An interesting advance in battery applications

From Stanford University encouraging news, a rechargeable Zinc-air battery would put electric cars into the realm of reasonable practicality, where with lead-acid batteries they are currently not.

Stanford scientists develop high-efficiency zinc-air battery

Stanford University scientists have developed an advanced zinc-air battery with higher catalytic activity and durability than similar batteries made with costly platinum and iridium catalysts. The results, published in the May 7 online edition of the journal Nature Communications, could lead to the development of a low-cost alternative to conventional lithium-ion batteries widely used today.

This is a rechargeable zinc-oxide battery in a tri-electrode configuration with cobalt-oxide/carbon nanotube and iron-nickel/layered double hydroxide catalysts for charge and discharge, respectively. Credit: Yanguang Li, Stanford University

“There have been increasing demands for high-performance, inexpensive and safe batteries for portable electronics, electric vehicles and other energy storage applications,” said Hongjie Dai, a professor chemistry at Stanford and lead author of the study. “Metal-air batteries offer a possible low-cost solution.”

According to Dai, most attention has focused on lithium-ion batteries, despite their limited energy density (energy stored per unit volume), high cost and safety problems. “With ample supply of oxygen from the atmosphere, metal-air batteries have drastically higher theoretical energy density than either traditional aqueous batteries or lithium-ion batteries,” he said. “Among them, zinc-air is technically and economically the most viable option.”

Zinc-air batteries combine atmospheric oxygen and zinc metal in a liquid alkaline electrolyte to generate electricity with a byproduct of zinc oxide. When the process is reversed during recharging, oxygen and zinc metal are regenerated.

“Zinc-air batteries are attractive because of the abundance and low cost of zinc metal, as well as the non-flammable nature of aqueous electrolytes, which make the batteries inherently safe to operate,” Dai said. “Primary (non-rechargeable) zinc-air batteries have been commercialized for medical and telecommunication applications with limited power density. However, it remains a grand challenge to develop electrically rechargeable batteries, with the stumbling blocks being the lack of efficient and robust air catalysts, as well as the limited cycle life of the zinc electrodes.”

Active and durable electrocatalysts on the air electrode are required to catalyze the oxygen-reduction reaction during discharge and the oxygen-evolution reaction during recharge. In zinc-air batteries, both catalytic reactions are sluggish, Dai said.

Recently, his group has developed a number of high-performance electrocatalysts made with non-precious metal oxide or nanocrystals hybridized with carbon nanotubes. These catalysts produced higher catalytic activity and durability in alkaline electrolytes than catalysts made with platinum and other precious metals.

“We found that similar catalysts greatly boosted the performance of zinc-air batteries,” Dai said. both primary and rechargeable. “A combination of a cobalt-oxide hybrid air catalyst for oxygen reduction and a nickel-iron hydroxide hybrid air catalyst for oxygen evolution resulted in a record high-energy efficiency for a zinc-air battery, with a high specific energy density more than twice that of lithium-ion technology.”

The novel battery also demonstrated good reversibility and stability over long charge and discharge cycles over several weeks. “This work could be an important step toward developing practical rechargeable zinc-air batteries, even though other challenges relating to the zinc electrode and electrolyte remain to be solved,” Dai added.

###

Other authors of the Nature Communications study are Yanguang Li (lead author), Ming Gong, Yongye Liang, Ju Feng, Ji-Eun Kim, Hailiang Wang, Guosong Hong and Bo Zhang of the Stanford Department of Chemistry.

The study was supported by Intel, a Stanford Global Climate and Energy Project exploratory program and a Stinehart/Reed Award from the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy.

This article was written by Mark Shwartz, Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University.

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Chris @NJSnowFan

Years ago there was a company called Air Energy that developed small non rechargeable batteries using zinc. The company went bankrupt.
This looks interesting because it can be charged..

JeffC

cool, now wait 20 years for it to get out of the “lab” …

John Tillman

If this is for real, then go long China, Peru & Australia; short Chile, Australia, China & Argentina. Two of the zinc & lithium producers cancel out. Too bad for Bolivia, which just got started mining its salt flats across the border from Chile.

