News

New battery lasts 10 times as long

Silicon Valley legacy of innovation continues -- with silicon

Imagine rarely having to recharge the battery of your new, all-electric car. Saving gas is just one potential benefit of a new battery that lasts 10 times longer than standard models, creator and Stanford University researcher Yi Cui said.

"It can be used in laptops. You can do international flights without charging up" or it can be used in iPods or cell phones, said Cui, an assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department.

Cui and colleagues announced the break-through battery last month, capping two years of research, he said.

The notion of a battery based on nanotechnology came about when Cui got to Stanford in 2005.

"I was very excited when this idea was demonstrated to work for the first time," Cui said.

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The new battery generates 10 times as much energy as traditional batteries by getting around the tendency of silicon to break down through normal use, he said.

In standard lithium-ion batteries, the silicon expands during charging as it absorbs lithium ions, then shrinks during use as the tiny particles flow back out.

The expand-and-contract cycle causes silicon, which is in the shape of particles or layers, to degrade. But Cui's new battery uses a forest of tiny silicon wires to store ions, he said.

The nanowires, each with a diameter of one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper, grow to four times their normal size but don't fracture as other silicon shapes do, he said.

With silicon intact, the battery keeps going -- including in electric-car engines, a use Cui is particularly excited about.

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"You don't need to burn gasoline. You can use the battery. It has high enough energy to drive really long distances," he said.

He plans to run more lab tests to determine the battery's exact duration, but it could hit commercial markets in as little as five years, he said.

He plans to either start his own company or license the technology to others, he said.

And with abundant supply and pre-existing technology, it shouldn't cost too much, he said.

"Silicon is really abundant, the second most abundant element. The semiconductor industry is mature. [So the cost is low," he said.

As the region's nickname implies, silicon played a crucial local role in high-tech innovations as an ideal material for semiconductors and later computer chips.

But nanotechnology, or the ability to make such small objects, is only about a decade old, Cui said.

"In previous research, they couldn't solve this problem" of preventing silicon breakage, because the pieces were too large, he said.

And while silicon has the highest known charge capacity, or ability to store lithium ions, that potential could not be unlocked earlier due to its tendency to wear out, Cui and others said in a letter describing their findings.

Cui has received phone calls from all over the world since the letter's publication online in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, he said.

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New battery lasts 10 times as long

Silicon Valley legacy of innovation continues -- with silicon

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Jan 1, 2008, 10:15 am

Imagine rarely having to recharge the battery of your new, all-electric car. Saving gas is just one potential benefit of a new battery that lasts 10 times longer than standard models, creator and Stanford University researcher Yi Cui said.

"It can be used in laptops. You can do international flights without charging up" or it can be used in iPods or cell phones, said Cui, an assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department.

Cui and colleagues announced the break-through battery last month, capping two years of research, he said.

The notion of a battery based on nanotechnology came about when Cui got to Stanford in 2005.

"I was very excited when this idea was demonstrated to work for the first time," Cui said.

The new battery generates 10 times as much energy as traditional batteries by getting around the tendency of silicon to break down through normal use, he said.

In standard lithium-ion batteries, the silicon expands during charging as it absorbs lithium ions, then shrinks during use as the tiny particles flow back out.

The expand-and-contract cycle causes silicon, which is in the shape of particles or layers, to degrade. But Cui's new battery uses a forest of tiny silicon wires to store ions, he said.

The nanowires, each with a diameter of one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper, grow to four times their normal size but don't fracture as other silicon shapes do, he said.

With silicon intact, the battery keeps going -- including in electric-car engines, a use Cui is particularly excited about.

"You don't need to burn gasoline. You can use the battery. It has high enough energy to drive really long distances," he said.

He plans to run more lab tests to determine the battery's exact duration, but it could hit commercial markets in as little as five years, he said.

He plans to either start his own company or license the technology to others, he said.

And with abundant supply and pre-existing technology, it shouldn't cost too much, he said.

"Silicon is really abundant, the second most abundant element. The semiconductor industry is mature. [So the cost is low," he said.

As the region's nickname implies, silicon played a crucial local role in high-tech innovations as an ideal material for semiconductors and later computer chips.

