Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power

Silicon As the New Lithium 211

Posted by kdawson
from the throw-the-sand-against-the-wind dept.
hduff writes "While lithium-ion batteries offer better performance than lead-acid or ni-cad batteries, the supply of lithium is limited and the batteries can pose problems. Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute are building a better battery with easily obtainable sand and air."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Silicon As the New Lithium

Comments Filter:
  • Is if the best sand is in Saudi Arabia and the factory in Australia, then we would ship send both ways from desert to desert and be sure the aliens NEVER contact us!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by montyzooooma (853414)
      Sand is everywhere.

      Chile has half the world's lithium and they're gearing up to play hardball over it. This will hopefully deflate those plans.

  • Phew!

    I thought I was going to have to inject silicon under the skin on my shoulder. Funny, didn't think all those implant leakages produced well adjusted, although a little quiet and drooley, bar wenches.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:11AM (#30375460)

    Wouldn't you know it. You turn the desert into an environment that supports agriculture and the very thing you got rid of in mass quantities turns out to be the main ingredient in the technology of the future. Doesn't that just rub you the wrong way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SirLoadALot (991302)

      Actually at the moment things are going from green to desert. Desertification is a major problem around the world, including Africa and China, where arable land is being lost to the expansion of major deserts.

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by Idiomatick (976696)
        I hear the sahara is moving north/southward about 40km/yr. That's pretty fucking bad... ~5meters/hour.

        And just to throw it in. It is man cause desertification. There isn't any question of this because it hasn't been made into a political issue. Goes to show that man can fairly easily and inadvertently change the face of the earth.
  • by lanner (107308) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:15AM (#30375482)

    While new battery technology is very important in our current time, the sheer number of duplicate stories and borderline advertisement/marketing stories on Slashdot about these new batteries, WITH a combines lithium FUD scare at the same time no less, sours these stories.

    • by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:20AM (#30375512)

      While new battery technology is very important in our current time, the sheer number of duplicate stories and borderline advertisement/marketing stories on Slashdot about these new batteries, WITH a combines lithium FUD scare at the same time no less, sours these stories.

      Seconded. Does anyone else remember when Slashdot stories linked to journals and essays rather than blogs and press releases? Hopefully the click-through counts reflect the /. reader's ability to avoid anything with "blog" or "gadget" or perhaps these days even "google" in the URL.

      • by Nikker (749551)
        Thirds over here. Maybe if we get some low UID's involved in this thread we can bump the IQ of the Slash Populous a notch above rather than debating evilness and iphones.

        Just a thought....
        • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:23AM (#30375736) Journal
          "Just a thought...

          I had that thought once but when I tested it I found UID's and IQ's are not inversely related.
          • by Nikker (749551)
            I never made that relation. The reason I mentioned the UID was in hopes that it would carry more weight with the sites editors. Many of the low UID's can remember where the site came from and maybe they can help to inspire Taco et al to bring it back.
            • "...get some low UID's involved in this thread we can bump the IQ of the Slash Populous a notch above..." - Sorry but those words tricked my 5th percentile comprehension skills into thinking you were relating UID's and IQ.

              Disclaimer: I agree with your sentiment if not your statement.
        • Ah, here we go. The "good ol' days!" effect rears its ugly head. Nothing satisfies like an unfounded bias.

          • by JWW (79176)

            Yes, be careful what you wish for. Remember, in the "good old days" we routinely got stories from Jon Katz, whose skill for hyperbole eclipsed even that of kdawson.

      • by samkass (174571)

        Does anyone else remember when Slashdot stories linked to journals and essays rather than blogs and press releases?

        The most frustrating submissions to me lately are ones that link to fluff articles ABOUT a real journal article, but don't actually link the journal article in question. Meta-meta-discussions tend to quickly devolve into chaos.

      • by Ironchew (1069966)

        Does anyone else remember when Slashdot stories linked to journals and essays rather than blogs and press releases?

        I'm no fan of blogs with one page of ads per paragraph, but the last time I checked, most scientific journals have a paywall in front of them. I thought the internet would eliminate the need for publisher middlemen between scientists, but most science is still locked away from society this way.

  • Natrium batteries (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:17AM (#30375498)

    Chemically very similar to Lithium. Plenty of Natrium around.