It’s those “other issues that need to be solved” that have killed the last dozen promising battery
technologies. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Stanford to ever produce anything
commercial. These kind of press releases have almost become a standing joke in the battery world.

John Tillman

I’m glad Stanford is doing some real science & engineering instead of pulling the traces of the CACCA band wagon.

Latitude

and a battery is still a battery………..

CodeTech

When they make one that can deliver 1.21 jiggawatts on demand, I’ll be interested. Until then, I’m holding out for a Mr. Fusion.

Andrew Ward

@Latitude and a battery is still a battery…
But this one isn’t just a battery. It’s not carrying its own oxidizer, which is the death knell for energy density. If you can use found O2 from the air then you don’t have to carry your oxidizer. That’s a big enough win that it might make sense.
That said, arthur4563 is right that
It’s those “other issues that need to be solved” that have killed the last dozen promising battery
technologies.
A W

Justthinkin

“could”,”possibly”,”may”,”challenge”. Looks like the same weasel words that cAGW cultists use. As Latitude said,a battery is a battery. And what is this bit about using carbon in it??

OldWeirdHarold

Zinc air has a huge safety advantage over Li, because the energy isn’t there without large amounts of O2. They can’t explode like Li batts can.

Joe Crawford

On an announcement like this there is an old adage in engineering (pick your field): ” If it don’t make it out of the lab within the next couple of years it never will”. Don’t count your chickens yet. Give it some time.

Luther Wu

OldWeirdHarold says:
May 30, 2013 at 2:34 pm
They can’t explode like Li batts can.
________
Dang

Craig Moore

Regarding zinc air batteries, from 2010: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NE_BalA6AT8

More “prematuris press-releasus”.

Brant Ra

Better than Batteries…..
“Forbes magazine,” declared New York Times media reporter David Carr in 2009, “has long been a synonym for riches, success and a belief that business, left to its own devices, will create a better world.” Amid widespread disbelief, Forbes.com is expressing enthusiastic faith in the world-transforming potential of one such device: the “energy catalyzer,” or E-Cat, purported to exploit “low-energy nuclear reactions,” or LENRs, as a gigantic energy-production breakthrough.
In March, Forbes.com publicized two NASA scientists’ LENR enthusiasm. Now it has published the article “Finally! Independent testing of Rossi’s E-Cat cold fusion device: Maybe the world will change after all.” (At least one LENR proponent actually asserts big differences between LENRs and cold fusion.)
A team of Italian and Swedish authors describes this testing in the arXiv paper “Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder.” They write, “Andrea Rossi claims to have invented an apparatus that can produce much more energy per unit weight of fuel than can be obtained from known chemical processes.” They report that their “independent test” took place in December and March experiments. They claim that “energy was produced in decidedly higher quantities than what may be gained from any conventional source.”
“Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder.”
http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1305/1305.3913.pdf
Brant

Quinn

Photovoltaics technology and battery technology are two fields that are 99% hype and 1% reality. It’s almost not worth reporting any advances when they are announced. Wait until the new technology has proved itself in the marketplace before getting excited about it.

Mac the Knife

A combination of a cobalt-oxide hybrid air catalyst for oxygen reduction and a nickel-iron hydroxide hybrid air catalyst for oxygen evolution resulted in a record high-energy efficiency for a zinc-air battery, with a high specific energy density more than twice that of lithium-ion technology.
A doubling of specific energy density versus the reigning champion lithium ion technology is really quite an achievement. Doing that with abundant metals (Zinc, Cobalt, Nickel, Iron) and O2 from the air reduces materials and development risks, while offering real economic advantages over more esoteric systems.
I’ve worked a variety of R&D programs in the past, had some ‘losers’… and some ‘winners’. From my perspective, this one is definitely worth putting on the ‘watch list’.
MtK

