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Power IBM Transportation Hardware Science

IBM Creates 'Breathing' High-Density Lithium-Air Battery 582 582

MrSeb writes "As part of IBM's Battery 500 project — an initiative started in 2009 to produce a battery capable of powering a car for 500 miles — Big Blue has successfully demonstrated a light-weight, ultra-high-density, lithium-air battery. In it, oxygen is reacted with lithium to create lithium peroxide and electrical energy. When the battery is recharged, the process is reversed and oxygen is released — in the words of IBM, this is an 'air-breathing' battery. While conventional batteries are completely self-contained, the oxygen used in a lithium-air battery comes from the atmosphere, so the battery itself can be much lighter. The main thing, though, is that lithium-air energy density is a lot higher than conventional lithium-ion batteries: the max energy density of lithium-air batteries is theorized to be around 12 kWh/kg, some 15 times greater than li-ion — and more importantly, comparable to gasoline."
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IBM Creates 'Breathing' High-Density Lithium-Air Battery

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  • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:01AM (#39745879)

    Recharge in less then 5 minutes?

  • by Rhywden (1940872) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:04AM (#39745915)
    Solved by standardized connectors and form factors.
    Instead of charging the battery in the car, exchange the empty battery for a loaded one.
  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh.gmail@com> on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:05AM (#39745945) Journal

    This idea is going to seem ridiculously silly in the future when batteries can charge faster than a tank can fill (Even Gen. X'ers will live to see it, I'm sure). I will seem incredible forward-thinking B-)

  • by noh8rz3 (2593935) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:06AM (#39745957)
    tfs says that the energy density is like gasoline and 10x lithium ion. but it's talking gravimetric density, i.e. kwh per kg. The only thing that matters is volumetric density, i.e. kwh / liter. This is because cars are space constrained, not weight constrained. So nothing to get excited about for vehicle range, because we have not data on it. For all we know, it could be worse. likely it's about the same as li-ion, because most of the battery volume is taken up by packaging and cooling, not the active material itself.
  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo&world3,net> on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:09AM (#39745989) Homepage

    Not an absolute requirement by any means. Current cars can do an 80% recharge in half an hour, more than adequate for most people. Remember that in the future the idea will be to charge your car in the car park or at home, not just on the road. If you manage to hit the 500 mile range then half an hour to recharge your own body is probably a good idea.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:11AM (#39746021)

    The thermal energy in gasoline has to be converted to a more useful form of energy (i.e. turning the wheels), the efficiency of this is going to be ~20% for a automobile. The battery is supplying much more useful energy, the efficiency of converting electricity to useful energy is going to be something like 90% (or more). So a battery with the same energy density of gasoline actually has at least 4 times the useful energy of the same size (weight actually) gas tank.

  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh.gmail@com> on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:13AM (#39746041) Journal

    So what's wrong with more charging stations? Have one at each parking spot at the station, once the infrastructure is there the individual terminals are relatively cheap.

  • Re:Comparable? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sanosuke001 (640243) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:17AM (#39746083)
    Wikipedia also states that gasoline is 13kWh/kg vs. the summary's stated 12kWh/kg for IBM's new battery. Maybe IBM's version is better than the version referenced in your link?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline#Energy_content_.28high_and_low_heating_value.29 [wikipedia.org]
  • by Rhywden (1940872) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:18AM (#39746099)
    You'll most likely still need to drive to a "fuel station", regardless. Filling such a high capacity battery inside of five minutes requires an incredibly high current.
    While certainly not impossible, the strain on energy distribution and the amount of wiring (the wire has to be thick to withstand the current!) will make it cheaper to have a few dedicated charging station rather than every house on its own.
  • by caution live frogs (1196367) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:20AM (#39746139)

    Not tenable. Do you really want to trade the brand new battery in your brand new car for a used one with an unknown number of duty cycles? If so, I'd be happy to trade the fully charged battery in my MacBook for your brand new but empty one. Sure mine says "replace battery now" in the health indicator but it is fully charged and compatible with other laptops with the same battery form factor.

