Image: REUTERS/Nick Carey
Graphene is a modern marvel. It is comprised of a single, two-dimensional layer of carbon, yet is 200 times stronger than steel and more conductive than any other material, according to the University of Manchester, where it was first isolated in 2004.
Graphene also has multiple potential uses, including in biomedical applications such as targeted drug delivery, and for improving the lifespan of smartphone batteries.
Now, a team of researchers at the University of Arkansas has found evidence to suggest graphene could also be used to provide an unlimited supply of clean energy.
The team says its research is based on graphene’s ability to “ripple” into the third dimension, similar to waves moving across the surface of the ocean. This motion, the researchers say, can be harvested into energy.
To study the movement of graphene, lead researcher Paul Thibado and his team laid sheets of the material across a copper grid that acted as a scaffold, which allowed the graphene to move freely.
Thibado says graphene could power biomedical devices such as pacemakers.
Image: Russell Cothren
The researchers used a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) to observe the movements, finding that narrowing the focus to study individual ripples drew clearer results.
In analysing the data, Thibado observed both small, random fluctuations, known as Brownian motion, and larger, coordinated movements.
A scanning tunnelling microscope.
Image: University of Arkansas
As the atoms on a sheet of graphene vibrate in response to the ambient temperature, these movements invert their curvature, which creates energy, the researchers say.
“This is the key to using the motion of 2D materials as a source of harvestable energy,” Thibado says.
“Unlike atoms in a liquid, which move in random directions, atoms connected in a sheet of graphene move together. This means their energy can be collected using existing nanotechnology.”
The pieces of graphene in Thibado’s laboratory measure about 10 microns across (more than 20,000 could fit on the head of a pin). Each fluctuation exhibited by an individual ripple measures only 10 nanometres by 10 nanometres, and could produce 10 picowatts of power, the researchers say.
As a result, each micro-sized membrane has the potential to produce enough energy to power a wristwatch, and would never wear out or need charging.
Sheet of graphene as seen through Thibado’s STM
Image: University of Arkansas
Thibado has created a device, called the Vibration Energy Harvester, that he claims is capable of turning this harvested energy into electricity, as the below video illustrates.
This self-charging power source also has the potential to convert everyday objects into smart devices, as well as powering more sophisticated biomedical devices such as pacemakers, hearing aids and wearable sensors.
Thibado says: “Self-powering enables smart bio-implants, which would profoundly impact society.”
Have you read?
Despite being a promising electrode material, bulk cobalt oxide (Co3O4) exhibits poor lithium ion storage properties. Nanostructuring, e.g. making Co3O4 into ultrathin nanosheets, shows improved performance, however, Co3O4-based nanomaterials still lack long-term stability and high rate capability due to sluggish ion transport and structure degradation. Read More …
MIT: Device makes power conversion more efficient New design could dramatically cut energy waste in electric vehicles, data centers, and the power grid
Power electronics, which do things like modify voltages or convert between direct and alternating current, are everywhere. They’re in the power bricks we use to charge our portable devices; they’re in the battery packs of electric cars; and they’re in the power grid itself, where they mediate between high-voltage transmission lines and the lower voltages of household electrical sockets. Read More …
Elon Musk and Tesla have made some bold claims for the new Tesla Semi and Roadster. Those who understand batteries have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how the company can deliver the specs it’s promising – and concluding that the only possible way is some as-yet-unannounced advancement in battery technology. Read More …
Watch Our Video on New Energy Storage Technology: Supercapacitors and Batteries
20 Jul 2017
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14 Jul 2017
Original Report from IDTechEX
Volvo Cars has been in the news recently in relation to their announcement this Wednesday on their decision to leave the internal combustion engine only based automotive industry. The Chinese-European company announced that from 2019 all their vehicles will be either pure electric or hybrid electric. In this way it has been argued the company is making a bold move towards electrification of vehicles. Volvo to capture potential market in China The company will launch a pure electric car in 2019 and that is a great move indeed, considering that the company has been owned by Chinese vehicle manufacturer Geely since 2010.
