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Disordered materials hold promise for better batteries

January 10, 2014 7:38 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Lithium batteries, with their exceptional ability to store power per a given weight, have been a major focus of research to enable use in everything from portable electronics to electric cars. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brookhaven National Laboratory have found a whole new avenue for such research: the use of disordered materials, which had generally been considered unsuitable for batteries.

A cheaper method of storing solar energy

January 8, 2014 9:45 am | News | Comments

By replacing platinum with molybdenum in photoelectrochemical cells, scientists from two Swiss labs have developed a cheaper and scalable technique that can greatly improve hydrogen production through water splitting as a means of storing solar energy.

Spectroscopic technique could accelerate the push for better batteries

December 5, 2013 9:02 am | News | Comments

A new technique developed at the Advanced Light Source could help scientists better understand and improve the materials required for high-performance lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs) and other applications. The technique, which uses soft x-ray spectroscopy, measures something never seen before: the migration of ions and electrons in an integrated, operating battery electrode.

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SolarCity to back up solar with Tesla batteries

December 5, 2013 12:36 am | by Jonathan Fahey, AP Energy Writer | News | Comments

The solar panel installer SolarCity is beginning to address one of solar power's big drawbacks: The sun doesn't always shine. The solution: big battery packs that will provide backup power while lowering electric bills. The supplier: electric car maker Tesla Motors, whose CEO Elon Musk is also the chairman of SolarCity.

Enhancing lithium-ion battery performance

November 20, 2013 9:41 am | News | Comments

Scientists worldwide are seeking ways to improve the power density, durability and overall performance of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Researchers in Japan now report an advance in Li-ion battery technology that yields a significantly higher-performing battery. The difference is a cathode positive electrode of lithium cobalt oxide in which the compound's individual grains are aligned in a specific orientation.

Holistic cell design leads to high-performance lithium-sulfur battery

November 20, 2013 7:54 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated in the laboratory a lithium-sulfur battery that has more than twice the specific energy of lithium-ion batteries, and that lasts for more than 1,500 cycles of charge-discharge with minimal decay of the battery’s capacity. This is the longest cycle life reported so far for any lithium-sulfur battery.

Pressure cooking improves electric car batteries

November 19, 2013 7:12 am | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Batteries that power electric cars have problems. They take a long time to charge. The charge doesn’t hold long enough to drive long distances. They don’t allow drivers to quickly accelerate. They are big and bulky. By creating nanoparticles with controlled shape, engineers in California believe smaller, more powerful and energy-efficient batteries for vehicles can be built.

Scientists invent self-healing battery electrode

November 18, 2013 7:47 am | Videos | Comments

Researchers have made the first battery electrode that heals itself, opening a new and potentially commercially viable path for making the next generation of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, cell phones and other devices. The secret is a stretchy polymer that coats the electrode, binds it together and spontaneously heals tiny cracks that develop during battery operation.

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Better batteries through biology?

November 13, 2013 7:30 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Lithium-air batteries have become a hot research area in recent years: They hold the promise of drastically increasing power per battery weight, which could lead, for example, to electric cars with a much greater driving range. But bringing that promise to reality has faced a number of challenges.

Calculations reveal shortcut to characterize zeolites

November 12, 2013 8:02 am | News | Comments

A computational method to quantify the adsorption of gas by porous zeolites should help labs know what to expect before they embark upon slow, costly experiments, according to researchers at Rice Univ. The new method created by engineers in Rice’s Multiscale Materials Modeling Lab accurately calculated the ability of two zeolites, small cage-like molecules with enormous surface area, to trap and store gas molecules.

Professor invents a flexible battery

November 5, 2013 2:33 pm | by Robert Florida, NJIT | News | Comments

Researchers at NJIT have developed a flexible battery made with carbon nanotubes that could potentially power electronic devices with flexible displays. According to its developers, this battery can be made as small as a pinhead or as large as a carpet in a living room.

Futuristic copper foam batteries get more bang for the buck

October 24, 2013 8:39 am | News | Comments

Amy Prieto, a chemist at Colorado State Univ. leads a start-up company with the goal of developing a lithium-ion battery that should be safer, cheaper, faster-charging, and more environmentally friendly than conventional batteries now on the market. The key to the technology is copper foam which is easy to manufacture and has high power density.

Forest waste used to develop cheaper, greener supercapacitors

October 24, 2013 7:42 am | News | Comments

Researchers report that wood-biochar supercapacitors can produce as much power as today’s activated-carbon supercapacitors at a fraction of the cost, and with environmentally friendly byproducts. In wood-biochar supercapacitors, the wood’s natural pore structure serves as the electrode surface, eliminating the need for advanced techniques to fabricate an elaborate pore structure. Wood biochar is produced by heating wood in low oxygen.

