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Power Hardware

Nanobatteries — Safer By Design 83

Posted by kdawson
from the no-more-go-boom dept.
Iddo Genuth writes "Conventional Li-Ion batteries have been known to catch fire and explode. A new, safer type of Li-Ion nanobattery that might help prevent such mishaps has been developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University. These nanobatteries should prove useful for various micro devices used for medical, military, and a range of other applications. They are 2-4 years from commercial availability."
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Nanobatteries — Safer By Design

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  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by make dev (1004307) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:46PM (#17639882)
    We'll have 2-4 more years of exploding laptops?
  • by Salvance (1014001) * on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:48PM (#17639918) Homepage Journal
    Is there really that much of an explosion/fire risk for very small and microbatteries? Sure, these nanobatteries would be fantastic for small robots, but I'd guess we're well over 4 years away from being able to make large batteries (e.g. laptop batteries) utilizing nanofabrication techniques that could also reduce fire/explosion risks.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Is there really that much risk from any battery? How many fatalities have there been from the notorious laptop batteries? How many injuries? Maybe we should turn our attention to more menacing and sinister threats, like piping hot coffee at McDonalds.
    • Is there really that much of an explosion/fire risk for very small and microbatteries?

      Sure is [smh.com.au]
      • by bunions (970377)
        ok, that's one guy.

        One guy out of ... what? 3 billion? 6? I can't remember.

        I'm gonna need a number greater than ... oh, let's say 1000 before I even start considering that li-ion batteries may actually pose some kind of legitimate safety concern.
    • by bcattwoo (737354)

      Is there really that much of an explosion/fire risk for very small and microbatteries?


      Maybe not to the user, but even if you aren't harmed, having your shiny, new gadget destroyed by an exploding battery is a bummer.
      • by Fred_A (10934)
        What do you care, if a nanobattery explodes you won't even notice it.
        • by bcattwoo (737354)

          What do you care, if a nanobattery explodes you won't even notice it.

          I care because the device it was powering is now broken and needs to be replaced. If you prefer gadgets, devices, etc, that randomly break and need replacement, more power to ya!
  • Why Wait? (Score:3, Informative)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:49PM (#17639940) Journal
  • Yawn . . . . (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dmadzak (997352)
    Another story about a breakthrough battery technology 2-4 years away. Wake me up when one of these breakthroughs becomes a reality the readers of Slashdot can afford and use.
  • Hardly a nanobattery (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xeth (614132) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:50PM (#17639960) Journal
    FTFA:
    Using a silicon or glass substrate, the team from TAU created a matrix of tiny holes each 50 microns in diameter and 500 micron deep.
    Atoms are on the order of a nanometer in diameter. These batteries are hundreds of thousands of times larger. Hell, you could probably hook these up with current chip lithography techniques (they're doing tens of microns now). Interesting microbattery, but let's keep the nanotech hype out of it.
    • by evanbd (210358) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:58PM (#17640080)

      You're off by a bit there :) Atoms have diameters measured in picometers; bond lengths tend to be tends to a hundred or so picometers. Current high end chips are made on 65nm processes these days, with 45 and 30 (iirc) not too far off -- but the point is silicon litho techniques do tens of nanometers, not microns. You can get micron level precision with machine tools, even -- very expensive ones, granted, but still :)

      I agree completely though, calling this nanotech is a little iffy when you can see the things with merely a strong magnifying glass and resolve details with a decent optical microscope.

      • by Xeth (614132)
        Argh, damnit. Quick Google searches for the lose :( Oh well, what's three orders of magnitude here and there?
    • by caitsith01 (606117) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @10:10PM (#17640216) Journal
      I would have thought that a correct use of the prefix 'nano' would involve an object, device or effect, the WHOLE of which is on a nanometre scale. So for example, a 'nanobattery' would be a battery the WHOLE of which is on a nanometre scale.

      I'm obviously not alone is being heartily sick of anything involving components parts which are on an atomic scale (e.g.... uh, CHEMICALS) being referred to as 'nano'-whatever. For instance a while back we had this [slashdot.org] idiotic story about 'lead compounds' producing 'nanocrystals' and being used by the ancient Egyptians.