The Chinese electric vehicle market has been booming in the last years reaching a sales level of 350,000 plug-in EVs (pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars) in 2016. The Chinese plug-in EV market grew 300% from 2014 to 2015 but cooled down to 69% growth in 2016 vs 2015, still pushing a triple digit growth in pure electric cars. The Chinese government has announced that in 2017 sales will reach 800,000 NEV (new energy vehicles including passenger and bus, both pure electric and hybrid electric). IDTechEx believes that China will not make it to that level, but will definitely push the figures close to that mark.
We think that the global plug-in electric vehicle market will surpass 1 million sales per year for the first time at the end of 2017. Until recently this market has been mostly dominated by Chinese manufacturers, being BYD the best seller of electric cars in the country with 100,000 plug-in EVs sold in 2016. Tesla polemically could not penetrate the market but in 2016 sold around 11,000 units.
Whilst the owner of Volvo Cars, Geely, is active in China selling around 17,000 pure electric cars per year, it might be that Volvo has now realized that they can leverage on their brand in the Chinese premium market to catch the huge growth opportunity in China and need to participate as soon as possible. More information on market forecasts can be found in IDTechEx Research’s report Electric Vehicles 2017-2037: Forecasts, Analysis and Opportunities.
Is Volvo Cars’ move a revolutionary one? Not really, as technically speaking the company is not entirely making a bold movement to only 100% “strong” hybrid electric and pure electric vehicles. This is because the company will launch in 2019 a “mild” hybrid electric vehicles,this is also known in the industry as 48V hybrid electric platform. This is a stepping stone between traditional internal combustion engine companies and “strong” hybrid electric vehicles such as the Toyota Prius.
The 48V platform is being adopted by many automotive manufacturers, not only Volvo. OEMs like Continental developed this platform to provide a “bridge technology” towards full EVs for automotive manufacturers, providing 6 to 20 kW electric assistance. By comparison, a full hybrid system typically offers 20-40-kW and a plug-in hybrid, 50-90 kW. Volvo had already launched the first diesel plug-in hybrid in 2012 and the company will launch a new plug-in hybrid platform in 2018 in addition to the launch of the 2019 pure electric vehicle platform. Going only pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric would be really revolutionary. See IDTechEx Research’s report Mild Hybrid 48V Vehicles 2017-2027 for more information on 48V platforms.
Additional Information: The Tesla Model ‘S’
The Tesla Model S is a full-sized all-electric five-door, luxury liftback, produced by Tesla, Inc., and introduced on 22 June 2012. It scored a perfect 5.0 NHTSA automobile safety rating. The EPA official rangefor the 2017 Model S 100D, which is equipped with a 100 kWh(360 MJ) battery pack, is 335 miles (539 km), higher than any other electric car. The EPA rated the 2017 90D Model S’s energy consumption at 200.9 watt-hours per kilometer (32.33 kWh/100 mi or 20.09 kWh/100 km) for a combined fuel economy of 104 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (2.26 L/100 km or 125 mpg‑imp). In 2016, Tesla updated the design of the Model S to closely match that of the Model X. As of July 2017, the following versions are available: 75, 75D, 90D, 100D and P100D.
For more specific details on the updated Tesla Battery Pack go here:
A radical move would be to drop diesel engines On-road diesel vehiclesproduce approximately 20% of global anthropogenic emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are key PM and ozone precursors. Diesel emission pollutions has been confirmed as a major source of premature mortality. A recent study published in Nature by the Environmental Health Analytics LLC and the International Council on Clean Transportation both based in Washington, USA found that whilst regulated NOx emission limits in leading markets have been progressively tightened, current diesel vehicles emit far more NOx under real-world operating conditions than during laboratory certification testing. The authors show that across 11 markets, representing approximately 80% of global diesel vehicle sales, nearly one-third of on-road heavy-duty diesel vehicle emissions and over half of on-road light-duty diesel vehicle emissions are in excess of certification limits. These emissions were associated with about 38,000 premature deaths globally in 2015.
