Future batteries, coming soon

 Charge in seconds, last months and power over the air

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While smartphones, smarthomes and even smart wearables are growing ever more advanced, they're still limited by power. The battery hasn't advanced in decades. But we're on the verge of a power revolution.

Big technology and car companies are all too aware of the limitations of lithium-ion batteries. While chips and operating systems are becoming more efficient to save power we're still only looking at a day or two of use on a smartphone before having to recharge.

While it may be some time before we get a week's life out of our phones, development is progressing well. We've collected all the best battery discoveries that could be with us soon, from over the air charging to super-fast 30-second re-charging. Hopefully you'll be seeing this tech in your gadgets soon.

Capturing energy from Wi-Fi

While wireless inductive charging is common, being able to capture energy from Wi-Fi or other electromagnetic waves remains a challenge. A team of researchers however has developed a rectenna (radio wave harvesting antenna) that is only several atoms think, making it incredibly flexible. 

The idea is that devices can incorporate this molybdenum disulphide-based rectenna so that AC power can be harvested from Wi-Fi in the air and converted to DC, either to recharge a battery or power a device directly. That could see powered medical pills without the need for an internal battery (safer for the patient), or mobile devices that don't need to be connected to a power supply to recharge.

Energy harvested from the device owner

You could be the source of power for your next device, if research into TENGs comes to fruition. A TENG - or triboelectric nanogenerator - is a power harvesting technology which captures the electric current generated through contact of two materials.

A research team at Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute and the University of Surrey have given an insight into how this technology might be put into place to power things like wearable devices. While we're some way from seeing it in action, the research should give designers the tools they need to effectively understand and optimise future TENG implementation.

Gold nanowire batteries

Great minds over at the University of California Irvine have cracked nanowire batteries that can withstand plenty of recharging. The result could be future batteries that don't die.

Nanowires, a thousand times thinner than a human hair, pose a great possibility for future batteries. But they've always broken down when recharging. This discovery uses gold nanowires in a gel electrolyte to avoid that. In fact these batteries were tested recharging over 200,000 times in three months and showed no degradation at all.

Solid state lithium-ion

Solid state batteries traditionally offer stability but at the cost of electrolyte transmissions. A paper published by Toyota scientists writes about their tests of a solid state battery which uses sulfide superionic conductors. All this means a superior battery.

The result is a battery that can operate at super capacitor levels to completely charge or discharge in just seven minutes - making it ideal for cars. Since it's solid state that also means it's far more stable and safer than current batteries. The solid-state unit should also be able to work in as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius and up to one hundred. 

The electrolyte materials still pose challenges so don't expect to see these in cars soon, but it's a step in the right direction towards safer, faster charging batteries.

Grabat graphene batteries

Graphene batteries have the potential to be one of the most superior available. Grabat has developed graphene batteries that could offer electric cars a driving range of up to 500 miles on a charge. 

Graphenano, the company behind the development, says the batteries can be charged to full in just a few minutes and can charge and discharge 33 times faster than lithium ion. Discharge is also crucial for things like cars that want vast amounts of power in order to pull away quickly.

There's no word on if Grabat batteries are currently being used in any products, but the company has batteries available for cars, drones, bikes and even the home. 

Laser-made microsupercapacitors

Scientists at Rice University have made a breakthrough in microsupercapacitors. Currently they are expensive to make but using lasers that could soon change.

By using lasers to burn electrode patterns into sheets of plastic manufacturing costs and effort drop massively. The result is a battery that can charge 50 times faster than current batteries and discharge even slower than current supercapacitors. They're even tough, able to work after being bent over 10,000 times in testing.

Foam batteries

Prieto believes the future of batteries is 3D. The company has managed to crack this with its battery that uses a copper foam substrate.

This means these batteries will not only be safer, thanks to no flammable electrolyte, but they will also offer longer life, faster charging, five times higher density, be cheaper to make and be smaller than current offerings.

Prieto aims to place its batteries into small items first, like wearables. But it says the batteries can be upscaled so we could see them in phones and maybe even cars in the future.  

Foldable battery is paper-like but tough

The Jenax J.Flex battery has been developed to make bendable gadgets possible. The paper-like battery can fold and is waterproof meaning it can be integrated into clothing and wearables.