  • by dalias (1978986) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:22AM (#39746163)
    No, increasing the time to 30 minutes would mean insane profits from your customers being stuck there for 30 minutes with nothing to do but drink your coffee and eat your food.
  • by noh8rz3 (2593935) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:26AM (#39746223)
    Also, remember that electric motors are 3x more efficient that gas engines (80% thermal efficiency vs. 25%), so batteries don't need to get parity with gasoline in order to be comparable.
  • by rubycodez (864176) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:27AM (#39746235)
    I have natural gas taps in my house. Some people have fuel oil delivered. Anyway, even if a car can be recharged in minutes at a station, it could also be charged overnight when needed.
  • by Rhywden (1940872) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:27AM (#39746239)

    Ah, but that's the beauty of it: You don't need to know the number of duty cycles.
    You exchange your empty battery for a charged battery with the assurance of the fuel station that this battery carries the charge you just paid for.
    And if that one's empty, you'll replace it again.
    Furthermore, you can insert some electronics to store and display statistics - no need to sell a dumb battery.

    Again, a solvable problem.

  • by Junta (36770) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:32AM (#39746289)

    To be fair, it may represent a different business model entirely.

    Gas stations mostly operate on thin margins on the gasoline itself, with the profit center being trying to get people to walk in the door to by some snacks/drink/whatever. Generally only items that can be browsed and purchase comfortably in a minute or so, since the store doesn't want a car consuming a spot more than that.

    However, having vehicles that require a lot longer to charge and can be safely recharged without the operator in attendance changes the dynamics. No longer do you have businesses that are places to replenish vehicle range primarily, but you have a wider variety of businesses where they want people to sit around for a lot longer time away from their car. Some may provide metered charging as a way to augment their revenue or recover cost of the service, some even may provide it for 'free' to draw people in the door. You can already see this happening. In my area, there are shopping malls with currently free charging access. There are also restauraunts with metered chargers. A number of employers are starting to mention free charging as a perk, in part to draw people in and in part to show off how 'green' they are.

  • by noh8rz3 (2593935) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:33AM (#39746295)
    wtf? why wouldn't you want a complete charge? It's like going to exchange your propane tank but requesting a half-full tank. perhaps you're worrieda bout the weight of all those electrons?
  • by benjfowler (239527) on Friday April 20, 2012 @11:34AM (#39746315)

    Flywheel storage. Under existing service station forecourts, are massive fuel tanks. Replace them with flywheel energy storage systems (which can be trickle-charged from the grid and discharged very fast if need be), and we may yet be in business.

    Flywheel storage are used to augment the National Grid in powering the Joint European Torus, and can deliver many tens of megawatts of power on demand.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_European_Torus [wikipedia.org]

  • This idea is going to seem ridiculously silly in the future when batteries can charge faster than a tank can fill (Even Gen. X'ers will live to see it, I'm sure). I will seem incredible forward-thinking B-)

    For a website filled with electrical and computer engineers, the entire notion that you can recharge an electric battery quick with enough energy to be able to send an automobile over 500 miles in less than 15 minutes should seem totally ludicrous.

    What are you expecting to have happen, somebody figure out how to discover news laws of physics akin to discovering how to travel faster than light?

    The sheer amount of energy to perform this kind of action is going to require connectors to the recharging equipment to be in the kiloVolt range, or perhaps MegaVolt and have amperage with that voltage that can only be supplied by a direct power line to a nuclear power plant. What you are talking about doing here is to deliver a huge pile of energy in a very short period of time and then claiming that delivering that energy is not going to be lethal to the people who are performing the recharging.