Auto

‘Wouldn’t it be nice . . .’
Apologies to whoever wrote that – a Beach Person [of restricted experience]?
[See, I’m savvy to modern lingo – I think]
Is this really a break-through paper?
Or another ‘I see sunlit uplands ahead (way ahead . . . .)’ job.
I don’t know, but fear the latter.
And I would prefer to warm gradually, rather than what I fear is in store for the globe – namely cooling of some sort.
Auto

RoHa

Interesting. What progress is being made on hydrogen fuel cell cars?

e-cat LENR is utter Bullsh*t.
Here is a description of what happened when a mass of Uranium accidentally went supercritical, during laboratory testing. No heat burns, just mild warming and lethal doses of radiation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Slotin
Nuclear fusion, which is what LENR claims, produces around 100 TIMES the amount of damaging neutron radiation as nuclear fission. One of the big unsolved problems with viable nuclear fusion is finding a shielding material which doesn’t crumble into dust from the relentless high energy radiation bombardment.
If there was any nuclear fusion occurring during e-cat demonstrations, enough to produce the claimed “heat anomalies”, the entire demonstration room, and possibly the city block outside, would be flooded with a lethal quantity of high energy radiation.
LENR advocates explanation that this is a “new type of fusion” is utter cr@p. If LENR worked, it would just be a different mechanism for squeezing atomic nuclei together close enough to fuse.
Thankfully it doesn’t work – otherwise their would be a lot of dead gullible people.

Billy Liar

Craig Moore says:
May 30, 2013 at 2:56 pm
Thanks for the interesting video! The company in the video, Zinc Air Inc, was set up to commercialize the Lawrence Livermore Lab zinc-air fuel cell technology.
It is no longer working on that technology and has switched to zinc-iron redox flow batteries! Apparently they couldn’t achieve more than 100 charge cycles from the Livermore zinc-air technology.

Erm, EVs on the road today don’t use lead acid batteries. They use various lithium-based chemistry similar to the batteries in your laptop.

Douglas

For those that haven’t seen this before, here is another battery (aluminum-air) that appears to be on path to a production auto application in 2017.
http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/151801-aluminium-air-battery-can-power-electric-vehicles-for-1000-miles-will-come-to-production-cars-in-2017
video of test drive

Billy Liar

OldWeirdHarold says:
May 30, 2013 at 2:34 pm
Zinc air has a huge safety advantage over Li, because the energy isn’t there without large amounts of O2. They can’t explode like Li batts can.
It probably limits their maximum discharge rate then: not good for traction batteries.

Bruce

Zinc electrochemistry is prone to the formation of dendrites. There is not much you can do about this.
Dendrite growth during charging causes short circuits as a tree-like tongue of zinc grows out from the zinc electrode until it contacts the other electrode. Its driven by the polarisation layer on the nascent dendrite. As soon as one starts growing it is a self enhancing problem and higher current density causes the zinc to preferentially plate onto the tip of the nascent dendrite. They also are sharply pointed and can pierce right through macroporous membranes.
You can control this for a while but not for very long. I doubt they’ve done real lifetime tests (especially with temperature swings) as these are ‘way too time consuming. “Several weeks” doesn’t cut it.
I am speaking from zinc electrowinning experience, not batteries, but zinc is still zinc.

Phager

Code Tech said:
“When they make one that can deliver 1.21 jiggawatts on demand, I’ll be interested.”
I’ll be interested when they can make a battery that can deliver 225KW, with a total capacity of 668KW-Hr (300Hp and 20 Gal of gasoline equivalence) and a charging time of 10 minutes or less. At that point the differences between liquid fuel and battery power become invisible to the consumer and to industry. I suspect pure electric cares will not become popular until the performance level approaches that point.

DirkH

Eric Worrall says:
May 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm
“LENR advocates explanation that this is a “new type of fusion” is utter cr@p. If LENR worked, it would just be a different mechanism for squeezing atomic nuclei together close enough to fuse. ”
No. Most LENR researchers favor this theory at the moment. Widom-Larsen Theory
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Widom-Larsen.php
It does not propose fusion of nuclei but the addition of low energy neutrons to nuclei.

