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Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I've been saying for some time that the lithium battery was the last battery.  Sure, perhaps nanotechnology or some clever enhancement could improve the performance, but a whole new type of battery?  Nah.  Until now, when more and more I keep hearing about next generation options.

But first, let me tell you about my first encounter with the future of batteries.  I went to work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory one summer in the 1970's primarily to link with their efforts on the aluminum-air battery.  Why?  It turns out that Hawaii has some bauxite resources.  Bauxite is refined for aluminum.  Our deposits are attractive because rain on the windward side washed this mineral to the base of the mountain, where it is concentrated.

Is there any hope of mining bauxite in Hawaii today.  No.  It was possible half a century ago when environmental sensitivities had not yet formed.  For the record, the USA has meager bauxite reserves.  Papua New Guinea, Australia and Vietnam have more than half of the world supply.  Interestingly enough, aluminum is back as a mentioned future battery prospect.

Secondly, I've always been interested in some organic flow battery.  No toxic materials and fluids can constantly be recharged.  A few weeks ago the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) provided to Harvard University a $600,000 grant to develop a rechargeable flow battery where the chemistry is based on organic molecules derived from plants.  PolyPlus Battery Company got $9 million from ARPA for an aqueous rechargeable lithium-sulfur battery, and other technologies, such as a lithium-water system.  But these are still lithium.

Why is lithium perhaps the final battery?  If you look above at the progression of battery development and the Periodic Table of Elements, you can't go any lower than lithium.  Well,  you can, #1 is hydrogen, another reason why there might yet still someday be a Hydrogen Economy with fuel cells.

Here is a quick PowerPoint tutorial on future batteries prepared by Mike Perry of United Technologies.  So what are some possible future batteries?

1.  Got to start with a sugar battery, for I once worked for the sugar industry and Bor Yann Liaw (left) of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute is working with colleagues on the sugar-air flow battery.   Two patents have been filed.  Tokyo University of Science reports that the sodium-ion battery with sucrose at the anode can become a more durable and cheaper alternative to lithium.

2.  Toyota is looking at the magnesium-sulfur battery to replace lithium.

3.  In Germany, the fluoride battery.

4.  France has a fluorine battery being investigated.

5.  Flow batteries.

6.  Thin film batteries.

Anyway, there are many more ideas out there and the Next Generation Batteries Conference to be held from April 30 - May 1 this year in Boston would be worthy of your consideration.


1 comment:

Kstylick said...

With our current technology. Everything is possible. Maybe we could follow each other on Bloglovin and/or GFC?

Please leave me a comment on my blog and I will follow you!