Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
Power Science Technology

Battery Advance Could Lead To a Cleaner Way To Store Energy 147

sciencehabit writes: With the continuing rise of solar and wind power, the hunt is on for cheap batteries that are able to store large amounts of energy and deliver it when it's dark and the wind is still. Last year researchers reported an advance on one potentially cheap, energy-packing battery. But it required toxic and caustic materials. Now, the same team has revised its chemistry, doing away with the noxious constituents—an advance that could make future such batteries far cheaper and simpler to build.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Battery Advance Could Lead To a Cleaner Way To Store Energy

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    When is it ever dark and windless at the same time across the USA? It happens about as often as EVERY SINGLE NUCLEAR POWER GENERATOR is offline at the same time. Yet we don't bang on and on about how we need backup generation for nuclear (we do, about a third over capacity to get to 90%+ capacity factor), nor how we need a huge amount of fast generation to handle unexpected outages until some larger and slower (and cheaper) generator can get up to speed.

    NOTE: coal power has this problem too, along with need

    • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Friday September 25, 2015 @07:20AM (#50595621) Homepage Journal

      We have blackouts because cheapskates running the power industry don't want to spend for proper backup and capacity planning with our nuclear/coal/oil/gas infrastructure.

      At least in my locality, we don't have blackouts or brownouts, but we are dangerously close to overcapapacity and the electric company would love to build more capacity, but NIMBYs and other energy companies on the Utility Board keep turning down their proposals.
      It doesn't matter matter whether you build coal, gas, nuclear, wind or solar, somebody will be there to ensure that you can't build it.

    • by fuzzywig ( 208937 ) <default,fuzz&gmail,com> on Friday September 25, 2015 @07:37AM (#50595681)
      I'm not sure about the US, but in the UK it's dark and windless for approximately 10% of the year.
      Also, peak generating times don't always coincide with peak usage, so energy storage is necessary to even out the supply. And yes, while nuke plants can't spin up quickly enough to cover unexpected loads, they can be adjusted to fit expected loads (eg, at night to cover solar).
      • Whatever happened to the sun never sets over Great Britain ? XKCD says it still doesn't...

        Yes, yes I know that Great Britain and the UK are not exactly the same thing (but only somebody from England can possibly keep up with what all the various things are or how they do and do not relate and I live in a commonwealth former British colony !) but it does underline what I've said all along, there are absolutely no problems with renewables that we can't solve with international trade.

      • by DamonHD ( 794830 ) <d@hd.org> on Friday September 25, 2015 @07:46AM (#50595721) Homepage

        In the UK no nuke plants load-follow, AFAIK, even though Sizewell B at least theoretically can.

        Even in France I think that there is only a mean of ~25% load-following available (more for plants with more-recently-loaded fuel).

        Rgds

        Damon

      • I'm not sure about the US, but in the UK it's dark and windless for approximately 10% of the year.

        Last time I checked the UK was something like 1,500km long from north to south and it is minimum 300km wide (not counting NI).

        It is physically impossible that that area has no wind.

        Perhaps your local area is often wind less, so what?

        To have an area like the UK wind less you need a super mega storm with a diameter of perhaps 15,000km, with its "eye" over the UK.

        The biggest storms I'm aware off had diameters of l

        • I recently hiked across the UK at your 300 km point. I saw a lot of interest in wind power across this expanse, but nobody wanted turbines in their little village. My hike started at Windscale, a large nuclear reprocessing plant that has been there for years. Putting in a few gigawatts of nuclear generating capacity at this site would power the whole region, at the cost of a NIMBY battle that need only be fought once, and at a place where the nuclear industry is already an entrenched part of the economy.

          • by Zumbs ( 1241138 )
            Some 20-30 years back when wind turbines were being set up near the village where my father lives, the company approached the locals who were none too happy and suggested that a few percent of the proceeds from the wind turbines were given to the local community for local activities, e.g. playgrounds, community halls and so on. It silenced a lot of the dissent, and it is my impression that the villagers are very happy with the wind turbines.
      • I'm not sure about the US, but in the UK it's dark and windless for approximately 10% of the year.

        Judging from what I've seen on C-SPAN and BBC broadcasts, all our problems would be solved if only the US and UK could set up wind turbines *inside* Congress and Parliament ...

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        Also, peak generating times don't always coincide with peak usage, so energy storage is necessary to even out the supply.

        Instead of always trying to increase supply to match demand, why not sometimes reduce demand to match supply? That's how eBay works.