The battery has already been created and has even been safety tested, including being folded over 200,000 times without losing performance.

uBeam over the air charging

uBeam uses ultrasound to transmit electricity. Power is turned into sound waves, inaudible to humans and animals, which are transmitted and then converted back to power upon reaching the device.

The uBeam concept was stumbled upon by 25-year-old astrobiology graduate Meredith Perry. She started the company that will make it possible to charge gadgets over the air using a 5mm thick plate. These transmitters can be attached to walls, or made into decorative art, to beam power to smartphones and laptops. The gadgets just need a thin receiver in order to receive the charge.

StoreDot charges mobiles in 30 seconds

StoreDot, a start-up born from the nanotechnology department at Tel Aviv University, has developed the StoreDot charger. It works with current smartphones and uses biological semiconductors made from naturally occurring organic compounds known as peptides – short chains of amino acids - which are the building blocks of proteins.

The result is a charger that can recharge smartphones in 60 seconds. The battery comprises "non-flammable organic compounds encased in a multi-layer safety-protection structure that prevents over-voltage and heating", so there should be no issues with it exploding. 

The company has also revealed plans to build a battery for electric vehicles that charges in five minutes and offers a range of 300 miles. 

There's no word on when StoreDot batteries will be available on a global scale - we were expecting them to arrive in 2017 - but when they do we expect them to become incredibly popular.

Transparent solar charger

Alcatel has demoed a mobile phone with a transparent solar panel over the screen that would let users charge their phone by simply placing it in the sun.

Although it's not likely to be commercially available for some time, the company hopes that it will go some way to solving the daily issues of never having enough battery power. The phone will work with direct sunlight as well as standard lights, in the same way regular solar panels.

Aluminium-air battery gives 1,100 mile drive on a charge

A car has managed to drive 1,100 miles on a single battery charge. The secret to this super range is a type of battery technology called aluminium-air that uses oxygen from the air to fill its cathode. This makes it far lighter than liquid filled lithium-ion batteries to give car a far greater range.

Urine powered batteries

The Bill Gates Foundation is funding further research by Bristol Robotic Laboratory who discovered batteries that can be powered by urine. It’s efficient enough to charge a smartphone which the scientists have already shown off. But how does it work?

Using a Microbial Fuel Cell, micro-organisms take the urine, break it down and output electricity. 

Sound powered

Researchers in the UK have built a phone that is able to charge using ambient sound in the atmosphere around it.

The smartphone was built using a principle called the piezoelectric effect. Nanogenerators were created that harvest ambient noise and convert it into electric current. 

The nanorods even respond to the human voice, meaning chatty mobile users could actually power their own phone while they talk. 

Twenty times faster charge, Ryden dual carbon battery

Power Japan Plus has already announced this new battery technology called Ryden dual carbon. Not only will it last longer and charge faster than lithium but it can be made using the same factories where lithium batteries are built.

The batteries use carbon materials which mean they are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than current alternatives. It also means the batteries will charge twenty times faster than lithium ion. They will also be more durable, with the ability to last up to 3,000 charge cycles, plus they are safer with lower chance of fire or explosion.

Sand battery gives three times more battery life

This alternative type of lithium-ion battery uses sand to achieve three times better performance than current batteries.

The battery is still lithium-ion like the one found in your smartphone, but it uses sand instead of graphite in the anodes. This means it not only offers three times better performance, but it's also low cost, non toxic and environmentally friendly.

Now for the sciencey bit. Scientists,at the University of California Riverside have been focused on nano silicon for a while, but it's been degrading too quickly and is tough to produce in large quantities. By using sand it can be purified, powdered then ground with salt and magnesium before being heated to remove oxygen resulting in pure silicon. This is porous and three-dimensional which helps in performance and, potentially, the life-span of the batteries.

Sodium-ion batteries

Scientists in Japan are working on new types of batteries that don't need lithium like your smartphone battery. These new batteries will use sodium, one of the most common materials on the planet rather than rare lithium – and they'll be up to seven times more efficient than conventional batteries.

Research into sodium-ion batteries has been going on since the eighties in an attempt to find a cheaper alternative to lithium. By using salt, the sixth most common element on the planet, batteries can be made much cheaper. Commercialising the batteries is expected to begin for smartphones, cars and more in the next five to 10 years.