DirkH

Zeke Hausfather says:
May 30, 2013 at 4:18 pm
“Erm, EVs on the road today don’t use lead acid batteries. They use various lithium-based chemistry similar to the batteries in your laptop.”
Do you think Anthony doesn’t know this? The comparison with lead-acid is interesting because Li-Ion batteries in the needed size are too expensive.

jlurtz

Might not explode, but energy is energy. Great amounts of heat is produced by fast release of energy. Probably will burn very well, and very intensely, producing large quantities of perfume like gases.

Eric Worrall says:
May 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm

e-cat LENR is utter Bullsh*t.
Here is a description of what happened when a mass of Uranium accidentally went supercritical, during laboratory testing. No heat burns, just mild warming and lethal doses of radiation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Slotin

So, are you getting most of your E-Cat news from Wikipedia? It appears the LLENR field has its own analog to William Connolley with one Rojelio.
See http://www.e-catworld.com/2013/05/rossi-vs-wikipedia/
As for everyone else, check out http://ecat.com/files/Indication-of-anomalous-heat-energy-production-in-a-reactor-device.pdf which should be the same as the arxiv.org link above. Try to come up with an explanation of where the energy released by the reactor came from.
Anthony’s ban on E-Cat articles stands, he says the “independent” review members were too close to Rossi. I can live with that, but expect me to encourage some discussion on the next Open Thread.
BTW, Slotin died of neutron radiation, I think I understand what Worrall was trying to say, but I think he’s trying to sensationalize a hazard of nuclear fission and doing an apple vs orange comparison to warn about something that apparently isn’t a hazard with Rossi’s nickel and hydrogen reactor.
BTW^2: it was a plutonium core, not uranium. And one lethal dose in the short term.
BTW^3: I likely won’t have much to add to this thread, I don’t like hijacked threads, but I don’t like out-of-hand rejection either.

u.k.(us)

The Boeing Company has learned a lesson about batteries.
It seems everyone involved is learning on the fly (make that grounding).
Here is a quick search result:
http://www.aero-news.net/index.cfm?do=main.textpost&id=e0168c16-e8dd-46ab-a394-ae4caea5070e
Excerpt:
“We are looking for lessons learned, not just for the design and certification of the failed battery, but for knowledge that can be applied to emerging technologies,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in opening the hearing.
==========
The NTSB don’t play games.
That is why commercial air transport is so safe.
(it was just an excerpt of what, by now, is going to be a thousand page investigation by the NTSB).

Eyes Wide Open

Some key testing was supposed to be done today to validate EESTOR’s ultracapacitor technology. Unfortunately some moisture related issues have surfaced likely due to the large amount of rainfall in the areas which is normally pretty dry. Stay tuned – could be a qucik fix or could be a more difficult endeavour.
If they can get it to work this technology is much more promising in that it has the potential to deliver high power and high energy density without the use of exotic materials in a formal that should not be limited by usage cycles and allows for rapid charge (5 minutes).

Eyes Wide Open

Should be format (not formal).

Rich Lambert

I’m with Latitude, “A battery is still a battery”. There will always be losses putting energy in and getting it back out plus the expense, size, and mass of the battery.

Jeremy Das

Bruce said (on May 30, 2013 at 4:34 pm),
“Zinc electrochemistry is prone to the formation of dendrites. There is not much you can do about this.”
You might find this interesting: http://www1.cuny.edu/mu/energy-news/2012/05/07/novel-battery-technology-scaled-to-36-kwh-demonstration-at-ccny/

Gary Pearse

Iron, cobalt, zinc? These are heavy elements compared to Li (20 times). How does the energy density stack up weight-wise (per Kilogram)? A car that adds a ton or so of additional weight on uses a lot of the “extra” energy to accelerate and stop. Also, 6 molar KOH (which they don’t talk about) is not a benevolent chemical:
A chemical reaction in which an explosive or corrosive gas is released may occur if potassium hydroxide comes into contact with an acid, an ammonium salt or moist air.
Potassium hydroxide is corrosive and it may cause burns, severe irritation, severe pain, swelling, impaired vision and/or eventually blindness if it comes into contact with an individual’s eyes.
Potassium hydroxide is not only corrosive, but also extremely toxic so it may cause burns, diarrhea, vomiting, severe stomach pain, shock and/or death if it is ingested.
May cause an individual to cough, sneeze, develop breathing problems and/or damage the individual’s lungs if it is inhaled–the amount of damage depends on the amount of exposure.
An individual may develop blisters, burns, severe pain and/or permanent scars if the skin comes into contact with potassium hydroxide.
http://www.ehow.com/facts_5122638_dangers-potassium-hydroxide.html
Reads a little bit like some of the warnings on many drugs being advertised of the “can cause cancer or premature death” type. Drive very carefully.