      • " And yes, while nuke plants can't spin up quickly enough to cover unexpected loads, they can be adjusted to fit expected loads"

        Assuming they get developed and deployed, LFTR plants can (xenon vents into the pump surge space and can be extracted for storage and resale).

        At that point, wind and solar plants are superfluous.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by swb ( 14022 )

      It's pretty much dark across the continental US for at least 8-10 hours per day, isn't it?

      The wind may blow, but is it continuous at night everywhere it's dark? Is the wind speed high enough/predictable enough to totally offset the loss of 100% of solar capacity in aggregate?

      In these places you have MORE wind at night, can you reliably transmit power to places that might have less wind at night, or at least that night?

      • But transmitting power over long distances incurs power losses. Part of the big push towards renewable power is that you can make generation more localized, because individual generators are easier to set up. If you have to start transmitting that power over long distances, you're going to end up with huge inefficiencies.

        I think we could help out of power generation system a lot by building standardized nuclear generators. Much the way we link up a lot of solar panels or wind turbines to generate power, we

        • That's why you have transformers. Transmission loss is a red herring. That can be greatly reduced if not eliminated. However the grid needs to be updated and no one seems to want to do that. Simplest thing one can do and yet no one is doing it.
          • Transformers are part of it as are HVDC lines, improved switching, more grid capacity, etc. The reason no one is doing it is cost. To update the grid to handle long distance power transmission in the US could cost $trillions. Technology is great but who pays for it.

        • I don't think transmitting losses are even that big of a problem : the capital costs for power transmission are staggering, and then there are some recurring maintenance.
          If you want to do that on a grand scale, you quickly run into $400 billion in power lines and grid upgrades or a figure like that. The lines have problems of public opposition and discontent land owners too.
          In fact given that renewables increase reliance on the grid, their "decentralized" character is a fictive and rhetorical notion, unless

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      When is it ever dark and windless at the same time across the USA? It happens about as often as EVERY SINGLE NUCLEAR POWER GENERATOR is offline at the same time.

      Actually no. It is often dark and with wind speeds below practical output from around 4 am PST to 5 am.
      With wind the wind can not be too low or too high. With solar you can not have clouds, rain, or fog.

      When you build a renewable system that can generate the same power 24 hours a day for a year without using a natural gas backup as Vermont Yankee di

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      at the same time across the USA

      You do realize that the US has two separate primary power grids (east and west), right? Plus most of Texas (which has a lot of wind generation) is on an independent grid.

    • The Grid just needs to go global [geni.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 25, 2015 @05:59AM (#50595425)

    Which will come first: the widespread commercial availability of this battery technology, or the Year of Linux on the Desktop?

    • Given the wide spread adoption of mobile devices - battery technology.
      • Given the wide spread adoption of mobile devices - battery technology.

        The poster asked about *this* battery technology. Since it's a "flow" battery comprised of separate liquid-filled containers and a pump, I doubt it'll be installed in any mobile devices - or at least any you're going to put in your pocket.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      Year of Linux on the Desktop if you count ChromeOS.

      I have been reading about super batteries since the 70s... Lithium ion is really good but we are going to need at least an order of magnitude improvement for it to work at the utility scale.

    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
      Affordable, working, fusion. Oh and flying cars come first.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Could to something else and something else!!
    Also serve some Dicevertisements and auto playing shampoo commercials while we're at it*

  • Batteries have always had energy densities that were orders of magnitude less than fossil fuels. I would fully agree that having high density energy storage is hugely important and especially so with renewable energy sources because they're so variable. But somehow people always look at the energy sources and not at the buffers.

    The gap for batteries is so large though that I doubt claims that we'll be moving to a situation where most cars are electric.

    The most interesting buffer I can think of is dams. Usin

    • The problem with using dams is that most dams also have rivers coming in and rivers going out. In certain times of the year the reservoir is full and there is no ability to store more water. Other times of the year there might be enough excess electricity to pump most of the outflow water back up. That can lead to wide variations in flow downstream. Very low flow at time when electricity is stored and much higher flow when electricity is being generated. This can cause major fish kills, municipal water issu

      • I fully agree.

    • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Friday September 25, 2015 @07:53AM (#50595743)

      Electric cars right now are in an odd place - the initial capital outlay is way beyond my budget but the monthly cost over their lifetime so enormously cheaper (both in fuel and maintenance costs) that if I could get one today I would be significantly wealthier in my monthly budget. Of course if I get it on credit the payments would probably dwarf the difference.

