Tesla has so far been the undisputed leader in the energy storage market as its Powerwall system has already been sold out for the year 2016. Nevertheless, the energy storage industry is witnessing the entrance of several other promising players who are offering newer technologies that promise to be better than the other.
Audi’s ‘Power to gas’ system and Lightsail’s Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) system are the two promising technologies that could (potentially) compete with Tesla’s energy storage system in the near future. A report from Lux Research recently stated that the energy storage industry is set to reach $50 billion by the year 2020 and electric vehicles would be the biggest market for the same. Batteries are one of the most integral parts of an EV as they take up most of space inside. In a quest to make the batteries last longer, researchers the world over are coming up with innovations that have the potential to turn into a major technological breakthrough.
Samsung and MIT have found a new way to make your battery last far longer
In a latest development, a group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Samsung have found a technique that can make batteries last indefinitely, or so they claim. Related: Merciless Market Rout Drags Oil Further Down
According to new research, a change in the state of an electrolyte (which is the basic component of a battery) can dramatically increase the overall life of the battery. Currently, electrolytes are used in liquid form in batteries and they are responsible for the conduction of electricity. The liquid electrolytes also have a tendency of getting overheated and catching fire. The scientists at MIT and Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology claim that a solid electrolyte would facilitate greater power density along with increasing the charging capacity. Hence, a solid electrolyte can greatly increase the life of a battery along with enhancing its safety.
“All of the fires you’ve seen, with Boeing, Tesla, and others, they are all electrolyte fires. The lithium itself is not flammable in the state it’s in in these batteries. (With a solid electrolyte) there’s no safety problem — you could throw it against the wall, drive a nail through it — there’s nothing there to burn,” said Gerbrand Ceder of MIT.
Apart from the safety aspect, Ceder further adds that there would be no degradation reactions in case of a solid state electrolyte and this would result in batteries undergoing hundreds of thousands of cycles. In short, the battery with a solid electrolyte would have a capability of outlasting all current designs by a huge margin. Related: China’s Stock Market Meltdown Dragging Global Markets With It
A solid electrolyte
Bold claims, but how do they hold up?
Samsung has been working to improve the life of lithium ion batteries even before this latest breakthrough. In fact, Samsung recently found a way to double the capacity of its lithium ion batteries by using silicon and graphene. Now, in collaboration with MIT, Samsung is on to something that is even better. Related: OPEC’s $900 Billion Mistake
MIT’s Ceder claims that batteries with solid state electrolytes can be a ‘game changer’ as they can solve issues pertaining to safety, costs and life of a conventional lithium ion battery apart from being functional at extremely low temperatures (of around minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit). But the question is: Can this technology be commercialized?
"The quality of this work is top-tier, the team (MIT and Samsung) has a long, outstanding track record in computational materials science, and they succeeded again in providing the battery and materials communities new scientific insights to push the fields forward,” said Ying Shirley Meng of the University of California. Meng, who is not involved in this project, believes in the potential of solid state electrode materials and expects the team (at MIT and Samsung) to speed up the commercial development of this material. The team that was formed with the intention of developing materials for promoting clean energy might well achieve what has so far been out of anyone’s grasp.
Until then, however, the energy storage market remains open for innovation.
By Gaurav Agnihotri of Oilprice.com
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