     

  • Lithium limited? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MojoRilla (591502) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:22AM (#30375516)
    According to the All Cars Electric blog [allcarselectric.com] there is no looming shortage of lithium. From the article:

    Gerson Lehrman Group, a New York consulting firm, estimates that even if 500,000 cars powered by lithium ion batteries were produced in 2015, they would use less than 10 percent of last year's global lithium output. And global output continues to climb.

    And there is the fact that salt water has lithium. In fact, some startups are trying to extract it now [wired.com]. If the price goes high enough, it will be practical to extract lithium from the ocean.

    • by 7-Vodka (195504)
      To say that the supply of lithium is limited, is like going back 150 years ago and saying that the supply of oil is limited.
      • To say that the supply of lithium is limited, is like going back 150 years ago and saying that the supply of oil is limited.

        So when can we expect Peak Lithium?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Hadlock (143607)

          depends. right now were're surface mining lithium salts from exposed salt flats. theres no telling how many rich veins of lithium salts are hiding in valleys or near aquifers. i'm sure someone is working on that, but until someone runs analysis on where those veins might be i doubt anyone could tell you. more than likely battery technology will move beyond lithium long before (100 years?) we run out of lithium "ore" you can just shovel off the ground and into the back of a truck (Seriously, do a google imag

        • A few weeks after Peak Copper, Peak Oil and Peak IQ.

          Peak Oil is scheduled since thirty years to happen any minute.
          Peak Copper is currently underway in Europe because valuable non-ferrous metals are pilfered where and whenever the police isn't looking for a second.
          But Peak IQ already happened in 1990 (google for "Flynn Effect", if you doubt it) but I think it was some sort of a pre-requisite for the other Peaks - with the exception of Peak Climate, which curiously follows the inverse of the Flynn Effect tren

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The situation is completely different.

          A non-renewable energy resource such as oil is consumed by the process of using it as fuel -- i.e. it is destroyed (unless you're willing to wait millions of years for the carbon cycle to do its job). It also has a well-defined theoretical endpoint that would never be crossed: once it takes more energy to extract it than the oil contains, there's no point in extracting it. It's simple physics. And the practical economic threshold will be reached well before that poin

      • Would extracting lithium from the sea impact sea-life? I imagine if we started doing that and relying on it, our consumption would just keep spiralling upwards while there was a drawn-out global debate about what effect it is having, which gets resolved just in time to stop the human race dying out, but not in time to stop significant destruction to the marine ecosystem.

        but i might just be being paranoid/pessimistic as i don't know anything about it.

        • We are already extracting sodium and chloride from sea water and it's a boon to people and Golf courses in the Middle East.

          But we could start mining lithium in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and filter out all the plastic nurdles there and sell them as a cheap by-product, would that appease the Greens?

      • Re:Lithium limited? (Score:5, Informative)

        by MtHuurne (602934) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:27AM (#30375988) Homepage

        There are some important differences though. Oil is used as an energy source, while lithium is used to store energy. When a battery reaches its end of life, the lithium can be extracted and used to make a new battery.

        Also, a rising price of lithium means more lithium ore will become economical to mine. Because extracting oil takes energy, there is a point at which it is not worthwhile to extract the oil since you would have to burn more oil than you extract.

        Besides, the price of lithium is currently a very small portion of the price of a battery. The price of lithium could rise to 10 times its current level and batteries would still be affordable. If the price of oil would rise to 10 times its current level, the impact would be huge.

    • Gerson Lehrman Group, a New York consulting firm, estimates that even if 500,000 cars powered by lithium ion batteries were produced in 2015, they would use less than 10 percent of last year's global lithium output. And global output continues to climb.

      Of course, worldwide auto production is a lot closer to 10,000,000 per year....

      • More than 50,000,000 annually. Automotive World [automotiveworld.com] reported that global commercial vehicle production for 2008 was 70.5 million units, including 52.6 million passenger cars, 13.6 million light commercial vehicles, and 3.6 million trucks. Total production was down 10.8% from 2007 due to the effects of the world-wide recession. Production in China and India for local sales are increasing very rapidly.
  • Summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:31AM (#30375538) Journal
    Still in prototype (seems he might have only made one, and he tested it for 600 hours ). Not rechargable. More powerful than current hearing aid batteries. May be made rechargable in 10 years (how on earth do people estimate this stuff? How can you estimate how long it will take to do something no one has ever done? It might not even be possible). Rumors abound. If it works out it will be great, but don't hold your breath.