The authors conclude that more stringent standards are required in order to avoid 174,000 premature deaths globally in 2040. Diesel cars account for over 50 percent of all new registrations in Europe, making the region by far the world’s biggest diesel market. Volvo Cars, sells 90 percent of its XC 90 off roaders in Europe with diesel engines. “From today’s perspective, we will not develop any more new generation diesel engines,” said Volvo’s CEO Hakan Samuelsson told German’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview . Samuelsson declared that Volvo Cars aims to sell 1 million “electrified” cars by 2025, nevertheless he refused to be drawn on when Volvo Cars will sell its last diesel powered vehicle.
Goldman Sachs believes a regulatory crackdown could add 300 euros ($325) per engine to diesel costs that are already some 1,300 euros above their petrol-powered equivalents, as carmakers race to bring real NOx emissions closer to their much lower test-bench scores. Scandinavia’s vision of a CO2-free economy Volvo’s decision should also be placed in a wider context regarding the transition to an environmentally sustainable economy.
Scandinavia’s paper industry has made great strides towards marketing itself as green and eco-aware in the last decades, so much so that countries like Norway have tripled the amount of standing wood in forests compared to 100 years ago. Energy supply is also an overarching theme, with each one of the four Scandinavian countries producing more than 39% of their electricity with renewables (Finland 39%, Sweden and Denmark 56%, Norway 98%). Finally, strong public incentives have made it possible for electric vehicles to become a mainstream market in Norway, where in 2016, one in four cars sold was a plug-in electric, either pure or hybrid. It is then of no surprise that the first battery Gigafactory announcement in Europe came from a Swedish company called Northvolt (previously SGF Energy).
The Li-ion factory will open in 4 steps, with each one adding 8 GWh of production capacity. This gives a projected final output of 32 GWh, but if higher energy cathodes are developed, 40-50 GWh capacity can be envisioned. A site has not yet been identified, but the choice has been narrowed down to 6-7 locations, all of them in the Scandinavian region. The main reasons to establish a Gigafactory there boil down to the low electricity prices (hydroelectric energy), presence of relevant mining sites, and the presence of local know-how from the pulp & paper industry. After a long search for a European champion in the EV market, it finally seems that Sweden has accepted to take the lead, and compete with giants like BYD and rising stars like Tesla. This could be the wake-up call for many other European car makers, which have been rather bearish towards EV acceptance despite many bold announcements. To learn more about IDTechEx’s view on electric vehicles, and our projections up to 2037, please check our master report on the subject http://www.IDTechEx.com/ev .
Top image source: Volvo Cars Learn more at the next leading event on the topic: Business and Technology Insight Forum. Korea 2017 on 19 – 21 Sep 2017 in Seoul, Korea hosted by IDTechEx.
More Information on ‘NextGen Magnum SuperCap-Battery Pack’ that could propel a Tesla Model ‘S’ 90% farther (almost double) and cost 1/2 (one-half) as much: Video
17 Jun 2017
Tesla is revolutionizing batteries for electric bicycles and it has to do with the recent changes at the leading battery cell makers BMZ, Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and LG. Together these five make out some 80% of the world production of battery cells.
These five cell makers used to supply huge numbers of cylindrical shaped cells to the IT industry until the industry changed completely from using cylindrical shaped cells to flat shaped batteries which are now used in laptops, tablets and smartphones. Tesla placing huge orders for cylindrical shaped cells pushed battery cell makers to new highs.
Europe’s largest battery maker BMZ boss introduced the 21700 cell that will revolutionize electric bicycles. In particular as the 21700 cell not only offers a much prolonged lifetime but also batteries with a much bigger capacity for more power and pedal-supported mileage.
The extraordinary features that the 21700 battery cell brings to e-bikes will be the new standard in e-bike batteries. And that this new standard will already be available in 2018.
