The 5 largest battery innovations from 2019

Researchers spent the year coming up with creative ways to address the need for new types of batteries.

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Battery life has become one of the biggest hurdles of technology, as the acceptance of smartphones and devices around the world continues to rise.

The demand for devices with a longer lifespan and the increased use of electric vehicles has forced some of the world’s greatest minds to start developing something new.

The lithium-ion battery has been a dominant force since its introduction in 1991 and powers the smartphone in your pocket and your laptop at home.

But these batteries lose power when they are charged and cause more and more permanent environmental damage to the South American Lithium Triangle, which includes Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

Wood Mackenzie Energy Research & Consultancy estimates that in the US alone the total market value of the energy storage sector by 2024 will be $ 5.3 billion.

Throughout the year there have been dozens of announcements and investments in new battery technology that will change the use of energy in the next decade. Here are the five largest battery innovations from 2019.

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University of Illinois in the lithium-carbon dioxide battery of Chicago

In September, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago said they were the first to show that lithium carbon dioxide batteries can be designed to be fully rechargeable.

Amin Salehi-Khojin, associate professor of mechanical engineering and industrial engineering at the College of Engineering of the school, and his team have announced that they have conducted tests on a prototype lithium-carbon dioxide battery that could run up to 500 consecutive charging / charging processes.

According to the University of Illinois at Chicago, the researchers used new materials such as molybdenum disulfide to “encourage the thorough recycling of both lithium carbonate and carbon.”

“Lithium-carbon dioxide batteries have long been attractive, but in practice we have not been able to get one that is really efficient,” Salehi-Khojin told the school magazine.

“Our unique combination of materials helps create the first CO2-neutral lithium-carbon dioxide battery with much more efficiency and a long service life, allowing it to be used in advanced energy storage systems.”

IBM’s No Metal, “Sea Water” battery

To close the year, IBM announced that its research department has developed a new type of battery that officials say is made from never-before-used components that can all be extracted from seawater.

Young-hye Na, IBM research manager for material innovations for Next-Gen Batteries, explained in a blog post that her team “has discovered a chemistry for a new battery that does not use heavy metals or other substances with regard to sourcing”.

“Discovered in the IBM Research battery lab, this design uses a cobalt and nickel-free cathode material, as well as a safe liquid electrolyte with a high flash point. This unique combination of the cathode and the electrolyte demonstrated the ability to suppress lithium metal drives during charging, which reduces flammability, which is generally considered a significant disadvantage for the use of lithium metal as anode material. This discovery offers significant potential for batteries for electric vehicles, for example where issues such as flammability, costs and charging time play a role, “she wrote .

“Initial tests showed that it can be optimized to exceed the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries in a number of separate categories, including lower costs, faster charging time, higher current and energy density, strong energy efficiency and low flammability.”

MIT’s carbon dioxide battery

Researchers at MIT have announced the creation of an innovative, specialized battery that they have proven to be able to absorb carbon dioxide from the air flowing over the electrodes while it is being charged and which then releases gas while being discharged.

In October, David Chandler of the MIT wrote that the battery “could be an important tool in the fight against climate change.”

The battery is further explained in a detailed article in the journal Energy and Environmental Science by MIT postdoc Sahag Voskian and T. Alan Hatton, the Ralph Landau professor of chemical technology.

“The biggest advantage of this technology over most other carbon capture or carbon absorbing technologies is the binary nature of the affinity of the carbon dioxide adsorbent,” Voskian told Chandler.

Hatton added that his team “strived to develop new technologies to address a range of environmental issues that avoid the need for thermal energy sources, changes in system pressure or addition of chemicals to complete the separation and release cycles. Technology a clear demonstration of the power of electrochemical approaches that only require small voltage fluctuations to drive the separations. “

Non-toxic zinc and manganese from the University of Adelaide

Dongliang Chao and Professor Shi-Zhang Qiao of the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials designed a new battery made of non-toxic zinc and manganese, as well as non-combustible aqueous electrolyte.

The two scientists signed a $ 700,000 research agreement with a Chinese battery manufacturer, Zhuoyue Power New Energy, to work on their patented technology.

“I can imagine that this battery is used on all vehicle types, from small scooters to even diesel-electric trains. Also in homes that need batteries to store solar energy, or even large solar / wind farms,” ​​Chao told November to the South Australian newspaper The Lead. .

“With the production of more sustainable energy – such as wind and solar parks – storing this energy in batteries in a safe, inexpensive and environmentally friendly way becomes more urgent, but current battery materials – including lithium, lead and cadmium – are expensive , dangerous and toxic. “

The two researchers said they wanted to put the idea on the market in the next 12 months and get a lot of grip, because Australia has an abundance of naturally found zinc and manganese.

According to Chao estimates, the cost of this new battery will be less than $ 10 per kWh, compared to $ 300 per kWh for many current lithium batteries.

Nikola’s free-standing electrode car battery

At the end of last month, Nikola CEO and founder Trevor Milton told Forbes that his company had made a new type of battery that did not use nickel, cobalt and other hazardous metals, while claiming it doubled energy density and only 40% of the weight.

Milton was careful with the details of the new technology, but the Phoenix startup has been busy building new hydrogen-powered electric semi-trucks.

“It is the world’s first free-standing electrode-car battery. We went to a completely different type of chemical with a lithium component. It’s hard to explain what it is without giving up the secret sauce,” Milton said in the interview with Forbes in November.

Milton said they will hold the first public technology demonstrations at their Nikola World technology summit in Phoenix in 10 months.

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