Europe: 17 Organizations United To Produce Li-Ion Batteries

Energy storage has emerged as a central building block of the EU’s objectives in low emission electric transport and replacing electricity generated by fossil fuels with renewables. The realisation that batteries are of such strategic importance has come as a wake-up call, with Europe finding itself lagging in commercialising research in the field, and for now, completely dependent on manufacturers outside the EU for battery supplies. Public and private funders in Europe that have put €555 million into developing new energy storage technologies since 2008 have little to show for it in terms of commercial outputs.

While a number of start-ups, such as France’s NAWA Technology are working on various approaches to increasing energy density and speeding up recharging of electric vehicle batteries, none are in production. As yet, Europe has no factories producing electric vehicle batteries, though LG Chem of South Korea is currently constructing a manufacturing plant in Poland, which is due to open later this year. Another Korean manufacturer, SK Innovation, whose major customer is Mercedes-Benz, has announced it will invest $777 million to build a battery plant with capacity of 7.5 GW/year in Hungary

A European company, Northvolt is planning to build a plant in Skelleftea, northern Sweden, with construction due to start in the second half of 2018. Meanwhile, Frankfurt-based TerraE announced earlier in January that it has formed a consortium of 17 companies and research institutions to handle the planning for two large-scale lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facilities in Germany. TerraE will build and operate the factories, where customers can have batteries produced to their own specifications.


Scalable Catalyst Produces Cheap Pure Hydrogen

The “clean-energy economy” always seems a few steps away but never quite here. Fossil fuels still power transportation, heating and cooling, and manufacturing, but a team of scientists from Penn State and Florida State University have come one step closer to inexpensive, clean hydrogen fuel with a lower cost and industrially scalable catalyst that produces pure hydrogen through a low-energy water-splitting process.

Hydrogen fuel cells can boost a clean-energy economy not only in the transportation sector, where fast fueling and vehicle range outpace battery-powered vehicles, but also to store electrical energy produced by solar and wind. This research is another step forward to reaching that goal.
Energy is the most important issue of our time, and for energy, fuel cells are crucially important, and then for fuel cells, hydrogen is most important,” said Yu Lei, Penn State doctoral student and first author of an ACS Nano paper describing the water-splitting catalyst she and her colleagues theoretically predicted and then synthesized in the lab. “People have been searching for a good catalyst that can efficiently split water into hydrogen and oxygen. During this process, there will be no side products that are not environmentally friendly.”

The current industrial method of producing hydrogen — steam reforming of methane — results in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Other methods use waste heat, from sources such as advanced nuclear power plants or concentrated solar power, both of which face technical challenges for commercial feasibility. Another industrial process uses platinum as the catalyst to drive the water-splitting process. Although platinum is a near-perfect catalyst, it is also expensive. A cheaper catalyst could make hydrogen a reasonable alternative to fossil fuels in transportation, and power fuel cells for energy storage applications.

Molybdenum disulfide has been predicted as a possible replacement for platinum, because the Gibbs free energy for hydrogen absorption is close to zero,” said Mauricio Terrones, professor of physics, materials science and engineering, and chemistry, Penn State. The lower the Gibbs free energy, the less external energy has to be applied to produce a chemical reaction.


Run A Car With Water And Air

The German automaker Audi announced it has created the first batch of liquid “e-diesel” at a research facility in Dresden. The clear fuel is produced through a “power to liquid” process, masterminded by the German clean tech company and Audi partner Sunfire.

The process uses carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, which can be captured directly from air. Carbon dioxide is created largely by burning fossil fuels and contributes to global warming. Now Sunfire said it can recycle the gas to make a more efficient, carbon-neutral fuel.
Unlike conventional fossil fuels, the “e-diesel” doesn’t contain sulphur and other contaminants.
audi e-diesel
The engine runs quieter and fewer pollutants are being created,” Sunfire‘s Christian von Olshausen said.
The fuel is produced in three steps. First, the researchers heat up steam to very high temperatures to break it down into hydrogen and oxygen. This process requires temperatures of over 800 degrees Celsius (1,472 Fahrenheit) and is powered by green energy such as solar or wind power.
Second, they mix the hydrogen with carbon dioxide under pressure and at high temperature to create so-called blue crude. Lastly, the blue crude is refined into fuels in a similar way fossil crude oil is refined into gasoline.
Audi (AUDVF) said its lab tests have shown the “e-diesel” can be mixed with fossil fuels or used as a fuel on its own.
At this stage the e-diesel cost 40 % more than the regular gasoline per liter to produce.

Touch Pad that Costs Less Than 10 Dollars

University of Minnesota engineers discover novel technology for producing “electronic ink“. Electronic touch pads that cost just a few dollars and solar cells that cost the same as roof shingles are one step closer to reality today.
Researchers in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., have overcome technical hurdles in the quest for inexpensive, durable electronics and solar cells made with non-toxic chemicals.
plasma reactor glass tube
Light is emitted from excited argon gas atoms flowing through the glass tube of a plasma reactor. The plasma is a reactive environment used to produce silicon nanocrystals that can be applied to inexpensive, next-generation electronics.

Imagine a world where every child in a developing country could learn reading and math from a touch pad that costs less than $10 or home solar cells that finally cost less than fossil fuels,” said Uwe Kortshagen, a University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor and one of the co-authors of the research.

The research was published in the most recent issue of Nature Communications, an international online research journal.