Instead of the current 18650 (18mm diameter and 65mm high) cell size the 21700 cell is 21mm diameter and 70mm high. The bigger size is bringing a bigger output; up to 4.8Ah. With that capacity the battery lifetime is extended from the current some 500 charging cycles up to 1,500 to 2,000 cycles.
BMZ, together with another global battery player, managed to develop batteries that offer a much longer lifespan thanks to the fact that the new batteries create less heat and has up to 60% more capacity.
17 Jun 2017
Could a new material involving a carbon nanotube and graphene hybrid put an end to the dendrite problem in lithium batteries?
The high energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries has led to them powering everything from tiny mobile devices to huge trucks. But current lithium-ion battery technology is nearing its limits and the search is on for a better lithium battery. But one thing stands in the way: dendrites. If a new technology by Rice University scientists lives up to its potential, it could solve this problem and enable lithium-metal batteries that can hold three times the energy of lithium-ion ones.
Dendrites are microscopic lithium fibers that form on the anodes during the charging process, spreading like a rash till they reach the other electrode and causing the battery to short circuit. As companies such as Samsung know only too well, this can cause the battery to catch fire or even explode.
“Lithium-ion batteries have changed the world, no doubt,” says chemist Dr. James Tour, who led the study. “But they’re about as good as they’re going to get. Your cellphone’s battery won’t last any longer until new technology comes along.”
So until scientists can figure out a way to solve the problem of dendrites, we’ll have to put our hopes for a higher capacity, faster-charging battery that can quell range anxiety on hold. This explains why there’s been no shortage of attempts to solve this problem, from using Kevlar to slow down dendrite growth to creating a new electrolyte that could lead to the development of an anode-free cell. So how does this new technology from Rice University compare?
For a start, it’s able to stop dendrite growth in its tracks. Key to it is a unique anode made from a material that was first created at the university five years ago. By using a covalent bond structure, it combines a two-dimensional graphene sheet and carbon nanotubes to form a seamless three-dimensional structure. As Tour explained back when the material was first unveiled:
“By growing graphene on metal (in this case copper) and then growing nanotubes from the graphene, the electrical contact between the nanotubes and the metal electrode is ohmic. That means electrons see no difference, because it’s all one seamless material.”
Close-up of the lithium metal coating the graphene-nanotube anode (Credit: Tour Group/Rice University)
Envisioned for use in energy storage and electronics applications such as supercapacitors, it wasn’t until 2014, when co-lead author Abdul-Rahman Raji was experimenting with lithium metal and the graphene-nanotube hybrid, that the researchers discovered its potential as a dendrite inhibitor.
“I reasoned that lithium metal must have plated on the electrode while analyzing results of experiments carried out to store lithium ions in the anode material combined with a lithium cobalt oxide cathode in a full cell,” says Raji. “We were excited because the voltage profile of the full cell was very flat. At that moment, we knew we had found something special.”
Closer analysis revealed no dendrites had grown when the lithium metal was deposited into a standalone hybrid anode – but would it work in a proper battery?
To test the anode, the researchers built full battery prototypes with sulfur-based cathodes that retained 80 percent capacity after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles (i.e. the rough equivalent of what a cellphone goes through in a two-year period). No signs of dendrites were observed on the anodes.
How it works
The low density and high surface area of the nanotube forest allow the lithium metal to coat the carbon hybrid material evenly when the battery is charged. And since there is plenty of space for the particles to slip in and out during the charge and discharge cycle, they end up being evenly distributed and this stops the growth of dendrites altogether.
According to the study, the anode material is capable of a lithium storage capacity of 3,351 milliamp hours per gram, which is close to pure lithium’s theoretical maximum of 3,860 milliamp hours per gram, and 10 times that of lithium-ion batteries. And since the nanotube carpet has a low density, this means it’s able to coat all the way down to substrate and maximize use of the available volume.
“Many people doing battery research only make the anode, because to do the whole package is much harder,” says Tour. “We had to develop a commensurate cathode technology based upon sulfur to accommodate these ultrahigh-capacity lithium anodes in first-generation systems. We’re producing these full batteries, cathode plus anode, on a pilot scale, and they’re being tested.”