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Why lithium-ion-batteries fail

October 18, 2013 9:48 am | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Materials in lithium ion battery electrodes expand and contract during charge and discharge. These volume changes drive particle fracture, which shortens battery lifetime. A group of scientists has quantified this effect for the first time using high-resolution 3D movies recorded using x-ray tomography at the Swiss Light Source.

Ford, Univ. of Michigan open new battery lab

October 14, 2013 8:06 am | by Dee-Ann Durbin, Associated Press | News | Comments

Ford Motor Co. and the Univ. of Michigan are opening a new battery research and manufacturing laboratory that they hope will speed the development of batteries for electric and hybrid cars. The center, on the university's campus in Ann Arbor, will bring together battery makers, car companies and researchers who will test new batteries for prototype vehicles.

Microfluidic approach for the directed assembly of functional materials

October 8, 2013 7:53 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Illinois researchers have developed a new approach with applications in materials development for energy capture and storage and for optoelectronic materials. According to Charles Schroeder, an asst. prof. in the Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, the results show that peptide precursor materials can be aligned and oriented during their assembly into polypeptides using tailored flows in microfluidic devices.

Tesla says car fire began in battery after crash

October 3, 2013 12:04 pm | by Mike Baker and Tom Krisher, Associated Press | News | Comments

A fire that destroyed a Tesla electric car near Seattle began in the vehicle's battery pack, officials said Wednesday, creating challenges for firefighters who tried to put out the flames. The driver says he struck debris, smelled burning and the vehicle was disabled.  The liquid-cooled 85 kW-hr battery in the Tesla Model S is mounted below the passenger compartment floor and uses lithium-ion chemistry.

Researchers tackle new lithium battery challenge

September 30, 2013 9:36 am | News | Comments

The creation of the next generation of batteries depends on finding materials that provide greater storage capacity. One variety, known as lithium-air (Li-air) batteries, are particularly appealing to researchers because they have a significantly higher theoretical capacity than conventional lithium-ion batteries.

New materials improve oxygen catalysis

September 17, 2013 7:40 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers have found a new family of materials that provides the best-ever performance in a reaction called oxygen evolution, a key requirement for energy storage and delivery systems. The materials, called double perovskites, are a variant of a mineral that exists in abundance in the Earth’s crust. Their remarkable ability to promote oxygen evolution in a water-splitting reaction is detailed in a paper appearing in Nature Communications.

Separate from the Rest

August 28, 2013 9:13 am | Award Winners

Lithium-ion battery separators prevent the anode and cathode layers from contacting each other, allowing cell potential to be maintained and safe operation of the battery. The SYMMETRIX HPX-F polymer-ceramic composite separator, developed by Porous Power Technologies and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, achieves this functionality while improving safety over conventional polyolefin membranes.

Battery Chemistry Improves Power Density

August 28, 2013 8:47 am | Award Winners

Currently, electric grids have limited ability to store excess energy, so electricity must constantly be generated to perfectly match demand. Hence, power generation, transmission and distribution must accommodate the maximum demand of conditions and must include significant standby generation capacity. This adds capital expense, and forces power plants to idle or operate at non-efficient conditions. United Technologies Research Center has developed a flow-battery technology—called PureStorage—that provides affordable, safe, energy-efficient and readily deployable electrical energy storage.

Battery Temperature Control

August 28, 2013 8:34 am | Award Winners

Understanding and controlling temperature is necessary for the successful operation of battery packs in electric-drive vehicles (EDVs). Isothermal Battery Calorimeters (IBCs), developed by National Renewable Energy Laboratory and NETZSCH North America, are the only calorimeters that can accurately measure heat generated from batteries used in EDVs—with a baseline sensitivity of 10 mW and heat detection as low as 15 J—while being charged and/or discharged.

Designer glue improves lithium-ion battery life

August 20, 2013 8:11 am | News | Comments

When it comes to improving the performance of lithium-ion batteries, no part should be overlooked; not even the glue that binds materials together in the cathode, researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Univ. have found. Tweaking that material, which binds lithium sulfide and carbon particles together, created a cathode that lasted five times longer than earlier designs.

ORNL team uses lignin to power green battery

August 19, 2013 8:24 am | News | Comments

Lignin is a waste material that is produced when paper is manufactured from wood. Instead of disposing of the lignin, a research team at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has learned how to take the material and convert it into powering a green battery.

Rechargeable flow battery enables cheaper, large-scale energy storage

August 19, 2013 7:38 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have engineered a new rechargeable flow battery that doesn’t rely on expensive membranes to generate and store electricity. The device, they say, may one day enable cheaper, large-scale energy storage. The palm-sized prototype generates three times as much power per square centimeter as other membraneless systems.

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