George Daddis

In 1901 Thomas Edison thought he was in the forefront of the electric car battery.
Edison had a very substantial investment in a battery plant in NJ. (His capital investment alternative was in the phonograph which he minimized as
a stenographic device with no return on investment).
History is rife with “potential” battery breakthroughs.

Resourceguy

It be interesting given that DOE money is off doing dead end plays elsewhere.

george e. smith

Well someone sent me (and sadly I erased) a (serious) article about a new high energy density battery substitute for powering electronic toys, like ipad/ped/pid/pod/pud gimmics laptops, and other portable electronic equipments.
The battery substitute is actually a tiny ICE , that is all ceramic, and drives an alternator to generate the electricity. A couple of squirts of butane lighter fluid and it produces orders of magnitude more electricity than any non combustion, internal chemistry battery. Parts of it run a little hot, but being all ceramic, it can stand that, and well known reliable cooling systems, easily deal with the heat.
I’m guessing they can easily scale up the device to make battery substitutes with plenty of capacity to run an all electric car. That would break the electric car business wide open, and the by products of the battery operation, are harmless products like H2O and CO2.
So the Stanford zinc-air battery will face stiff competition from ceramic butane powered battery substitutes.
I’ll have to ask the chap to resend me the paper.

SAMURAI

We live in interesting times.
Basically, if the energy density of the next genertion battery technology can be tripled and production costs reduced by 50% over Lithium Ion batteries, electric cars will replace combustion-engine cars.
In tandem with this, if Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) can replace natural gas/coal fired power plants, we’ll effectively move from the Carbon Age to a new Thorium Age.
Jet/tractor/truck fuels and fertilizers can be chemically synthesized using the 900C gas turbine “waste” heat from LFTRs, while LFTRs in close proximity to oceans can use the waste heat to cheaply desalinate sea water and create farmland from deserts.
All that’s required is the political will to stop wasting limited resources on diffuse, inefficient, intermittent and expensive solar/wind/geothermal/bio-fuels alternative energies and divert these funds to developing/building LFTRs.
The political, social, environmental and economic repercussions of this transition will be unimaginable and will usher in a Second Renaissance.
China is already investing heavily in developing LFTRs and should have test reactors running by the end of this decade with a rollout of LFTRs by 2025. China already has centuries-worth of Thorium stockpiled from their Rare-Earth mines.
Ah, perchance to dream…

higley7

HOw long is the recharge time? How does it work in cold climates? Will the battery freeze at -20 deg F? Hot does it handle heat. THe aluminum-r video shown in the above comments leads the viewer to believe that the car runs on water!!!!!

LamontT

Well if they are cheap and easy to produce for low cost it might be a breakthrough that will make electric vehicles more practical. As I said in the electric car thread right now with the current state of battery technology electric vehicles remain a specialty item. Useful for specific situations but not generally useful.
If this does truly deliver a cheaper better lasting rechargeable battery then it would expand that specialty category to include a lager pool of people.

bob sykes

There hasn’t been any real advance in batteries since Volta and Galvani. But there have been many lies.
A car battery must permit 300 to 400 miles between charges, and recharging must be possible within 2 minutes. Also, the battery must last for at least 150,000 miles. Any deviation from these criteria vitiates the battery.

Tsk Tsk

In other news, new breakthrough in solar cell efficiency!! Of course it’s a hopelessly expensive multi-junction concentrator, but it makes for great press. Count me firmly in the overhyped camp along with carbon nanotubes and High Tc. Get back to me when you’ve demonstrated something approaching real world usage.