  • by noh8rz3 (2593935) on Friday April 20, 2012 @12:07PM (#39746763)
    I see your porint, but it might be a little overblown. The leaf has a battery of 24 kwh, and you likely won't find any EVs over 50kwh in the near / mid future. so the 4x is a little high. second, for longer-range driving, no big deal, different strokes for different folks. If your driving needs ar compatible with an EV, then you can get an EV. If an EV can't meet your needs, then you can get a gasoline car. Your comment is common, and it implies that this is a death knell for EVs, like they're impractical and will fail. Not true, just different strokes for different folks.
  • by ballpoint (192660) on Friday April 20, 2012 @12:28PM (#39747061)

    No offense, but you sound like a typical green. Whining about a 1% problem, then whining even harder when said problem is reduced to a 1ppm problem.

    Greens are like some high maintenance girls in that regard. They don't want their supposed problem solved, they just want to whine about it.

  • by clonan (64380) on Friday April 20, 2012 @12:30PM (#39747077)

    You are assuming that EV will simply replace the current engine and fuel tank with an electric engine and battery... This is not what has to happen.

    Currently engines are big and heavy so you only have one. You then have to transfer the rotational energy of the engine to the wheels. But Electric motors are very light and tiny. So why not have 4?

    Put a small electric engine in each wheel and you eliminate the entire drive train... no more drive train losses and EV's are back up to 90%.

    Your 72% efficiency only applies to ICE cars that have been converted to EV's.

  • by sribe (304414) on Friday April 20, 2012 @01:03PM (#39747485)

    If your driving needs ar compatible with an EV, then you can get an EV. If an EV can't meet your needs, then you can get a gasoline car.

    Exactly.

    Your comment is common, and it implies that this is a death knell for EVs, like they're impractical and will fail. Not true, just different strokes for different folks.

    I see a lot of EV proponents discounting the drawbacks, and arguing every which way that EVs with just a little bit of improvement will be good enough for nearly everybody. Let's face it, hipsters congregate in dense urban areas where any car is a luxury, and many just can't imagine that some of us actually live a long way away from anything ;-)

    Funny thing is, I would need a lot more range to use an EV, but slow charging times would not bother me so much for a secondary car, because many times it would have multiple days to charge ;-)

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday April 20, 2012 @01:38PM (#39747911) Journal

    Let's face it, hipsters congregate in dense urban areas where any car is a luxury, and many just can't imagine that some of us actually live a long way away from anything ;-)

    Have you considered that living far away from everything is a luxury too? We're going to have to give up some of our luxuries if we want to be sustainable. Rural living for those not involved in agriculture is probably one of them.

  • by sribe (304414) on Friday April 20, 2012 @01:57PM (#39748155)

    Have you considered that living far away from everything is a luxury too?

    Considered it??? I live it every day and pay the price. It's like you think I have no clue how I'm living.

    We're going to have to give up some of our luxuries if we want to be sustainable. Rural living for those not involved in agriculture is probably one of them.

    Fuck you. No, really, I mean it, go fuck yourself. You have no idea at all to what extent my lifestyle is sustainable or not, what effects positive or negative it has on the environment.

  • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:22PM (#39749149)

    Fuck you. No, really, I mean it, go fuck yourself. You have no idea at all to what extent my lifestyle is sustainable or not, what effects positive or negative it has on the environment.

    This is insightful?

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday April 20, 2012 @07:25PM (#39752011) Homepage

    Must be nice to own a home. Many urbanites either live in an apartment or condo. Often with designated shared parking. The very core group of people that could benefit from EVs are at a disadvantage when it comes to recharging them. I suppose you could have a recharging pole next to each parking space like an old school drive in movie theater from the 1950s with wired speaker mounts. But then you looking at maintenance, vandalism, and the dense electrical infrastructure capable of handling the nightly recharging load.

    As others have suggested, the best way to address this with EVs is to use swappable cells where the owner pays for electricity and not the container (battery pack). The cells of course being a public vessel by which to obtain a recharge.

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