    Still, it's kind of cool that you can make a battery out of sand.
    • Re:Summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by blind biker (1066130) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:38AM (#30375566) Journal

      First of all (I'm a researcher in power MEMS/micro power sources), I must say that a battery that has been tested for 600 hours count as an excellent proof of concept. Most of the stuff we develop we're happy if it works for minutes, let alone hundreds of hours. This is in advanced stage. Second: so what if it's "only" a primary battery? The market for primary batteries is HUGE and because they are disposable, making them cheap and environmentally friendly is just if not more important, than with secondary batteries.

    • Re:Summary (Score:5, Funny)

      by AGMW (594303) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:07AM (#30375688) Homepage

      Still, it's kind of cool that you can make a battery out of sand.

      Yep, and to charge it you just turn it over!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phoenix321 (734987) *

      My car still burns non-rechargeable hydrocarbons and one tank barely lasts 600 hours.

      If the energy-to-weight and energy-to-cost ratios of that battery could reach even the general vicinity of gasoline, everything else concerning click-in systems or replacement is peanuts and will be invented less than one second after the battery itself. Of course we will have BluBattery and HD-Battery warring for dominance, but that's only a minor nuisance compared to the fact that we now could power cars, trucks, boats an

      • It can't.
        It's not possible to recharge in its current form, and will be comparatively expensive.
        Even neglecting that - and the poor discharge rate - it can probably only be discharged at a slow rate due to the design - it is a better hearing aid battery that might last - say - 20 days instead of 10, and be a bit less toxic.

        You _could_ put it into your car - but it would require a truly massive battery.

  • in a daze 'cause i found juice

  • by commodoresloat (172735) * on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:40AM (#30375576)

    they'll be treating manic depression with silicone?

    Then again, I guess they've been doing that for years with breast implants...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by rcamans (252182)

      And what's this sexism bs? Why not femic depression? Or Femalic?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by bilbobob (1036984)
      More to the point, in 10 years time my girlfriend will have implants that can recharge my ipod. Obviously contactless power would be best; not sure USB piecings would go down too well. I might even start saving for my own pec implants now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:51AM (#30375608)

    The article does not help understand how it actually works, so I read around and went to the Technion-friends website.

    Basically normal sand is Silicon-Dioxide. If you take pure silicon and build a battery from it, and expose the battery to air, the silicon will interact with the oxygen in the air. So the pure silicon will become silicon dioxide - sand. In the process, it releases energy.

    The neat trick in the battery - is that they set it up so that the energy is released NOT as heat (which is the usual thing), but some of it as electricity. They do this with some kind of membrane that allows oxygen ions to flow through, but electrons must come the other way - hence an electric flow.

    Like any innovation, will take some years to be fully researched and commercialized. Small batteries will probably come first, bigger ones (for cars) later. And how to recharge does not seem obvious - at least not from the description so far.

    A lot of people above are skeptical - but really this kind of innovation is what science and engineering are all about. Innovation goes hand in hand with raising ever more questions; we should be used to that by now.

    Really really cool. And smart. My hat off to the Israeli guys and their collaborators in USA & Japan.

  • by Jack Malmostoso (899729) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:53AM (#30375620)

    I have read the original publication (doi:10.1016/j.elecom.2009.08.015) and cannot understand much of the (electro-)chemistry of it.
    The electrode potential is strongly dependent on the doping of the silicon, which makes sense, but the I/V curve looks less than impressive. It's mostly a bad fuel cell, at the moment.
    Also, the chemistry of the electrolyte is not clear to me. In principle the battery should work according to dissolution of Si from the anode, transport through the electrolyte (an ionic liquid with fluorine) and reaction with oxygen at the air cathode. The researchers claim that they observe a white deposit at the cathode, and that this deposit is SiO2.
    Silicon-fluorine chemistry is quite complicated, IIRC, and I cannot for the life of me imagine transport of Si4+ ions in the electrolyte. Also, HF as such does not dissolve Si, but it need some strong acid to start the etching. How this phenomenon can happen in the ionic liquid is beyond me.