@Gary Pearse 6:22 pm
How does the energy density stack up weight-wise (per Kilogram)?
Here is a lovely cross plot of battery technologies with
Y-Axis = Specific Power Density (log scale) 1 to 100,000 W/kg
X-Axis = Specific Energy Density (linear scale) 0 to 200 Wh/kg.
http://blog.genport.it/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/ragone.jpg
Lithium Ion takes up the outer frontier.
But Wikipedia reports that Zinc-Air (non-rechargable) batteries can have a
Specific Energy Density of 400 Wh/kg (1.7 MJ/kg)
and a theoretical maximum of 1370 Wh/kg (4.9 MJ/kg)
With a Power Density of 100 W/kg.
For the same power, That makes Zinc-Air (non-rechargable)
3 times better on a per kg basis than Li-Ion
and because of the density of Zinc, maybe 10 times better in volume.
I’m impressed. Using oxygen in the air as the anode pays off!
This chart from Wikipedia Energy Density
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Energy_density.svg
Shows energy volume density (MJ/liter) vs energy Density (MJ/kg)
Note Li-ion hugging the origin in the lower left.
Zinc-Air NNE of it a small bit.
The rest of the points are combustion with oxygen (not included in the reaction mass).
Hydrogen in the lower right, Anthacite near top, Gasoline near center.
Still, Zinc-Air could store 7 MJ/liter (1.9 KWH / liter) while
gasoline will store 35 MJ/liter (9.7 KWH/ liter).
Impressive if the rechargable can do as well.
On a weight basis, however, Zinc-Air (400 Wh/kg = 1.4 MJ/kg)
Is only about 1/32nd of Gasoline’s 12800 Wh/kg = 46 MJ/kg
Finally, what will be Zinc-Air’s recharging time? Probably no better than its maximum discharge rate of 100 W/kg….. 4 hours?

@ higley7 6:54 pm Hot does it handle heat.
How does it handle HUMIDITY?
(Writing on a Houston evening)

George Daddis says:
May 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm

In 1901 Thomas Edison thought he was in the forefront of the electric car battery.
Edison had a very substantial investment in a battery plant in NJ. (His capital investment alternative was in the phonograph which he minimized as
a stenographic device with no return on investment).
History is rife with “potential” battery breakthroughs.

That was Edison’s nickel-iron battery. A new company is making them, they’re
good for off grid homes, a friend has a big solar PV setup and is looking at
using these, a friend of his already is.
Info:
http://ironedison.com/
Commercial source of nickel-iron batteries
http://www.nickel-iron-battery.com/
Mentions the Edison Battery Storage Co in East Orange, NJ. 1903 to 1972
http://paloalto.patch.com/groups/schools/p/stanford-scientists-dramatically-improve-edison-s-nic9d3312b2d8
Press release hype about 1000X speedup in charging and discharging. Is there anything nanomaterials can’t do?

Randall_G

Until this sort of battery is good enough for 200 laps at Darrington in a stock Sprint Cup NASCAR vehicle averaging 198 mph, with a battery pack swap out (in under 30 seconds) only every 26 to 28 laps, it has no commercial potential. Harumph.

u.k.(us)

Just what will charge all these futuristic batteries anyway, let alone produce them ?
We’ve already got energy storage in fossil fuel/nuclear fuel.
Why work backwards ?

Bruce

Jeremy Das says:
May 30, 2013 at 5:58 pm

It does sound promising, although zinc-air battery development has been going on for as long as I’ve been working in the business, more than three decades. From the article:

The batteries are designed for more than 5,000 – 10,000 charge cycles and a useful life exceeding ten years.

They have not tested them for 10 years or this would have been mentioned.
On the other hand they are using nickel-zinc, and nickel is a good depolariser. It can sit on the end of the dendrite and make hydrogen instead of zinc (assuming an aqueous system). So it does sound plausible. I certainly wish them well, but I think sodium-sulfur would be a better direction to take for low cost bulk load leveling.