The study was published in ACS Nano.
Source: Rice University
17 Jun 2017
Electrodes are critical parts of every battery architecture — charge too fast, and you can decrease the charge-discharge cycle life or damage the battery so it won’t charge anymore. Scientists have built a new design and chemistry for electrodes. Their design involves advanced, nanostructured electrodes containing molybdenum disulfide and carbon nanofibers (Advanced Energy Materials, “Pseudocapacitive charge storage in thick composite MoS2 nanocrystal-based electrodes”). These composite materials have internal atomic-scale pathways. These paths are for both fast ion and electron transport, allowing for fast charging.
|Battery electrodes made of a molybdenum disulfide nanocrystal composite have internal pathways to allow lithium ions to move quickly through the electrode, speeding up the rate that the battery can charge. The key features in the structure that enable the flow of the lithium ions are the small, 20-40 nanometer, diameter of the nanocrystals (in contrast, human hairs are about 100,000 nanometers in diameter) coupled with the porosity and planar lamellar pathways shown in the electron micrograph. (Image: Sarah Tolbert, University of California, Los Angeles)|
|The new battery electrodes provide several benefits. The electrodes allow fast charging. They also have stable charge/discharge behavior, so the batteries last longer. These electrodes show promise for practical electrical energy storage systems.|
|New battery electrodes based on nanostructured molybdenum disulfide combine the ability to charge in seconds with high capacity and long cycle life. Typical lithium-ion batteries charge slowly due to slow diffusion of lithium ions within the solid electrode.|
|Another type of energy storage device (a.k.a., pseudocapacitors), which has similarities to the capacitors found in common electrical circuits, speeds up the charging process by using reactions at or near the electrode surface, thus avoiding slow solid-state diffusion pathways.|
|Nanostructured electrodes allow the creation of large surface areas so that the battery can work more like a pseudocapacitor. In this work at the University of California, Los Angeles, scientists made nanostructured electrodes from a molybdenum disulfide-carbon composite.|
|Many electrodes are based on metal oxides, but because sulfur more weakly interacts with lithium than oxygen, lithium atoms can move more freely in the metal sulfide than the metal oxide. The result is a battery electrode that shows high capacity and very fast charging times.|
|The novel electrodes deliver specific capacities of 90 mAh/g (about half that of a typical lithium-ion battery cathode) charging in less than 20 seconds, and retain over 80 percent of their original capacity after 3,000 charge/discharge cycles. Capacities of greater than 180 mAh/g (similar to cathodes in conventional lithium-ion cells) are achieved at slower charging rates.|
|The results have exciting implications for the development of fast-charging energy storage systems that could replace traditional lithium-ion batteries.|
|Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science|
18 May 2017
Battery stores energy in nontoxic, noncorrosive aqueous solutions
Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new flow battery that stores energy in organic molecules dissolved in neutral pH water.
This new chemistry allows for a non-toxic, non-corrosive battery with an exceptionally long lifetime and offers the potential to significantly decrease the costs of production.
The research, published in ACS Energy Letters, was led by Michael Aziz, the Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies and Roy Gordon, the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science.
Flow batteries store energy in liquid solutions in external tanks — the bigger the tanks, the more energy they store.
18 May 2017
Electrodes containing porous graphene and a niobia composite could help improve electrochemical energy storage in batteries. This is the new finding from researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles who say that the nanopores in the carbon material facilitate charge transport in a battery.
By fine tuning the size of these pores, they can not only optimize this charge transport but also increase the amount of active material in the device, which is an important step forward towards practical applications.
Batteries and supercapacitors are two complementary electrochemical energy-storage technologies. They typically contain positive and negative electrodes with the active electrode materials coated on a metal current collector (normally copper or aluminium foil), a separator between the two electrodes, and an electrolyte that facilitates ion transport.
