Friendly Alternative To Li-Ion Battery

An unexpected discovery has led to a rechargeable battery that’s as inexpensive as conventional car batteries, but has a much higher energy density. The new battery could become a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative for storing renewable energy and supporting the power grid.

A team based at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) identified this energy storage gem after realizing the new battery works in a different way than they had assumed. The journal Nature Energy published a paper today that describes the battery.

PNNL batteryPNNL’s improved aqueous zinc-manganese oxide battery offers a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative for storing renewable energy and supporting the power grid.

“The idea of a rechargeable zinc-manganese battery isn’t new; researchers have been studying them as an inexpensive, safe alternative to lithium-ion batteries since the late 1990s,” said PNNL Laboratory Fellow Jun Liu, the paper’s corresponding author. “But these batteries usually stop working after just a few charges. Our research suggests these failures could have occurred because we failed to control chemical equilibrium in rechargeable zinc-manganese energy storage systems.”

After years of focusing on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, researchers are used to thinking about the back-and-forth shuttle of lithium ions. Lithium-ion batteries store and release energy through a process called intercalation, which involves lithium ions entering and exiting microscopic spaces in between the atoms of a battery’s two electrodes.

This concept is so engrained in energy storage research that when PNNL scientists, collaborating with the University of Washington, started considering a low-cost, safe alternative to lithium-ion batteries − a rechargeable zinc-manganese oxide battery − they assumed zinc would similarly move in and out of that battery’s electrodes. After a battery of tests, the team was surprised to realize their device was undergoing an entirely different process. Instead of simply moving the zinc ions around, their zinc-manganese oxide battery was undergoing a reversible chemical reaction that converted its active materials into entirely new ones.


Viruses Boost Electric Car Batteries

MIT researchers find a way to boost lithium-air battery performance, with the help of modified viruses. Lithium-air batteries have become a hot research area in recent years: They hold the promise of drastically increasing power per battery weight, which could lead, for example, to electric cars with a much greater driving range. But bringing that promise to reality has faced a number of challenges, including the need to develop better, more durable materials for the batteries’ electrodes and improving the number of charging-discharging cycles the batteries can withstand. Now, MIT researchers have found that adding genetically modified viruses to the production of nanowires — wires that are about the width of a red blood cell, and which can serve as one of a battery’s electrodes — could help solve some of these problems.
viruses for electric batteries
Professor Angela Belcher, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, explains that this process of biosynthesis is “really similar to how an abalone grows its shell”. Belcher emphasizes that this is early-stage research, and much more work is needed to produce a lithium-air battery that’s viable for commercial production. This work only looked at the production of one component, the cathode; other essential parts, including the electrolyte — the ion conductor that lithium ions traverse from one of the battery’s electrodes to the other — require further research to find reliable, durable materials. Also, while this material was successfully tested through 50 cycles of charging and discharging, for practical use a battery must be capable of withstanding thousands of these cycles.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications, co-authored by graduate student Dahyun Oh, professors Angela Belcher and Yang Shao-Horn, and three others


New Type Of Batteries For Electric Cars

Electric vehicle batteries have three problems — they’re big, heavy, and expensive. But what if you could shift EV batteries away from being big blocks under the car and engineer them into the car itself? Research groups at Imperial College London working with Volvo have spent three years developing a way to do exactly that. The researchers are storing energy in nano structure batteries woven into carbon fiber–which can then be formed into car body panels. These panel-style batteries charge and store energy faster than normal EV batteries, and they are also lighter and more eco-friendly.


The research team has built a Volvo S80 prototype featuring the panels where the battery panel material has been used for the trunk lid. With the materials used on the doors, roof and hood, estimated range for a mid-size electric car is around 80 miles.
If an electric car were to replace its existing battery components with the new system, it could cut its weight by 15 per cent – it means a car like the Nissan Leaf, that weighs 1795 kilograms, would be about 270 kilograms lighter, thus more efficiency.