    Also, in the introduction, the researchers claim that the battery has an "infinite shelf life", but then talk about corrosion currents in the paper. If there is corrosion (i.e. self discharge), then the shelf life is quite limited.
    Cherry on top, they claim that SiO2 is easily reducible to reobtain Si. I am not familiar with silicon metallurgy, but I am not sure it is easy to do it electrochemically, let alone replate Si at the anode upon recharge.
    On the plus side, they used metallurgical grade Si, which is dirt cheap when compared to semiconductor grade Si.

    I would love for this to work, but at the moment the authors have omitted quite a bit of information. If I were the referee, I would have asked at least the questions above. Think of it, there is a corresponding author for a reason.

    Disclaimer: I work in battery research, and I am hence jealous that they made it to the front page of Slashdot.

    • Specialty (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zogger (617870)

      If this is your specialty, then please contribute more good articles about new batteries. It's hard to sort through the "coming soon in 10 years to never" from "coming soon, works pretty dang good now, perhaps on sale as early as next year" from "on sale now, here is a link" stuff.

      Battery tech to me today is sort of like solar PV tech. I've read hundreds of articles of new amazing break throughs, yet when I go check prices, the PV panels I got ten years ago are still a deal compared to what I see offered fo

  • by giladpn (1657217) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:06AM (#30375680)
    (sorry may be some confusion - a double post since the previous one inadvertently was anonymous)

    To better understand how this works, I went to the Tehnion website.

    Sand is actually Silicon-dioxide (combined silicon and oxygen). Pure silicon interacts with oxygen form the air to create sand. That's first-year normal chemistry. Usually such an interaction produces heat not electricity.

    They built the battery from pure silicon, and the trick is that Oxygen from the air has to pass through a membrane to get to the silicon and oxidize it. The membrane will allow only oxygen ions through, so electrons have to flow the other way to match up with the ions and maintain overall neutrality. Hence you get a current instead of only heat.

    Of course it will take some years to commercialize. Small applications will come first (small batteries), only later will we get big batteries (for cars?) and even later rechargeable stuff (if at all). I noticed many people are skeptical - but this is normal in science and engineering. Any real innovation raises new questions that must be answered. Kudos to the Israeli team, and their collaborators from USA & Japan.
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:08AM (#30375910)

    Wonderful, but there are an awful lot of warning signs that this thing is not a world-beater:

    * It's not rechargeable. And I don't know of any simple electrochemical process that reverses the oxidation of silicon.

    * It requires a Flourine-carrying electrolyte! Lithium is bad enuf, but Fluorine is really bad stuff.

    * Usually "air-powered" batteries are limited to very low current, slow discharge applications, such as hearing-aids.
    So it's very unlikely these could ever work like in a laptop or car, where you need amps, not microamps.

    * Any practical and competitive battery would have to have a good power-density and be stable and manufacturable at a reasonable price.

    • by Jack Malmostoso (899729) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:17AM (#30375942)

      It requires a Flourine-carrying electrolyte! Lithium is bad enuf, but Fluorine is really bad stuff.

      All Li-ion batteries carry a fluorine containing electrolyte. In particular, LiPF6 is the salt used, dissolved in organic solvents. Plus a whole bunch of additives. The ideal salt would be a perchlorate, but being explosive it's not allowed.

    • by qc_dk (734452)

      It's not rechargeable. And I don't know of any simple electrochemical process that reverses the oxidation of silicon.

      Neither is gasoline. No wonder we don't use the stuff. ;-)

  • by AP31R0N (723649)

    i wish calling Lithium batteries "Li-on" (Li + ion) had taken root. Maybe we'll get it this time with Si-on.

  • by OhHellWithIt (756826) * on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:34AM (#30377324) Journal
    Will it spontaneously combust the way some lithium batteries do? If not, then it's hardly a replacement!
  • No lithium?! Here they are talking about taking him off his meds again... it's gonna make him anxious, and you don't wanna make Bunny anxious!

The best way to avoid responsibility is to say, "I've got responsibilities."

Working...