The electrode materials actively participate in charge (energy) storage, whereas the other components are passive but nevertheless compulsory for making the device work.
Batteries offer high energy density but low power density while supercapacitors provide high power density with low energy density.
Although lithium-ion batteries are the most widely employed batteries today for powering consumer electronics, there is a growing demand for more rapid energy storage (high power) and higher energy density. Researchers are thus looking to create materials that combine the high-energy density of battery materials with the short charging times and long cycle life of supercapacitors.
Such materials need to store a large number of charges (such as Li ions) and have an electrode architecture that can quickly deliver charges (electrons and ions) during a given charge/discharge cycle.
26 Mar 2017
A battery that can be charged in seconds, has a large capacity and lasts ten to twelve years? Certainly, many have wanted such a thing. Now the FastStorageBW II project – which includes Fraunhofer – is working on making it a reality. Fraunhofer researchers are using pre-production to optimize large-scale production and ensure it follows the principles of Industrie 4.0 from the outset.
Imagine you’ve had a hectic day and then, to cap it all, you find that the battery of your electric vehicle is virtually empty. This means you’ll have to take a long break while it charges fully. It’s a completely different story with capacitors, which charge in seconds. However, they have a different drawback: they store very little energy.
In the FastStorageBW II project, funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart, together with colleagues from the battery manufacturer VARTA AG and other partners, are developing a powerful hybrid storage system that combines the advantages of lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors.
“The PowerCaps have a specific capacity as high as lead batteries, a long life of ten to twelve years, and charge in a matter of seconds like a supercapacitor,” explains Joachim Montnacher, Head of the Energy business unit at Fraunhofer IPA. What’s more, PowerCaps can operate at temperatures of up to 85 degree Celsius. They withstand a hundred times more charge cycles than conventional battery systems and retain their charge over several weeks without any significant losses due to self-discharge.
“Supercapacitors may be providing an alternative to electric-car batteries sooner than expected, according to a new research study. Currently, supercapacitors can charge and discharge rapidly over very large numbers of cycles, but their poor energy density per kilogram —- at just one twentieth of existing battery technology — means that they can’t compete with batteries in most applications. That’s about to change, say researchers from the University of Surrey and University of Bristol in conjunction with Augmented Optics.
Large-scale production with minimum risk
The Fraunhofer IPA researchers’ main concern is with manufacturing: to set up new battery production, it is essential to implement the relevant process knowledge in the best possible way.
After all, it costs millions of euros to build a complete manufacturing unit. “We make it possible for battery manufacturers to install an intermediate step – a small-scale production of sorts – between laboratory production and large-scale production,” says Montnacher. “This way, we can create ideal conditions for large-scale production, optimize processes and ensure production follows the principles of Industrie 4.0 from the outset. Because in the end, that will give companies a competitive advantage.” Another benefit is that this cuts the time it takes to ramp up production by more than 50 percent.
For this innovative small-scale production setup, researchers cleverly combine certain production sequences. However, not all systems are connected to each other – at least, as far as the hardware is concerned. More often, it is an employee that carries the batches from one machine to the next. Ultimately, it is about developing a comprehensive understanding of the process, not about producing the greatest number of products in the shortest amount of time. For example, this means clarifying questions such as if the desired quality can be reproduced. The systems are designed as flexibly as possible so that they can be used for different production variations.
Making large-scale production compatible with Industrie 4.0
As far as software is concerned, the systems are thoroughly connected. Like process clusters, they are also equipped with numerous sensors, which show the clusters what data to capture for each of the process steps. They communicate with one another and store the results in a cloud. Researchers and entrepreneurs can then use this data to quickly analyze which factors influence the quality of the product – Does it have Industrie 4.0 capability? Were the right sensors selected? Do they deliver the desired data? Where are adjustments required?
Fraunhofer IPA is also applying its expertise beyond the area of production technology: The scientists are developing business models for the marketing of battery cells, they are analyzing resource availability, and they are optimizing the subsequent recycling of PowerCaps.
Explore further: Virtual twin controls production