The energy world is not keeping up with Elon Musk, so he’s trying to take matters into his own hands. Musk, chairman of the solar installer SolarCity, has announced that the company would acquire a solar panel maker and build factories “an order of magnitude” bigger than the plants that currently churn out panels. “If we don’t do this we felt there was a risk of not being able to have the solar panels we need to expand the business in the long term,” Musk said in a conference call.
Musk is also a founder and the CEO of the electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, which is planning what it calls a “gigafactory” to supply batteries for its cars.In both cases, Musk’s goal is to make sure that the components critical to his vision of the future — electric cars and solar energy — are available and cheap enough to beat fossil fuels.
Researchers at UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have developed a three-dimensional, silicon-decorated, cone-shaped carbon-nanotube cluster architecture for lithium ion battery anodes that could enable charging of portable electronics in 10 minutes, instead of hours.
Lithium ion batteries are the rechargeable battery of choice for portable electronic devices and electric vehicles. But, they present problems. Batteries in electric vehicles are responsible for a significant portion of the vehicle mass. And the size of batteries in portable electronics limits the trend of down-sizing.
New observations by researchers at MIT have revealed the inner workings of a type of electrode widely used in lithium-ion batteries. The new findings explain the unexpectedly high power and long cycle life of such batteries, the researchers say.
The findings appear in a paper in the journal Nano Letters co-authored by MIT postdoc Jun Jie Niu, research scientist Akihiro Kushima, professors Yet-Ming Chiang and Ju Li and three others.
Vast amounts of excess heat are generated by industrial processes and by electric power plants; researchers around the world have spent decades seeking ways to harness some of this wasted energy. Most such efforts have focused on thermoelectric devices, solid-state materials that can produce electricity from a temperature gradient, but the efficiency of such devices is limited by the availability of materials.
Now, researchers at MIT and Stanford Univ. have found a new alternative for low-temperature waste-heat conversion into electricity — that is, in cases where temperature differences are less than 100 C.
A new prototype electric car battery could take you a lot farther and last a lot longer. Jeff Pyun and his team at the Univ. of Arizona are using modified sulfur, a common industrial waste product, to boost the charge capacity and extend the life of these batteries.
As news reports of lithium-ion battery (LIB) fires in Boeing Dreamliner planes and Tesla electric cars remind us, these batteries — which are in everyday portable devices, like tablets and smartphones — have their downsides. Now, scientists have designed a safer kind of lithium battery component that is far less likely to catch fire and still promises effective performance. They report their approach in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Lynden Archer, Geoffrey Coates and colleagues at Cornell Univ. explain that the danger of LIBs originates with their electrolytes, the substance that allows ions to flow between the electrodes of the battery. The electrolyte usually contains a flammable liquid. To minimize this fire hazard, some researchers are developing more stable, solid electrolytes.
‘Double-duty’ Electrolyte Key to Longer-lived Batteries
Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new and unconventional battery chemistry aimed at producing batteries that last longer than previously thought possible.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, ORNL researchers challenged a long-held assumption that a battery’s three main components — the positive cathode, negative anode and ion-conducting electrolyte — can play only one role in the device. The electrolyte in the team’s new battery design has dual functions: it serves not only as an ion conductor but also as a cathode supplement. This cooperative chemistry, enabled by the use of an ORNL-developed solid electrolyte, delivers an extra boost to the battery’s capacity and extends the lifespan of the device.
Analysis Probes Charge Transfer in Battery Electrodes
The electrochemical reactions inside the porous electrodes of batteries and fuel cells have been described by theorists, but never measured directly. Now, a team at MIT has figured out a way to measure the fundamental charge transfer rate — finding some significant surprises.
The study found that the Butler-Volmer (BV) equation, usually used to describe reaction rates in electrodes, is inaccurate, especially at higher voltage levels. Instead, a different approach, called Marcus-Hush-Chidsey charge-transfer theory, provides more realistic results — revealing that the limiting step of these reactions is not what had been thought.
The new findings could help engineers design better electrodes to improve batteries’ rates of charging and discharging, and provide a better understanding of other electrochemical processes, such as how to control corrosion.
Saliva-powered micro-sized microbial fuel cells can produce minute amounts of energy sufficient to run on-chip applications, according to an international team of engineers.
Bruce Logan, Evan Pugh Professor and Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering, Penn State, credits the idea to fellow researcher Justine Mink. “The idea was Justine’s because she was thinking about sensors for such things as glucose monitoring for diabetics and she wondered if a mini microbial fuel cell could be used,” Logan says. “There is a lot of organic stuff in saliva.”
Wind Can Provide a Surplus of Reliable, Clean Energy
The worldwide demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations have increased about 40 percent a year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled.
The dramatic growth of the wind and solar industries has led utilities to begin testing large-scale technologies capable of storing surplus clean electricity and delivering it on demand when sunlight and wind are in short supply.
Now, a team of Stanford Univ. researchers has looked at the “energetic cost” of manufacturing batteries and other storage technologies for the electrical grid. At issue is whether renewable energy supplies, such as wind power and solar photovoltaics, produce enough energy to fuel both their own growth and the growth of the necessary energy storage industry.
Study Aims to Reduce Threat from Satellite Batteries
Across a satellite’s working life, batteries keep the craft’s heart beating whenever it leaves sunlight. But after its mission ends, those same batteries may threaten catastrophe.
Space debris mitigation rules require the complete deactivation of electrical power sources aboard a satellite on retirement, in order to guard against explosive accidents that might produce fresh debris dangerous to other satellites.
Researchers are charged up about biobatteries, devices able to harness common biological processes to generate electricity. Most biobatteries are unable to generate large amounts of power, but researchers recently developed a prototype version that has the potential to be lighter and more powerful than the batteries typically found in today’s portable electronic devices, including smartphones.
In the body, sugar is converted into energy in a process called metabolism, which decomposes sugar into carbon dioxide and water while releasing electrons. Biobatteries produce energy though the same conversion process by capturing the electrons that are generated in the decomposition of sugar with the same tools that the body uses. Because biobatteries use materials that are biologically based, they are renewable and non-toxic, making them an attractive alternative to traditional batteries that need metals and chemicals to operate.
System Delivers Real-time View of Battery Electrochemistry
Using a new microscopy method, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can image and measure electrochemical processes in batteries in real time and at nanoscale resolution.
Scientists at ORNL used a miniature electrochemical liquid cell that is placed in a transmission electron microscope to study an enigmatic phenomenon in lithium-ion batteries called the solid electrolyte interphase, or SEI, as described in a study published in Chemical Communications.
A Kansas State Univ. engineer has made a breakthrough in rechargeable battery applications.
Gurpreet Singh, assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, and his student researchers are the first to demonstrate that a composite paper — made of interleaved molybdenum disulfide and graphene nanosheets — can be both an active material to efficiently store sodium atoms and a flexible current collector. The newly developed composite paper can be used as a negative electrode in sodium-ion batteries.