Upp hydrogen fuel cell charger

The Upp hydrogen fuel cell portable charger is available now. It uses hydrogen to power your phone keeping you off the gird and remaining environmentally friendly.

One hydrogen cell will provide five full charges of a mobile phone (25Wh capacity per cell). And the only by-product produced is water vapour. A USB type A socket means it will charge most USB devices with a 5V, 5W, 1000mA output.

Batteries with built-in fire extinguisher

It's not uncommon for lithium-ion batteries to overheat, catch on fire and possibly even explode. The battery in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is a prime example. Researchers at Stanford university have come up with lithium-ion batteries with built-in fire extinguishers. 

The battery has a component called triphenyl phosphate, which is commonly used as a flame retardant in electronics, added to the plastic fibres to help keep the positive and negative electrodes apart. If the battery's temperature rises above 150 degrees C, the plastic fibres melt and the triphenyl phosphate chemical is released. Research shows this new method can stop batteries from catching fire in 0.4 seconds. 

Batteries that are safe from explosion

Lithium-ion batteries have a rather volatile liquid electrolyte porous material layer sandwiched between the anode and cathode layers. Mike Zimmerman, a researcher at Tufts University in Massachusetts, has developed a battery that has double the capacity of lithium-ion ones, but without the inherent dangers. 

Zimmerman's battery is incredibly thin, being slightly thicker than two credit cards, and swaps out the electrolyte liquid with a plastic film that has similar properties. It can withstand being pierced, shredded, and can be exposed to heat as it's not flammable. There's still a lot of research to be done before the technology could make it to market, but it's good to know safer options are out there. 

Liquid Flow batteries

Harvard scientists have developed a battery that stores its energy in organic molecules dissolved in neutral pH water. The researchers say this new method will let the Flow battery last an exceptionally long time compared to the current lithium-ion batteries.

It's unlikely we'll see the technology in smartphones and the like, as the liquid solution associated with Flow batteries is stored in large tanks, the larger the better. It's thought they could be an ideal way to store energy created by renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar. 

Indeed, research from Stanford University has used liquid metal in a flow battery with potentially great results, claiming double the voltage of conventional flow batteries. The team has suggested this might be a great way to store intermittent energy sources, like wind or solar, for rapid release to the grid on demand.

IBM and ETH Zurich and have developed a much smaller liquid flow battery that could potentially be used in mobile devices. This new battery claims to be able to not only supply power to components, but cool them at the same time. The two companies have discovered two liquids that are up to the task, and will be used in a system that can produce 1.4 Watts of power per square cm, with 1 Watt of power reserved for powering the battery. 

Zap&Go Carbon-ion battery

Oxford-based company ZapGo has developed and produced the first carbon-ion battery that's ready for consumer use now. A carbon-ion battery combines the superfast charging capabilities of a supercapacitor, with the performance of a Lithium-ion battery, all while being completely recyclable. 

The company has a powerbank charger that be fully charged in five minutes, and will then charge a smartphone up to full in two hours.

Zinc-air batteries

Scientists at Sydney University believe they've come up with a way of manufacturing zinc-air batteries for much cheaper than current methods. Zinc-air batteries can be considered superior to lithium-ion, because they don't catch fire. The only problem is they rely on expensive components to work.

Sydney Uni has managed to create a zinc-air battery without the need for the expensive components, but rather some cheaper alternatives. Safer, cheaper batteries could be on their way!

Smart clothing

Researchers at the University of Surrey are developing a way of you being able to use your clothing as a source of power. The battery is called a Triboelectric Nanogenerators (TENGs), which converts movement into stored energy. The stored electricity can then be used to power mobile phones or devices such as Fitbit fitness trackers.

The technology could be applied to more than just clothing too, it could be integrated into the pavement, so when people constantly walk over it, it can store electricity which can then be used to power streelamps, or in a car's tyre so it can power a car. 

Stretchable batteries

Engineers at the University of California in San Diego have developed astretchable biofuel cell that can generate electricity from sweat. The energy generated is said to be enough to power LEDs and Bluetooth radios, meaning it could one day power wearable devices like smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Samsung's graphene battery

Samsung has managed to develop "graphene balls" that are capable of boosting the capacity of its current lithium-ion batteries by 45 per cent, and and recharging five times faster than current batteries. To put that into context, Samsung says its new graphene-based battery can be recharged fully in 12 minutes, compared to roughly an hour for the current unit. 