      Next on slashdot: scientists develop nanobreathing technology using a nanogas mixture containing nanoparticles only an few atoms wide! Revolutionary nanopower technique delivers charged nanoparticles to electrical devices through ordinary wire! Nanolightbulbs emitting nanophotons found to have been in use since the 18th century! Nanocar constructed entirely from nanoparticles of metal, plastic and glass runs entirely on nano-fuel only a few carbon atoms long!
      • by cyfer2000 (548592)
        There should be at least one dimension in nanometer scale for the ting to be called "nano" something. Things in hundreds of of nanometer can be called "mesoscale". And things in microns are called microscale. TFA is shameless.
      • yeah! (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yeah! Same goes for words that start with 'micro'. Words like microscope are so lame.
      • by freeze128 (544774)
        I would have thought that a correct use of the prefix 'nano' would involve an object, device or effect, the WHOLE of which is on a nanometre scale. So for example, a 'nanobattery' would be a battery the WHOLE of which is on a nanometre scale.
        That's probably why the new iPod nano has a clip on it... so you don't lose it.
        • by freeze128 (544774)
          BAH! That's the SHUFFLE, not the Nano!
          I could have sworn that I hit the Preview button instead of the Submit button. It's not my fault, they were only four nanopixels apart!
        • by Firehed (942385)
          Did Apple slip one by me, or are you talking about the Shuffle?
    • I agree, microns are hardly nano scale. My master's thesis topic involves trying to develop a nanoporous membrane to be used in lithium ion batteries. If I ever make pores, they will be 10-20 nm in diameter (trust me, I've seen pictures). Which reminds me, I need to go check on something in the lab.
    • Excellent point regarding the nanotech brouhaha. Nano means just that: Nano. Just because the battery has nano-sized components doesn't mean that the battery is a nanobattery. If the *entire* battery is only a few nanometers in dimensional specifications (yes, only a few nanometers, since everything can be measured in terms of nanometers) then there would be true technical grounds to call it a nanobattery. BUT, since there are nano-sized components that comprise a definitely NOT nano-sized device, it is tec
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:51PM (#17639994)
    And it's on the market now. 10,000-15,000 cycles with little or no degradation, double the energy density of current li-ions. Ideal for automotive stuff, they're already shipping to customers.

    http://www.altairnano.com/ [altairnano.com]
     
  • Safer? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rowama (907743)
    So they won't explode or catch fire. How long will it be before some dreaded danger arises that we haven't imagined? It is nanotechnology, after all.

    mood/pessimistic (yeah, I read the myspace post.)
  • That's all terrific and such, but I'm still more interested in nano- hard drive technology. Like that Wired thing about them using extremophile viruses from Yellowstone geisers by harvesting their superprotein shells and using that for data storage - 50 gigs? meh, 500 terrabytes. I have to give the creators of these batteries credit for the attempt though. My laptop still has yet to explode, thankfully.
  • wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:58PM (#17640072) Homepage
    Nano batteries for micro devices? I'm pico excited about this!
  • by noidentity (188756)

    "...that might help prevent such mishaps..."

    I might possibly be pushed more towards apparent annoyance by this non-commital language. Let's start with the unqualified version, then add the qualifiers one by one:

    ...that prevents such mishaps... (good, a solution!)

    ...that helps prevent such mishaps... (so they will still happen, they'll just be reduced)

    ...that might help prevent such mishaps... (so it might not even do anything?)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Conventional SONY Li-ion batteries that is...
  • ...as there's a Boston firm that made the packs that are in one of the brands of power tools (Milkwalkee I think?); they can take a recharge rate much, much higher than most battery packs, and the chargers are using a fraction of the maximum rate. The packs don't have to cool down after being drained before getting charged, etc. Google says the technology is lithium-manganese based.

    There's also a Japanese firm that is making safer lithium ion packs (so they're cheaper from a materials standpoint.) They

    • Do you have the link for the video for that clip? I'd love to see it!
    • by Radon360 (951529)
      I think the brand that you are thinking of is Milwaukee power tools...named just like the city in Wisconsin where the company was founded.
    • by Pontiac (135778)
      The Milwaukee tools use a Molicel
      http://www.molienergy.com/ [molienergy.com]
      It's a Lithium manganese oxide Li-Ion Cell.

      Pros are higher discharge rates and faster re-charge then a Li-poly cell

      Cons are the watts/Kg is lower. (li-poly of the same capacity is lighter)

      Some people are using them as a cheep alternative to Li-Poly cells in Electric R/C Aircraft.
      The Weight is the big trade off though.

