Monday, 7 April 2014

New Battery Technology Could Be Big for Automotive Industry

Batteries are a great way to store energy for future use however, as you know, every battery has its limits.  Batteries can only store a limited amount of power, they can only withstand so many charge cycles and they degrade over time.  These limitations are the primary reasons why the automotive industry has found it so difficult to create an electric vehicle able to match the performance of a petrol vehicle.  That said, things might change within the next couple of years thanks to an impressive breakthrough in battery technology.

Researchers at California's Lawrence Berkeley Labs have found a way to modify a traditional lithium-ion battery for greater performance.  First of all, they added sulphur to increase the amount of power batteries could hold and discharge.  Moreover, while the addition of the sulphur made a big difference, battery degradation was a real problem.  The new lithium sulphur batteries would be useless after a minimum number of charge cycles.

Once they figured out that the sulphur was responsible for the degradation issue, they set about solving the problem using a substance known as graphene oxide.  They created a thin layer of the substance to be used as a 'sandwich' to prevent the damaging chemical reactions from taking place.  The result of the breakthrough is a lithium sulphur graphene battery that researchers claim could power electric vehicles for 300 miles without loss of performance.  What's more, the battery has already shown that it can withstand at least 1,500 charge cycles. Researchers believe it could probably handle more.

If the new lithium sulphur graphene battery holds up to long-range testing, it could be the breakthrough the automotive industry is looking for.  It could finally pave the way for an electric vehicle that can be used as more than just a vehicle to get around town on short trips.  Not only is that important to Europe, it is also vitally important to a US market where public transportation is woefully lacking.  For better or worse, Americans drive their cars everywhere.

Other Applications

It is still too early to tell whether the new battery will be usable for other commercial applications outside of the automotive industry.  Too many questions still need to be answered, including manufacturing cost, reliability and cost-effective adaptability for other sectors however, that does not stop us from using our imagination.

We can envision the day when renewable energy sources could be made much more efficient through automation and better storage capacity.  By giving consumers a reliable backup system capable of providing sufficient power without degradation, a capable automation system regulating the entire package could make dependence on the grid a thing of the past.

We can envision a day when the average data centre uses powerful new batteries to manage peak load times and weather-related emergencies.  This kind of technology could greatly reduce the chances of downtime when power supply is an issue. To us, the possibilities seem endless. Let's hope further research proves highly successful.



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