Samsung also says it has uses beyond smartphones, saying it could be used for electric vehicles as it can withstand temperatures up to 60 degrees Celsius. 

Safer, faster charging of current Lithium-ion batteries

Scientists at WMG at the University of Warwick have developed a new technology that allows current Lithium-ion batteries to be charged up to five times faster that current recommended limits. The technology constantly measures a battery's temperature far more precisely than current methods.

Scientists have found that current batteries can in fact be pushed beyond their recommended limits without affecting performance or overheating. Maybe we don't need any of the other new batteries mentioned at all! 

SOURCE: https://www.pocket-lint.com/gadgets/news/130380-future-batteries-coming-soon-charge-in-seconds-last-months-and-power-over-the-air

The battery boom

The battery boom to attract $620bn in investment by 2040

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The battery boom is coming to China, California and basically everywhere else – and it will be even bigger than previously thought.

The global energy-storage market will surge to a cumulative 942 GW by 2040, according to a new forecast from Bloomberg NEF published on November 13, and that growth will necessitate $620-billion in investment.

Sharply falling battery costs is a key driver of the boom. BNEF sees the capital cost of a utility-scale lithium-ion storage system falling another 52% by 2030.

But cost isn’t the only factor. Governments from China to California are spurring demand, as is the rise of electric vehicles and solar power. There’s also been a greater focus on storage for electric-vehicle charging as well as energy access in remote areas.

“Costs have come down faster than we expected,” YayoiSekine, a New York-based analyst at BNEF, said in an interview. “Batteries are going to permeate our lives.”

The implications of cheaper batteries are far-reaching, upending multiple industries and helping spur technologies necessary to help fight climate change. Batteries power the electric vehicles that are popping up on our freeways. They also unlock solar power from the exclusive confines of the sun.

Two important markets come into particular focus. China, which is building up its battery-manufacturing capacity, will be a central player in the boom.

California, meanwhile, has pushed through a series of measures in recent years that will directly or indirectly spur more batteries, including legislation that would require all of the state’s electricity to come from carbon-free sources by 2045.

“Storage is just so sensibly the next step in the evolution of renewable energy,” Edward Fenster, the executive chairperson of San Francisco-based rooftop-solar company Sunrun, said in an interview. “If we’re going to get to 100% renewable energy, we’ll need storage.”

Six key takeaways from the latest BNEF battery forecast: 

  • Annual energy-storage deployments are now forecast to exceed 50 GWh by 2020. That’s three years earlier than BNEF’s outlook from just last year.
  • Energy storage may be equivalent to 7% of the world’s total installed power capacity by 2040.
  • The Asia-Pacific region will be home to 45% of total installations on a megawatt basis by 2040. Another 29% will be spread across Europe, Middle East and Africa. The remainder will be in the Americas.
  • The majority of storage capacity will be utility-scale until the mid-2030s. But then so-called behind-the-meter projects— installations at businesses, industrial sites and residential properties—will overtake utility-scale.
  • A list of the leading battery countries is topped by: China, the US, India, Japan, Germany, France, Australia, South Korea and the UK. South Korea today dominates the market but will be overtaken by the US early in the 2020s—and both will later be eclipsed by China.
  • Storage is coming to developing countries in Africa, too. BNEF explains it thusly: utilities will likely recognize that the combination of solar, diesel and batteries in “far-flung sites” is cheaper than extending the power grid or building a fossil-only generator.

SOURCE: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/the-battery-boom-to-attract-620bn-in-investment-by-2040-2018-11-19

Vanadium batteries the solution

Vanadium batteries the solution to meet growing energy storage demand – Bushveld

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Vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) are a front-runner technology for meeting the growing demand in the energy storage sector, says Bushveld Energy CEO Mikhail Nikomarov.

During a webinar on energy storage this week, he noted that data by US-based multiservice professional firm Navigant shows that VRFB demand is expected to increase to over 18 000 MWh by 2027.

However, keeping market researcher BMI Research’s suggested 25% market share in mind, Nikomarov on Tuesday noted that this could increase to over 27 500 MWh by 2027.

If these forecasts hold true, 82 000 t of vanadium will be needed just for VRFBs, he said. Taking the BMI forecast into account, this could increase to over 96 000 t.

