It's a good time to be slinging lithium

Subject: General Tech | September 27, 2016 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: lithium ion, battery

The price of lithium ion batteries is likely to spike in the near future as demand is far outstripping production.  While we are using them in ultramobile laptops, there is another quickly growing industry which consumes these same cylindrical lithium polymer based batteries, the electric car industry.  The demand has grown enough that suppliers are about to demand a noticeable raise in prices and as there does not seem to be any production increase they are likely to get it.  This will result in a small increase in price in ultraportables and a larger one in electric cars.  There is a concern that DigiTimes did not raise in their post; that this level of imbalance in supply and demand can lead to knock-offs and lower quality suppliers being considered as a source simply to ensure that a product is available. 

That could be somewhat of a concern; these batteries often hold a larger charge and are usually found in greater numbers than the ones currently in the news.

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"In addition to the 18650 cylinder battery, the lithium polymer battery, which is commonly used in ultra-thin notebook models, is also suffering from shortages as many vendors including Apple, Acer and Asustek Computer, have all scheduled to released new ultra-thin notebooks models in the near future."

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Source: DigiTimes

What do you mean the battery is immune to capacity degradation? Someone shoot that researcher!

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2016 - 12:47 PM |
Tagged: happy mistake, battery, nanowires

A very happy accident occurred during Mya Le Thai's doctoral thesis research, which will greatly upset replacement battery suppliers everywhere.  Lithium-ion batteries slowly lose the ability to charge fully and to hold that charge as they are used and recharged multiple times.  There are several reasons why this occurs and her team of researchers were trying to find a way to avoid some of those reasons by using nanowires to store and transfer electrons.  This method has not been very successful in the past as nanowires are very brittle and would degrade over time in the same way other solutions did.  However, in what The Inquirer refers to as an accident, the team discovered that coating gold nanowires in a manganese dioxide shell and then placing it in a Plexiglas-like gel resolved that problem, their test battery has now been recharged over 200,000 times in the space of three months, with no measurable loss of total capacity or power delivery.  Hopefully this technology does not end up patented and sitting on a shelf unused to ensure we still need to continually replace the batteries we use.

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"RESEARCHERS AT the University of California at Irvine (UCI) have accidentally - yes, accidentally - discovered a nanowire-based technology that could lead to batteries that can be charged hundreds of thousands of times."

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Source: The Inquirer

It turns out mouldy batteries might be a good thing

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 12:36 PM |
Tagged: battery

It would appear that red bread mould is capable of far more than ruining a good sandwich.  Researchers are investigating its ability to recover rare metals from electronics and to extend the life of batteries.  Indeed, from what Hack a Day could glean from the research papers adding specially treated mould to lithium ion cells and supercapacitors is quite effective, with a test battery still able to charge beyond 90% of its original charge after 200 discharges.  If that isn't strange enough for you the wonderfully titled link from The Inquirer just below will teach you about a new type of solid state lithium battery, no liquid inside and a charging rate similar to a supercapacitor.

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"Researchers used the carbonized fungal biomass-mineral composite in both lithium ion cells and supercapacitors. The same team earlier showed how fungi could stabilize toxic lead and uranium."

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Source: Hack a Day

Lithium Ion batteries that won't explode? Sounds like a great idea!

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2016 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: lithium ion, battery, badaboom

One problem with Lithium Ion batteries is that they have a slight penchant for failing in a spectacular way when charged improperly or if heat builds up past a critical level.  Some researchers have come up with a simple idea to prevent this from happening, applying a polyethylene film to one of the electrodes which changes size as the temperature changes, breaking the circuit when a certain temperature is reached which shuts the battery down.  Once the temperature falls the circuit reconnects and the battery is usable once again.  They do not expect this to impact the normal functionality of the battery, giving an extra level of safety with no performance cost.  You can follow the links from Slashdot to see the research paper yourself.

