Monday, March 16, 2009

Better Batteries Needed

Battery systems that fit in cars don't hold enough energy for driving distances, yet take hours to recharge and don't give much power for acceleration. Renewable sources like solar and wind deliver significant power only part time, but devices to store their energy are expensive and too inefficient to deliver enough power for surge demand.

...Electrical energy storage devices fall into three categories. Batteries, particularly lithium ion, store large amounts of energy but cannot provide high power or fast recharge. Electrochemical capacitors (ECCs), also relying on electrochemical phenomena, offer higher power at the price of relatively lower energy density. In contrast, electrostatic capacitors (ESCs) operate by purely physical means, storing charge on the surfaces of two conductors. This makes them capable of high power and fast recharge, but at the price of lower energy density. _Source

The molten electrode battery pictured above may change the rules of the game. They should be scalable, and when ganged together may offer utility scale storage -- which is badly needed.Nanocapacitor arrays developed at the University of Maryland offer another alternative for electronics devices.
From the Universities of Miami, Tokyo, and Tuhoku, comes the completely new concept for energy storage pictured above. It derives voltages from large numbers of spinning nano-magnets.

And then there is the MIT developed electrode for the lithium ion battery that allows much more rapid charge and discharge speeds.

The need for better batteries ranges from the small -- cellphones -- to the medium -- electric cars -- to the very large -- utility scale storage. For merely large scale power storage -- apartment complexes, hospitals, commercial buildings -- the need is also significant.

No single technology will suit all needs. But the race is on, and the stakes are high.

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