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Better batteries for a greener future

11 April 2011 2 Comments

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According to an industry expert quoted on NewEnergyWorldNetwork  the cost of lithium-ion batteries will drop by nearly a third within the next four years and may be halved by 2020. Vital to green technologies such as clean energy storage and electric vehicle applications, this reduction in cost will be a result of more efficient charging mechanisms and an increase in battery lifetimes.

The ability to measure, predict and control properties that extend battery life is therefore extremely important to this greener future.

More efficient charging mechanisms

Currently, manufacturers routinely employ carbon or graphite anodes within Lithium ion batteries. However, under high power charging or elevated temperatures, deposition on the anode will inhibit ion transport, increasing resistance and diminishing the cell’s capacity. This can, in extreme cases, lead to short-circuiting and even thermal combustion!

Alternative anode materials is therefore a research focus.

For example, Li4Ti5O12(spinel) has the advantage of zero-strain characteristics during lithium insertion/extraction. It is also cheap and easy to prepare, offering good cycling performance and long life time as well as a very flat charge-discharge voltage plateau. Unfortunately, it exhibits poor electronic and ionic conductivity, which limits its rate capability.

Zhu et al, from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Hefei University of Technology, China, demonstrated the potential to improve the electrochemistry and cycle performances of anodes made from Li4Ti5O12 by doping them with Magnesium (Mg). The results of Zhu et al’s research can be read in more detail in Li4-xMgxTi5O12(0.05≤x≤0.2) Anode Material with Improved Rate and Electrochemical Performance for Li-Ion Batteries, which is freely available online at Advanced Science Letters, Vol. 4, 484–487, 2011.

Increasing battery lifetime

Electrolyte volume, ionic mobility within the battery, rate of reaction and battery power are all influenced by the size and shape of constituent particles and laser diffraction is a key tool for monitoring and analysis towards optimum production and performance:

What are your thoughts on a battery powered future?

The idea of investing in better battery technology is a relatively easy sell it seems to me.

Although I’m not likely to run out and buy a hybrid car, I do use electric trains and I find it hard not to enjoy the idea of a tram ride through Hannover. And, it is difficult to find an argument against the idea of clean energy storage…

…what are your thoughts?