—four times the area since the start of production in the year 2011.

Deutsche ACCUmotive’s product range currently includes three lithium-ion battery systems for different models. This includes the current smart fortwo electric drive and the Mercedes-Benz Models S 300 BlueTEC HYBRID, S 400 HYBRID, E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID, E 400 HYBRID and C 300 BlueTEC HYBRID. The company has delivered more than 50,000 lithium-ion battery systems to date. Earlier this month, Daimler said it would cease production of Li-ion battery cells at its LiTec subsidiary, with the intention of sourcing cells for the packs from outside the company. (Earlier post.)

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BMW reveals 3 Series Plug-in hybrid prototype with 117.5 mpg; next-gen Power eDrive: 2x current capacity, electric AWD

November 27, 2014

BMW 3 Series Plug-in hybrid prototype. Click to enlarge.

BMW has unveiled a 3 Series plug-in hybrid prototype. Combining a four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo gasoline engine from the new Efficient Dynamics engine family with an electric motor, the BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid prototype offers performance on a par with a conventionally powered BMW 3 Series six-cylinder model, combined with a significant reduction in fuel consumption.

In addition, BMW outlined its work on Power eDrive next-generation electrification platforms—an effort to deliver “highly electrified” plug-in hybrids with higher-powered electric motors and batteries with twice the capacity of present versions. Future plug-in hybrid concepts, said BMW, will use the electric motor—the main source of power for everyday driving—to drive the rear wheels, while a second electric motor driving the front wheels will create an all-electric road-coupled all-wheel-drive system. At the same time, an internal combustion engine will also supply power to the front axle.

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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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