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Biotech Power Transportation Science Technology

Viruses Boost Performance of Lithium-Air Battery Used In Electric Cars 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-get-a-sick-kid-to-cough-on-your-battery dept.
rtoz writes "MIT researchers have found that adding genetically modified viruses to the production of nanowires will boost the performance of lithium-air battery used in electric cars. The key to their work was to increase the surface area of the wire, thus increasing the area where electrochemical activity takes place during charging or discharging of the battery (abstract). The increase in surface area produced by their method can provide a big advantage in lithium-air batteries' rate of charging and discharging. Unlike conventional fabrication methods, which involve energy-intensive high temperatures and hazardous chemicals, this process can be carried out at room temperature using a water-based process."
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Viruses Boost Performance of Lithium-Air Battery Used In Electric Cars

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  • by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @05:02PM (#45417591)
    That would be sick!
  • by 50000BTU_barbecue (588132) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @05:06PM (#45417631) Homepage Journal
    Heh, big thing when it's a virus. I'm hilarious. OK but lithium-air batteries that don't explode in the rain would be quite something. Not only would they make electric cars more viable, but it might even make things like electric planes much more practical and long-ranged. Big ifs, though. It's hard to beat kerosene and turbines for raw power, efficiency and range.
    • OK but lithium-air batteries that don't explode in the rain would be quite something.

      Now they won't explode in the rain, they'll merely sneeze...

  • by schwep (173358) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @05:06PM (#45417643)

    Fred: Dude, where's your car?
    Sam: I don't know - I parked it hear like 2 hours ago.
    Fred: Did you patch against the latest virus they found?
    Sam: What?
    Fred: Yeah, it caused the batteries to eat all the metal parts.
    Sam: Crap.
    Fred: Now if only you could download a copy of the car...

  • Other prior research (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Forever Wondering (2506940) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @05:19PM (#45417765)

    Researchers at the University of Maryland have been using the tobacco mosaic virus for similar purposes: http://phys.org/news/2010-12-virally-nano-electrodes-boost-energy-capacity.html [phys.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Also, while this material was successfully tested through 50 cycles of charging and discharging, for practical use a battery must be capable of withstanding thousands of these cycles.

    Show me a rechargeable battery I can buy now that will withstand thousands of cycles. I've got a box full of dead rechargeables that maybe lasted 100 cycles, many probably less than 50. Battery manufacturers have been promising charging cycles since the dawn of the rechargeable battery and have failing to deliver for an equally long time.

    For practical use, even 50 cycles can be enough if it means 3 times more storage density.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If one managed the state of charge (SoC) properly, then many of the newer lithium ion chemistries can handle thousands of charge cycles. It is key to manage operating temperature, charging temperature, and avoid charging too high and discharging too low. Most currently available lithium ion batteries are designed for 300 charge cycles even in 100% charge/discharge cycles. Apple's batteries in laptops and phones is supposed to be managed for 1000 charge cycles or so. Electric vehicles with lithium ion batter

      • I wonder if you could use a System on a Chip (SoC) to manage your state of charge....

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        I wonder why they don't put the minimum threshold higher on batteries. I've heard that completely discharging lithium batteries is really bad for them. But then why not just build in some extra capacity into the battery, and have it refuse to run once it reaches 20%. In certain devices like tablets, where the battery is non-replaceable, I'd rather have an 8 hour battery that lasted 4000 cycles than a 10 hour battery that only lasted 6 hours after the first year because I ran it down to empty a few times a
        • Re:Practical use?? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @12:07AM (#45420051) Homepage Journal

          I wonder why they don't put the minimum threshold higher on batteries. I've heard that completely discharging lithium batteries is really bad for them. But then why not just build in some extra capacity into the battery, and have it refuse to run once it reaches 20%.

          That's actually what modern hybrid and EV battery management systems do. They also stop charging at about 80% of max capacity, because it's the top and bottom 20% of charge states where the maximum wear is. So a 100 kwh 1k charge cycle battery might be exactly identical to a 80 kwh 4k cycle battery.

          It's generally not done with consumer electronics because they only expect them to last 1-2 years and weight/cost are bigger concerns than longevity.

          It should be noted that when they talk about X numbers of 'charge cycles' it's from 0% to 100% even when it comes to applications where they really expect lots of partial charges - cell phones, EVs, and such. So if you charge it up 50%, then 20%, then 30%, that adds up to 1 cycle. Though if they're being honest they rate the expected cycles by the expected duty cycle - LiIon 'likes' partial charges, NiCad doesn't. Lead-Acid doesn't like being discharged, but tolerates being fully or even over charged the best out of the common chemistries.

        • It's done. My antediluvian Nokia C2 has a cheat code which allows you to force the battery management software to give the entire charge, not just that fraction offered to maximise the number of charge cycles.

          • by Entropius (188861)

            That would be useful to have on all phones: a "I am doing XYZ important task, please let me have that last 10%; yes, I know it'll wear out faster, thanks, but grandma's in the hospital".

    • Show me a rechargeable battery I can buy now that will withstand thousands of cycles

      My phone has one. Hey 1970 dude, if you can wait until 2010 you will be able to get the same thing in the exciting world of tomorrow!

    • Sanyo Eneloop NiMH batteries last 3000 cycles retaining 80% of their charge capacity, and will maintain an 80% charge when left idle for 12 months.
  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @06:06PM (#45418131)
    Granted, Lithium ion batteries have seen a number of enhancements over the years, but new super-ultra battery tech is starting to look like fusion - always around the corner. A battery that is all the way around a major step forward from what we have now could change the world overnight. But every time I read about the next big thing in batteries, I just sigh... I realize that continued articles means continued research and development is going - but I am ready for my super batteries now. I know I can't hurry science along, but I am eagerly and impatiently waiting for the day I wake up to the commercial realization of the mythical wonder-battery.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Instead what you've gotten is annual 10-15% capacity/density improvements along with similar cost reductions. If that pace can continue for another decade or two, you'll have your super batteries, without ever getting that huge leap forward.
    • but new super-ultra battery tech is starting to look like fusion - always around the corner.

      Product development takes time. It's the engineering and even marketing that takes time a decade or more after the science is done.

      • by boristdog (133725)

        Manufacturing large quantities efficiently also takes a LOT of time and money. First you need someone to front you $XXX millions (or $X billions) for a factory unless you can shoehorn it into a pre-existing industrial process. Then it may only take $XX millions.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @06:16PM (#45418231) Journal

    Unlike conventional fabrication methods, which involve energy-intensive high temperatures and hazardous chemicals, this process can be carried out at room temperature using a water-based process."

    Pray tell, why these hazardous biota are better than hazardous chemicals. What can go wrong?

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @06:19PM (#45418253) Homepage

    MIT's PR operation is becoming embarrassing. At least once every two months, there's some announcement about "nano" something that's going to change the world. Then we never hear about it again. You look at the details, and it turns out somebody did something at lab scale which might possibly someday be useful, if there weren't other ways to do the same thing already.

    • by kermidge (2221646)

      True that, but by the same token we at least know that some people are doing interesting, nifty, and potentially useful stuff, along with just good science and engineering - asking and trying to answer questions and advancing knowledge in the process.

  • The BSOD is pretty efficient in energy consumption.
  • They can't infect lithium. What's going on here?

  • Not only do they burst in to flame but their batteries are infected with viruses!
    (This message brought to you by a consortium of oil companies)

If you're not careful, you're going to catch something.

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