That new battery is sick!

Subject: General Tech | June 20, 2017 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: battery

Researchers from the University of Maryland have come up with an interesting new use for the tobacco mosaic virus; significantly increasing the surface area of electrodes.  The increase is quite impressive, a 3.6-fold improvement in areal capacitance over a planar equivalent due to the increased surface area created by the nickel oxide coated TMV.  Not only does this research offer improvements in supercapacitors it opens up a new area of research which could enhance a wide variety of electrically charged devices.  Drop by Nanotechweb for a look at the science behind this.

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"Scientists in the US have devised a microfabrication method that uses capillary channels in a photoresist to position nanorods of the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). The team used the quick and simple new approach to create a supercapacitor with nanostructured electrodes, and the method can be applied to construct many other microdevices requiring high surface areas."

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Source: Nanotechweb

Tearing open a Tesla; a look at the Model S battery

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2017 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: tesla motors, battery

Hack a Day posted a video of a teardown of the battery that powers the Tesla Model S, for those curious about how it is set up.  This is not recommended for you to try at home, not only are there a huge number of bolts and Torx screws, it seems that each has a specific torque amount which must be adhered to.  Inside are 16 battery packs, each of which contain 444 cells with a total of 24V, for a sum of 5.3 kWh.  Do not test the charge on these batteries with your tongue!  Click on through to watch the video.

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"Tesla famously build their battery packs from standard 18650 lithium-ion cells, but it’s safe to say that the pack in the Model S has little in common with your laptop battery. Fortunately for those of a curious nature, [Jehu Garcia] has posted a video showing the folks at EV West tearing down a Model S pack from a scrap car, so we can follow them through its construction."

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Source: Hack a Day

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