      The thing is though - that initial high capital outlay is primarily a factor of production scales rather than cost of materials - the potential cost at which they could be made is at least an order of magnitude cheaper.
      Right now - a Tessla Model S would cost me around R1.2 million - but a huge chunk of that is the cost of custom shipping an import, so as soon as they are actually for sale here by a large scale importer, you cut that at least in half. That puts it on par with a new upper-end BMW. Give it a couple of years to ramp up production I strongly suspect I'll be able to get a Tessla-like car for the same amount I paid for my 6-year old A3, which I've added 5 good years to since then.
      At the point, there is no sane reason to buy a fossil-fuel car, it simply cannot compete.

      Now granted, I despise long-distance driving and avoid it like the plague, anything over 100km and I prefer to fly - which for anything under 4 people is cheaper anyway, so I'm not factoring that in - my daily commute is 99% of my driving needs, and electrical would be so much more ideal for that purpose. For the other 0.1% - I can hire a car fit for that purpose.
      The problem with your assessment is, I'm also 99% of the world's drivers.
      And don't come with America has long roads and cities far appart... I live in Africa dude, you aint seen nothing yet.

      • At the point, there is no sane reason to buy a fossil-fuel car, it simply cannot compete.

        Actually that statement isn't true, but I see it written all the time by people sitting in front of their keyboards assuming that all driving is like theirs. :)

        • The issue is that people don't want to pay more for the option that will give less. I can buy a car that gives me more cargo space, allows me to tow and has more range and my cost of purchase + maintenance + fuel won't exceed the cost of a decent EV until the car is 10 years old.

          Add to this the uncertainty of new technology and you've got a car that is difficult to sell.

          With Tesla offering a more affordable vehicle in the coming years and Apple possibly joining the fight in 2019, I think the future of EV is

          • Do not misunderstand me, I totally see a future in EV cars.

            Will they totally replace gas cars? Not for a long time, if ever, but they will grow slowly to be an ever larger share of the market.

            It isn't just price, humans are emotional creatures and range anxiety is an issue and won't be easily overcome.

            Yes, I'm well aware that most people don't need a vehicle with tons of range, but the edge cases are not so rare as to be swept under the rug either.

            EVs largely need to be second vehicles for the time being,

            • Will they totally replace gas cars? Not for a long time

              Define long time. If you answer 15 years I'll agree that EVs won't have taken over yet. If you say 30 years, I'll answer that you're probably wrong. In 30 years EVs will probably account for over 50% of cars (Trucks and heavy duty applications are different IMO). Currently EVs (includes Hybrids) for 3.5% of vehicles.

              There is an argument against my way of thinking. The gas prices do not help motivate consumers to go EV. On the flip side, regulations are pushing companies towards EVs. Self driving cars which

              • I don't count hybrids in the EV dept unless they are plug in, have decent all electric range, and are really meant to be EV 90% of the time.

                Chevy Volt is an EV in my book, since it is really meant to be EV. The standard Prius is not, since it is meant to be EV only very limited.

                The single biggest challenge beyond cost for EVs is range. I think the cost issue is easier to solve than the range issue. Larger battery factories will only bring that cost down over time. Range however is the part that will hol

                • For the most part we appear to have the same view of EVs and their future.

                  Would I be willing, given similar cost, to have my second vehicle be EV tomorrow? Sure. Would I be willing, regardless of price, to replace my primary vehicle with an EV? No. I need the ability to refuel in 5-10 min. The charging times for EVs are not acceptable. That might change, but not for awhile

                  Look at this link about charging Tesla Roadster: http://my.teslamotors.com/road... [teslamotors.com]
                  The new Tesla's have built-in charging stations that run on 110 and 240. The 110v will charge about 5 miles per hour and the 240v will do about 32 miles/hr. If EVs pickup within the next 10 years the infrastructure will change quickly as a result of demand. At this point it's all speculation but it's also not far fetched.

                  So if most families get an EV wit

                  • Tesla Superchargers provide 170 miles of range in as little as 30 minutes.

                    http://www.teslamotors.com/sup... [teslamotors.com]

                    That is indeed an improvement... of course it takes a $100k car to get there. :) (yea, I know, the base model is less, but who buys those?)

                    170 miles takes as little as 2 hours to drive, depending on where you're at. Then 30 min to charge, not counting stop/start time.