  • No vaporware tag? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Come on, you all know that in tech, 2-4 years has a 50% chance of equalling never.
  • by Short Circuit (52384) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:05PM (#17640838) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:

    Since each nanobattery is comprised of thousands of small batteries, even if one of these small batteries has a short circuit and fails, the entire battery can keep functioning, lossing only a very small amount of power. Similar damage to a conventional Li-Ion battery could result in substantial loss of power or a complete malfunction and in extreme cases even fire or explosion.
    So they're putting microcells in a series/parallel network, and claiming that, since each microcell contains minute quantities of energy, a short circuit would result in only minute consequences.

    But, again, they've put the batteries in a series/parallel network. They don't mention that a short could take place in places in the network other than exactly across one cell. Let's say an impurity spec lands across a couple wires. Depending on which couple wires, you might have shorted just a few microcells, or you could be shorting out the whole battery.

    The reason Li-Ion batteries are dangerous is the sheer energy density. Rearranging that energy with a different battery structure isn't going to negate the fact that, simplistically, you somewhere have two conductors across which is the entire potential of the battery. (Unless you divide the battery into segments and give each segment a unique load. However, that would require a fundamental re-thinking of how electronic devices are powered.)
    • by shlashdot (689477)
      "Unless you divide the battery into segments and give each segment a unique load. However, that would require a fundamental re-thinking of how electronic devices are powered."

      Right. They could never combine any logic circuits or protections with this.

      "The reason Li-Ion batteries are dangerous is the sheer energy density."

      I think the reason is because they haven't figured out how to segment it yet. Using small quanta is a step towards figuring out how to regulate it. If you can segment it, it seems t
      • by aXis100 (690904)
        Many lithium batteries are already segmented into regular cells - the problem is that one cell dieing can generate the heat to put others over the edge.
        • by Radon360 (951529)
          So what they really need to do is find a way to stop a chain reaction from occurring. This technology might be good step in that direction. What needs to be determined is whether the separation between the cells provides sufficient thermal isolation/disipation to prevent one grouping of short-circuited cells from overheating adjacent ones.
        • by shlashdot (689477)
          Regular cells obviously don't work. Perhaps one could make them small enough to put on a circuit board and small enough that millions of overcurrent protection devices or managed switches could practically be put on the same board.
    • The reason Li-Ion batteries are dangerous is the sheer energy density.
      Most're graphite cathode.

       
    • "The reason Li-Ion batteries are dangerous is the sheer energy density." A lump of coal has a pretty high energy density too, its not something I would think of as dangerous. The problem with these Li-ion cells have occured b/c of the low onset temperatures of many of the components. The SEI layer decomposes at about 70C. From the models and differnial scanning calriometry data I have seen, this reaction does not release enough energy to cause other runaway reactions to occur. Overheating or a short circu
    • by Steve001 (955086)

      Short Circuit wrote as part of a post:

      The reason Li-Ion batteries are dangerous is the sheer energy density. Rearranging that energy with a different battery structure isn't going to negate the fact that, simplistically, you somewhere have two conductors across which is the entire potential of the battery. (Unless you divide the battery into segments and give each segment a unique load. However, that would require a fundamental re-thinking of how electronic devices are powered.)

      I don't think its jus

      • by slew (2918)

        I think one of the things that has made the whole battery problem more acute is the recent increase number of devices that use a rechargeable but not-replaceable battery. One of the biggest complaints about the iPod is the relatively short battery life. This issue could be nullified by an easily-user-replacable battery: the battery wears out, quickly replace it with a new one, the music continues.

        One of the reasons that many high-energy density lithium-ion batteries are not easily-user-replacable is because

  • by caffeineboy (44704) <skidmore.22NO@SPAMosu.edu> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @12:34AM (#17641664)
    Since power is proportional to volume (length^3), scaling laws for a nano-scale battery are VERY unfavorable. I'm not sure how they will get over this hurdle.

    Just like nano-sized heat engines, nano sized batteries have a big problem in this department. There may be advantages in internal resistance or peak current, but the power density of such a battery, not to mention the cost, seem unfavorable.
  • by painQuin (626852)
    I <3 Vim
  • First laptops, then cellphones (http://www.turbogadgets.com/2007/01/16/burning-ce llphone-sets-owner-on-fire/), now nanokit.
  • omg (Score:3, Funny)

    by Fist! Of! Death! (1038822) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @07:04AM (#17643944)
    I think I got Voltaic Piles while reading this article

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