But nanotechnology, or the ability to make such small objects, is only about a decade old, Cui said.

"In previous research, they couldn't solve this problem" of preventing silicon breakage, because the pieces were too large, he said.

And while silicon has the highest known charge capacity, or ability to store lithium ions, that potential could not be unlocked earlier due to its tendency to wear out, Cui and others said in a letter describing their findings.

Cui has received phone calls from all over the world since the letter's publication online in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, he said.

Comments

Ken Edwards
another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 5:10 am
Ken Edwards, another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 5:10 am

I hope the management at Tesla Motors is reading this article. With an EPA range of 245 miles, this battery technology, when commercially available, will extend the range of a Tesla roadster on one charge to 2,450 miles! All the issues on range (which for me are already solved) will evaporate for everyone else AND allow Tesla to build a sedan with great range as well. As long as GM, Toyota, Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, Honda or the oil companies don't buy this technology and put it on the back shelf in the lab "until it has been proven and is ready," we might actually see a breakthrough on this.


Walter_E_Wallis
Midtown
on Jan 10, 2008 at 8:54 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
on Jan 10, 2008 at 8:54 am

Without nuclear power, forget charging one of these.


Hugh E Webber
another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 6:37 pm
Hugh E Webber, another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Altair Nanotechnologies, makers of the nano-materials lithium batteries powering the Phoenix Motors electric vehicles (EVs) now rolling off the factory floor, will be surprised that Cui scooped their nano-izing idea - five years late!

Seriously, the President was photographed on the White House lawn last spring next to a Phoenix SUT EV. Oh, and the Subaru R1e EV goes on sale next year, with about five other makers' new EVs.


Hugh E Webber
another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 6:41 pm
Hugh E Webber, another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Mr. Wallis, the US Department of Energy reported sx months ago that over 80 million EVs can be recharged at homes overnight without building one more power plant.
Electric vehicles (EVs) can reduce US air pollution by a third, free us from dictators' oil and let us drive trouble-free for three cents per mile. See EVWorld.com for info.


future
Community Center
on Jan 10, 2008 at 7:31 pm
future, Community Center
on Jan 10, 2008 at 7:31 pm

It will only make us reliant on electricity and in 10 years there will be the same people saying we need to be freed from electric companies. Same old same old


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 8:22 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 8:22 pm

It seems to me that we need to get cheaper overnight electricity and use a system like the UK whereby we can get Energy 7 metered for such tasks as dishwashing and recharging batteries.


R Wray
Palo Verde
on Jan 11, 2008 at 11:32 am
R Wray, Palo Verde
on Jan 11, 2008 at 11:32 am

There are over 200 million vehicles in the US. So, using the DOE report, if more than 40% are replaced by EV's, more generating capacity would be required.
Currently most of the electrical energy is from coal, gas and oil plants-hardly pollution free.
Let's not over-hype this; let the free market operate.


Walter_E_Wallis
Midtown
on Jan 11, 2008 at 5:03 pm
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
on Jan 11, 2008 at 5:03 pm

I have been preaching time of day metering for years, but the Utility Department was too busy being green, chasing hamster power and bird slicers to pursue cogeneration and peak shedding control.


Engineer
South of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2008 at 5:15 pm
Engineer, South of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2008 at 5:15 pm

"US Department of Energy reported sx months ago that over 80 million EVs can be recharged at homes overnight without building one more power plant."

I have not seen that report but, for the sake of discussion, let us just assume that it is true. There is no energy free lunch, so all that nighttime electrical generation will come from sources that are not at capacity. Nuclear and hydro are already at capacity, so that leaves coal and natural gas (alternatives, like solar and wind do not contribute very much at night). This means that all of those EVs will be contributing, massively, to CO2 production, not to mention all the other problems with coal/NG, such as dead miners and air pollution. Thus, what appears to be clean, at first glance, is actually quite dirty.

There is a myth floating about that nighttime electrical use is cheaper. This is only true when addional capcity can be utilized at night. If 40 million EVs start to charge at night, the electrical rates will approach peak daytime rates, thus not such a good economic bargain.