“This is a significant demand, and actually presents us with an upside,” he said.

Nikomarov said VRFBs offered clear advantages, both technically and financially, which “sets it apart in large-scale stationary applications”.

Despite vanadium’s limited share in current markets, the demand for vanadium – which offers future opportunities in consumer and mobile energy storage – remains underwritten by the steel market.

Existing demand from the steel and chemicals markets, Nikomarov said, implies a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for vanadium demand of 2.5% from 2017 to 2027.

The high dependence of VRFB on vanadium may increase this demand CAGR to 8.4%, he added.

Supporting this growth, is the industry’s optimism surrounding VRFBs.

Counting in the battery technology’s favour, he highlighted, was the evolution of energy storage cases that are “actually what a vanadium battery does”, which is longer duration and multiple purposes from one battery; as well a reduction of cost and consolidation.

Nikomarov also pointed out that the technology has Chinese political support, which is leading to greater VRFB deployment in Asia, compared with other regions.

He added that VRFB technology also formed part of China’s new National Development Plan.

Other advantages include an internal rate of return of between 2% and 22%, flexibility in its uses, as well as a movement to long-duration storage.

Compared with lithium-ion batteries, which Nikomarov noted are much stronger for shorter duration applications, VRFB growth will be seen in larger uses, such as utility-scale energy storage over the next decade, especially considering that these have a need for transmission, distribution and generation capacity.

Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, are more commonly used in power markets where frequency control is remunerated and monetised.

“It’s important to [keep in mind] that within this kind of framework, it’s not really exclusive. There’s a lot of areas in between where you could use either technology from a technical, commercial or hybrid perspective,” Nikomarov stated.

Additionally, he highlighted that those who require long duration, such as utilities, will comprise about 90% of the market, which is very favourable to the growth and increased use of VRFBs.

Shorter duration storage, which is an established market, is what VRFB has historically been used for, but it is not growing as fast as some of the other sectors, and will not be such a large market, Nikomarov said.

Further, despite initial start-up costs being a bit more expensive, he believes that, in the case of VRFB, which can be used more as a result of a better cyclability, end-users have the potential to get a greater capitalisation.

“It brings the cost of the battery down and it brings it down to something that is below lithium. And in some cases, [this decrease in cost is significant].”

In terms of pricing and costing, Nikomarov referred to data from Navigant, which forecast that cost decreases for lithium-ion are expected to slow, whereas the same degree of slowdown cannot be applied to VRFBs.

“Costs are expected to come down for all technologies owing to scale, completion and lower transactions,” he said, adding that vanadium, which is used in both the cathode and anode of a VRFB, will further reduce the cost of the battery technology.

“In summation, we see an extremely exciting sector in vanadium. If you look at steel, and its current application in allows, there’s a CAGR of about 2.5%. Once we start looking into some of the scenarios on vanadium battery adoption, that number increases,” Nikomarov enthused, adding that, combined, both the vanadium and steel markets can expect to see a growth of over 10% over the next eight years.

Bushveld Minerals CEO Fortune Mojapelo, meanwhile, said the primary vanadium producer has articulated an ambition to grow its production platform to more than 10 000 t/y of vanadium in the medium term, which will principally be driven by its subsidiary Bushveld Vametco.

Of this target, 5 000 t/y will be from Vametco, where the producer is aiming to further increase its production capacity.

Bushveld, which is also the parent company of Bushveld Energy, continues to look at further targeted brownfield opportunities, which it believes will see the company grow to beyond the 5 000 t/y of vanadium envisaged for Vametco.

“We see portfolio diversification through the supply of electrolyte for VRFBs for energy storage and particularly some of the activities. We are confident that the stage is set to really unlock the opportunity for the downstream integration through Bushveld Energy in the energy storage sector,” Mojapelo commented.

Meanwhile, Bushveld looks forward to completing the commissioning and development of a VRFB battery, with a peak of over 120 kWh, for State-owned Eskom’s research facility.

The battery is expected to be commissioned during the last quarter of this year.

The producer is also working with the Industrial Development Corporation on an electrolyte production facility with multiple megalitre yearly production capacity, located in the East London Industrial Development Zone. 

SOURCE: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/vanadium-batteries-the-solution-to-meet-growing-energy-storage-demand-bushveld-2018-11-14