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"Scientists have designed a lithium-ion battery that self-regulates according to temperature, to prevent itself from overheating. Reaching extreme temperatures, the battery is able to shut itself down, only restarting once it has cooled. The researchers designed the battery to shut down and restart itself over a repeated heating and cooling cycle, without compromising performance."

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Source: Slashdot

Keep your tired lithium batteries on ice

Subject: General Tech | January 2, 2016 - 02:02 PM |
Tagged: battery

We know that heat and Lithium based batteries don't mix but there is more to worry about than catastrophic failure.  A post over at Hack a Day illustrates the consequences of heating a Lithium based battery with 1% or less charge, the complete and permanent death of the batteries ability to hold a charge.  There are some uses for these batteries in designs which can trap heat near to the battery and not properly transfer it out and it is apparently very important to keep those batteries at least moderately charged.  If you are making something which might expose the batteries to excess heat ensure you monitor the charge to prevent having to replace the batteries.  The complete discharge of a Lithium cell is never a good practice and this illustrates another reason to keep those batteries charged.

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"There’s a million ways to kill a battery, and lithium batteries are known not to like being completely discharged, but it looks like the combination of deep discharge and heat is entirely deadly. Now you know."

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Source: Hack a Day

Pyrite and quantum dots in your next battery?

Subject: General Tech | November 13, 2015 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: battery, quantum dots, iron pyrite

Earlier this month we saw researchers seeing success by mixing air into lithium ion based batteries and today we hear of a different experiment aimed at increasing battery life.  As was discussed in the previous article the inevitable formation of crystals inside the battery is what prevents a battery from fully recharging and eventually being unable to hold any charge whatsoever.  Researchers have experimented with adding millions of iron pyrite quantum dots of varying sizes to lithium and sodium ion batteries and found they can make cells which charge more quickly than standard cells and survive more recharging cycles.  There is still a lot of work to be done, if you are interested in reading up on the research you can follow the links from Slashdot.

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"The problem is that when the size of the crystals drop below a certain size they begin to react chemically with the electrolytes which prevents them from recharging. Now, however, a team of engineers from Vanderbilt University report in an article published in the journal ACS Nano that they can overcome this problem by making the nanocrystals out of iron pyrite, commonly known as fool's gold."

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Source: Slashdot

You got air in my LiOn battery! Oh wait ...

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2015 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: Li-air, battery

Many great discoveries happen accidentally, when a scientist is attempting to create a new material or upgrade an existing one, only to stumble upon something different or to achieve the desired results in an unexpected way.  Such was the case for K M Abraham who was trying to improve the performance of LiOn batteries when one of his batteries sprung a leak and allowed air into the cells.  Over the past twenty years we have barely managed to triple the power of batteries so any advancement in battery technology is welcome even ones which seem at first to have serious drawbacks.  The problem with this particular battery design is in the formation of Li2O2 deposits as the battery discharges which will eventually render the battery nonchargeable and useless.   Read on at The Register to see how that problem has been overcome and the possible uses of this new type battery.

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"Rather than try to fix the leak, Abraham investigated and discovered the first rechargeable lithium-air (Li-air) battery. So far this discovery hasn’t led to any technically viable products, but a paper published in Science from a University of Cambridge research group may be about to change that."

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Source: The Register

Samsung Publishes Battery Enhancement Tech with Silicon

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 26, 2015 - 04:53 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, battery

When I was in my Physics program, there was a running joke that the word “Nano” should be a red flag when reading research papers. This one has graphene and nanoparticles, but it lacks quantum dots and it looks privately funded by a company, so we might be good. Kidding aside, while I have little experience with battery technology, they claim to have surrounded silicon anodes for lithium batteries with a layer of graphene.

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Image Credit: Samsung via Nature

This addition of graphene is said to counteract an issue where silicon expands as it is used and recharged. The paper, which again is the first source that I have seen discuss this issue, says that other attempts at using silicon adds vacant space around the anode for future growth. If you can keep the material at the same volume over its lifespan, you will be able to store more electricity in smaller devices. I wonder why Samsung would want something like that...

