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IBM Power

Lithium Air Batteries Get Boost From IBM and DOE 240

coondoggie writes "The Department of Energy and IBM are serious about developing controversial lithium air batteries capable of powering a car for 500 miles on a single charge – a huge increase over current plug-in batteries that have a range of about 40 to 100 miles, the DOE said. The agency said 24 million hours of supercomputing time out of a total of 1.6 billion available hours at Argonne and Oak Ridge National Laboratories will be used by IBM and a team of researchers from those labs and Vanderbilt University to design new materials required for a lithium air battery."
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Lithium Air Batteries Get Boost From IBM and DOE

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  • by samurphy21 ( 193736 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:46PM (#30927448) Homepage

    Because this is a game changing technology, if it pans out.

  • Patents? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:56PM (#30927556)

    Well, because the DOE is bankrolling their computer time, does that mean the results will not be patent-encumbered?
    Or are we in for more NiMH [] crap?

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:11PM (#30927710) Homepage

    > They use highly flammable metals to do this so we will have another round of
    > explosive cars out on the highways...

    Anything that packs enough energy to run a car 300 miles into the volume of a gas tank is going to be potentially dangerous. There's no way around it.

    > ...and being metals they will require some thought into the use of water to
    > put the flames out at accidents.

    Whereas water works real well on gasoline fires.

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:11PM (#30927712)

    "Affordable" isn't going to be anytime soon, at least not for comparison shoppers. Even at $5 a gallon, a decent sedan will go 100,000 miles on $20,000 of fuel (and neither of those assumptions are particularly aggressive, that $20,000 might get you closer to 250,000 miles).

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:15PM (#30927774) Homepage Journal

    And unlike gasoline, there's no need to pump lithium around the car, so the risk of fire is much lower assuming adequate tank protection from puncture damage. With electric, instead of needing to protect a significant portion of the car from overheating or puncture damage, you only have a single compartment to protect, and that's typically underneath the vehicle.

  • by neiras ( 723124 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:26PM (#30927856)

    Parent is Informative. Mods?

    This post is Insightful. Or at least Funny, in a sad, "iPad" kind of way.

  • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:46PM (#30928050)

    Tbh with the Tesla breaking 500km the main obstacle for Electric Vehicles is no longer storage capacity of the batteries but rather the recharge time and battery price. LiFeP batteries have short recharge times ( 5 minuets or so ) and are starting to come down in price, so the big issue right now is designing an electric interface that can safely deliver the 200kW or so that would be needed to charge the a Tesla-equivalent 50kWh battery pack in less than 15 minutes. The standard proposed in Europe supports up to 43kW so there's some way to go still, but theoretically if you just developed the EU's proposal to support 100kW then using 2 cables would get you down to a 15min charge time.

    It's a bit of an engineering problem to make such an interface safe for the average commuter to use, but it seems to me it is now fairly clear that batteries will be future energy carrier for personal cars. Hydrogen no longer has any advantages over batteries since it is has a low energy efficiency and even worse refueling problems than electrics, not to mention the infrastructure challenges. There is still no good way to produce biofuel at the scales required, and even if you could you would have to set up a new infrastructure from scratch, and they would likely still result in more pollution than the batteries. With fast charging batteries on the market now flywheels have also lost their advantage of being able to "charge" very rapidly and their low energy density and high cost makes them unlikely.

    Basically eventually battery price will come down enough, and the Oil price will rise high enough, that electric vehicles will be cheaper than petrol. It's now just a matter of time, maybe just a few decades, before the majority of cars produced will be electric.

  • Re:Fingers Crossed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:51PM (#30928120) Homepage

    > Energy-dense storage media have been the missing link in a lot of relatively
    > clean energy generation schemes.

    It isn't density that matters there. It's cost.

  • by Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:11PM (#30928322) Homepage
    If you're looking to reduce your environment impact, I'd guess that living closer to work will have a much larger effect than buying a different car.
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:14PM (#30928348) Homepage

    Yeah, really explosive []. And those are cobalt-based cells, the kind that everyone worries about but which are not used in most EVs (just Tesla and Tesla-derivatives).

    How much worse of an accident do you get than one in which you end up with an SUV sitting on top of your car and your battery pack fully bashed in?

  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:53PM (#30928614) Journal

    never underestimate the construction capability of people motivated by profit and funded by capitalists

    Are these the same type of capitalists taking a 24 million computer-hour handout from the government?

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:33PM (#30928942) Homepage

    > It's just that some countries can supply lithium at smaller prices.

    But only slightly smaller. Lithium is fairly uniformly distributed throughout the Earth's crust. It is, of course, cheapest to mine it where the concentration is a bit higher than average, but as those concentrations are not all that high compared to the average the countries that own them aren't going to get rich from them. If they try to jack up the price whoever they are trying to hold up will just start mining it at home.

  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:37PM (#30928974) Journal

    All rocket fuels and explosives are much worse. Typically 10% of gas. This is mostly due to the fact that these fuels must include the oxidizer, i.e. oxygen. But even excluding that, they are worse than gas. TNT, one of the best explosives, have 8MJ/kg, the same as household garbage. See []

  • Re:Recharge time? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28, 2010 @12:44AM (#30929672) what? So keep the 30 amp breakers on regular house circuits, and the 200 amp one for the Tesla or whtever. It's not difficult. You could even just have a dual-level breaker-box, one with a 200 amp service for general household use which is under a 400 amp one for the car and household together. No big dea.

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @04:13AM (#30930708) Homepage

    One of the many reasons we don't burn it in our cars ;)

    I often like to joke, when people boast about the sort of mileage they get in their diesel cars and don't seem to understand that diesel is a denser fuel than gasoline and has a lot more pollution emitted per gallon, that I could modify my car to burn a fine beryllium slurry and easily get over 100mpg, and wow, wouldn't that be an eco-car -- 100mpg, right? :)

    Not all fuels are created equal. ;)

  • by h00manist ( 800926 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @10:34AM (#30932924) Journal
    strange, ibm surely has it's own supercomputers to do this stuff.

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan