What’s Next for Advanced Batteries Beyond Lithium Ion?

If you’re fol­low­ing the lat­est devel­op­ments in plug-in elec­tric vehi­cles, you’ll usu­al­ly hear how amaz­ing advanced bat­ter­ies are just around the cor­ner – some vari­ant of lithi­um ion will charge faster, go far­ther, and will be lighter and take up less space. Sound good? Green Car Reports did a quick overview of where the tech­nol­o­gy test­ing and devel­op­ment is head­ing….

Alu­minum is used as the anode in a bat­tery and ambi­ent air and its oxy­gen as a cath­ode, along with water mol­e­cules. Com­bined in the bat­tery, they pro­duce hydrat­ed alu­minum oxide and ener­gy that can pow­er a car. Com­pa­nies test­ing it such as Phin­er­gy says you’d need to refill the car with water every few hun­dred miles. It sounds sim­i­lar to hydro­gen fuel cell vehi­cles which release water from the tailpipe, but this one is pow­ered by it.

Improved lithi­um-ion
It is the per­va­sive bat­tery tech­nol­o­gy today in elec­tric vehi­cles, along with smart­phones and tablets. But it isn’t per­fect, and sev­er­al research groups are look­ing for a way to improve on its exist­ing strengths. Recent advances in nano-tech­nol­o­gy are prov­ing a pop­u­lar avenue for lithi­um-ion, and lithi­um-air is anoth­er off­shoot of li-ion bat­ter­ies that could sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase ener­gy den­si­ty. Dur­ing that time of tran­si­tion, li-ion will be relied on for a lot of EVs and a few hybrids.

Researchers at Rice Uni­ver­si­ty and the City Col­lege of New York have looked at using an herb called mad­der, or pur­purin, as a nat­ur­al cath­ode for lithi­um-ion bat­ter­ies. It won’t extend the range much, but envi­ron­men­tal­ists might be hap­py with it hav­ing less impact on the atmos­phere.

It’s one of the biggest break­throughs of the 21st cen­tu­ry so far; it’s essen­tial­ly a sin­gle-atom-thick lat­tice of car­bon atoms. It’s light, incred­i­bly strong for its size, and incred­i­bly elec­tri­cal­ly con­duc­tive. It’s light-weight ben­e­fits are being explored.

EVs are being mea­sured in their inter­nal soft­ware just by using volt­age and cur­rent – more data is need. New algo­rithms can esti­mate the posi­tion of charged par­ti­cles, allow­ing for much more pre­ci­sion and less over-engi­neer­ing.

Brine has its envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty ben­e­fits, sim­i­lar to herbs, though it won’t be adding to the range. You can col­lect lithi­um from brine, which goes over bet­ter than dig­ging up mines. It is being used for some­thing now —  the hot liq­uid is used to dri­ve tur­bines for geot­her­mal ener­gy plants.



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