Source: Nature
Author:
Manufacturer: Anker

Upgrades from Anker

Last year we started to have a large amount of mobile devices around the office including smartphones, tablets and even convertibles like the ASUS T100, all of which were charged with USB connections. While not a hassle when you are charging one or two units at time, having 6+ on our desks on any day started to become a problem for our less numerous wall outlets. Our solution last year was Anker's E150 25 watt wall charger that we did a short video overview on.

It was great but had limitations including different charging rates depending on the port you connected it to, limited output of 5 Amps total for all five ports and fixed outputs per port. Today we are taking a look at a pair of new Anker devices that implement smart ports called PowerIQ that enable the battery and wall charger to send as much power to the charging device as it requests, regardless of what physical port it is attached to.

We'll start with the updated Anker 40 watt 5-port wall charger and then move on to discuss the 3-port mobile battery charger, both of which share the PowerIQ feature.

Anker 40 watt 5-Port Wall Charger

The new Anker 5-port wall charger is actually smaller than the previous generation but offers superior specifications at all feature points. This unit can push out more than 40 watts total combined through all five USB ports, 5 volts at as much as 8 amps. All 8 amps can in fact go through a single USB charging port we are told if there was a device that would request that much - we don't have anything going above 2.3A it seems in our offices.

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Any USB port can be used for any device on this new model, it doesn't matter where it plugs in. This great simplifies things from a user experience point of view as you don't have to hold the unit up to your face to read the tiny text that existed on the E150. With 8 amps spread across all five ports you should have more than enough power to charge all your devices at full speed. If you happen to have five iPads charging at the same time, that would exceed 8A and all the devices charge rates would be a bit lower.

Continue reading our review of the Anker 40 watt 5-port Wall Charger and 2nd Gen Astro3 12000 mAh Battery!!

Just Delivered: Eaton 3S 750VA / 450 watt Battery Backup UPS

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2011 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: battery, ups, eaton, 3s, just delivered

Just Delivered is a new section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

Sometimes computer technology isn't sexy - but you need it anyway.  Just look at items like optical drives (debatable), floppy discs and ZIP drives?  Amiright?  An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is just one of those items.  You might not want to think about it, but you should have one, even for gamers and general PC users.

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Ever been working on a school document or maybe even a really detailed rage post on your favorite forum and had the power flicker and your PC reset, losing hours and hours of work you put into telling that moron why your GPU was better?  If so, or if you can imagine the frustration, then you know why having even just a few minutes of battery time on a desktop computer can be critical. 

We recently picked up the Eaton 3S battery backup which you can find online for as little as $70 - quite a steal for the peace of mind you'll get for having it.  Yes, if you are gaming on a PC using more than 450 watts when the power outage occurs, you are probably screwed.  If you are doing basically anything else, almost any desktop configuration should be good to go.

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The Eaton 3S 750VA model includes 5 outlets for battery backup and 5 more that are surge protection only.  The power button light changes colors depending on the units status and is a very basic indicator of your current power situation.

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The 3S has network surge protection as well as a USB port to connect tor your PC should you wish to use the Eaton Intelligent Power Protector software that enables features like graceful shutdown (if you are away from your PC when the power outage occurs).   You don't have to use that software though, and the unit will operate on a completely plug-and-play fashion using Windows, Mac or Linux integrated power management software.

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The unit can be wall mounted which is nice if you have limited floor space.

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The battery in the unit is user replaceable which is a nice change of pace and could lower your maintenance costs down the road for this UPS.  Eaton actually offers a 3-year warranty on both the unit AND THE BATTERY; something that other companies like APC do not (as I have first had experience with). 

The amount of runtime you will get with a UPS like this will obviously vary based on your hardware setup and while Eaton estimates "between 10 and 30 minutes" I would wager it would be slightly less than that for our readers.  Still, a few minutes is better than NO minutes so consider this Just Delivered to double as a PC Perspective PSA.