Electrically powered transporation will only become CO2 clean if nuclear and/or alternatives are used as the source of generation.


jimg
another community
on Jan 13, 2008 at 12:07 pm
jimg, another community
on Jan 13, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Note well the preceding comment by "Engineer" from south of midtown. He brings up two points that are often ignored: the coal/NG to generate the electricity will still pollute; and, if everybody is charging, rates are unlikely to be cheaper at night.

And don't forget the time it takes to charge the batteries: to put a gallon of gas worth of energy (~140,000 btus) into you batteries requires about 40 kwh of electricity. That's 30 amps at 220 volts for 6 hours.


Tesla owner
another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 8:19 am
Tesla owner, another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 8:19 am

TO Engineer, and the other nay-sayers:

Come on, let's get real. At least in California, getting power from the local utility for my EV car will STILL be much less polluting than filling my ICE with gas and burning it! More EV's on the road has to be better because it reasults in fewer ICE's on the road. As an engineer, why don't you instead get our your spreadsheet and figure out how much less CO2 pollution there will be for every million ICE cars that are replaced with EV's?

And how many years do you think it will be before we even APPROACH 80 or even 40 million EV's on the road, and thus all those vehicles charging at night causing nighttime rates to rise? 10 years? 15? Don't you think that during that time additional capacity might be added, and of a "greener" variety?

And finllay, in the meantime, I personally would rather support my local power company and charge my electric car than send my money to the middle east in order to keep driving my ICE car. And my plan(along with I lot of other future EV owwners, I'm sure) is to put solar panels on my roof, and get off the grid entirely. So I won't be one of those contributing, as you say, to "dead miners and air pollution."

Let's not knock the new battery technology before it even becomes a reality with these kinds of alarmist arguments.


Engineer
South of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 10:36 am
Engineer, South of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 10:36 am

Tesla owner,

I like electric vehicles. Electric motors are very efficient, and recovery braking are very attractive. However, I do not make exaggerated claims about EVs. In terms of CO2 reduction, they are only as good as the source of electrical generation, including transmission line losses.

If I thought that there was going to be a big building boom for nuclear power, I would agree with you. However, I don't think that will happen, largely because of political timidity. I do think that solar and wind will make gains, however the promises have been out there for a long time. Neither solar nor wind are very good at night, because moonlight is not a strong source of energy, and winds usually die down at night. If you are going to use your solar panels to charge up your car at night, then you will need to include energy storage into your scheme (i.e. batteries). You would be better off staying on the grid, use your panels to reverse the meter during the daytime, then draw back off the grid at night to charge your car. However, even this scheme will get overwhelmed by tens of millions of EVs doing the same thing. The question then becomes: What will be the base load electrical generating fuel at night? My guess, given current political realities, is that it will remain coal or natural gas, both of which produce CO2.

The fundamental issue is that those of you who want to hugely increase electrical demand, through the use of EVs, will need to solve nighttime base load generating issues. Otherwise, you will not solve the CO2 issue.

Your notion that it is better to pay the local utility, instead of OPEC, has some validity. However, keep in mind that you will also be paying for the elimination of mountains in W. Virginia (strip mining). One could argue that it is better to simply drill for oil off the outer contental shelf in this country.

If you really want to get clean, perhaps you should put a bumper sticker on your new Tesla that says, "Support Nuclear Power!". Tens of millions of EV owners would, eventually, become a potent political force!


Tesla owner
another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 1:31 pm
Tesla owner, another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 1:31 pm

To Engineer,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. Maybe I will indeed get a pro Nuclear Power bumper sticker....


E=MC2
another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 2:57 pm
E=MC2, another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Since wind energy is most productive at night electric cars would make perfect sense. What is now done is at nighttime wind energy is dumped and lost. Electric cars using that energy is very smart.

You green people should also consider Nuke power. Your main complaint has been storage, well as for long term storage that problem has been solved for the next 250,000 years. There is a location in Ukraine that will never be used for anything but nuclear matters. Seize the day and take advantage of a mistake that solved the problem of long term storage. Build nuke power today electric cars and we all win. Your alternative is to learn Arabic or Chinese for if we keep going the way we are going they will own you.

When life hands you lemons make lemonade. - but be quick about it.


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