                    It is getting there, but that isn't it yet. Now if they can get 170 miles of range down to 15 min, and do it in a $35K Model 3, now that'll be much more interesting...

                    So if most families get an EV within 30 years we have close to 50% EV adoption.

                    It would bring adoption close to 50%, f

                    • 170 miles takes as little as 2 hours to drive, depending on where you're at. Then 30 min to charge, not counting stop/start time.

                      That's correct. It doesn't replace both vehicle but at the right price definitely gets you to replace 1 of the 2.

                      I think it was Tesla that showed a 2 minute battery swapping system. That's a more viable option for extending range if it works properly and is costed properly. Otherwise we are back to square 1.

                      It would bring adoption close to 50%, for families with 2 or more vehicles... but that leaves out all the single vehicle households or the households who have a need for 2 longer range vehicles, or who have 3 or more vehicles in the house.

                      GM had suggested providing a discount system for car rentals for EV owners so they could easily arrange a car swap should they require long range. I personally don't drive over 100 miles per day anymore

                    • Thanks for the fair and reasonable replies. I wish more people here replied that way.

                      You're correct of course, it takes only a shift in technology or price to change things. Could EV sales be 30% in 30 years? Yes, they could. It would take a shift, but such things have happened before.

                      It will be interesting to watch, that is for sure.

                    • I agree. Many people here aren't here to discuss the topic but instead force their way of thinking the same way some politicians do. People with strong beliefs aren't open to new options and that is why we have real issues that aren't going away. Hopefully people like us can change the world for the better.

                    • For what it is worth, I do try and listen. My replacement of all my bulbs in my house with LED is directly related to a post on SlashDot. Someone took the time to explain it using non-harsh words and posted the math of the payback and energy used.

                      I read it and a lightbulb went off in my head (pun intended).

                      Within a month I had them all replaced.

                      I'm open and willing to listen to other points of view, if presented in a reasonable way that doesn't involve something rammed down my throat.

                      It is possible that I

                    • It is possible that I'm guilty of that from time to time, words on a web forum don't convey context or tone, what one person takes harshly was intended lightheartly, and so on.

                      The two things that bother me the most on /. are:
                      - People who insult you because you don't agree with them. I simply shut them down at that point
                      - People who put words in your mouth or take a sentence out of content to either nullify your argument to create a tangent in the discussion

                      I'm sure you've met those people. I could probably name a few off top my head. :)

            • In my urban and peripheral urban area, the vast majority of people with cars seem to have them parked outside (in inner town you have underground parking lots. But not much room for traffic)
              In suburb-like areas, you have a mix of parked outside, and in the very small property but outside.
              Some residential places have unpowered garages : contiguous sheds to store a car and/or crap, thus with no electrical power.
              I'm sure there's many thousands homes with a garage but for the masses that are working class and/o

      • Your big problem with driving electric in Africa is going to be the fueling infrastructure. The whole reason that electric in the US has an upper-class image is that right now, only wealthier neighborhoods have charging stations. Electric cars will get cheap long before it becomes practical to drive them everywhere.

        • The whole reason that electric in the US has an upper-class image is that right now, only wealthier neighborhoods have charging stations

          That's not true. The reason Tesla targeted the wealthy is because they knew they could afford to take a risk on new technology while enjoying the look and feel of high end luxury cars.

          Electric cars will get cheap long before it becomes practical to drive them everywhere.

          Depends what you mean by practical? Currently most EVs are perfectly fine for 99% of peoples driving.

          • I'm talking about electric car tech as a whole, not that early-adopter wonder, the Tesla. Electric motors can make the automobile simpler and cheaper by replacing the maze of mechanics that IC involves. It will be the same revolution that the jet engine brought to aviation.

            But while there are already a number of low-end electric cars out there that are designed for the urban commuter market, adoption is being held up by the lack of charging stations.

            • Tesla. Electric motors can make the automobile simpler and cheaper by replacing the maze of mechanics that IC involves

              Yes, at the end of the day EVs will be cheaper to make. Tesla has yet to yield a profit due to it's high cost of R&D. This will obviously go away with time.

              low-end electric cars out there that are designed for the urban commuter market, adoption is being held up by the lack of charging stations

              Low end electric cars are still close to double the cost of their equivalent combustion equivalent. As for charging stations they aren't a problem for most because they can charge at home between daily commutes. Even the Tesla owners I know have 3 vehicles but say they could get away with 2 by planning a little better.

    • *shh* don't tell Tesla...they seem to be doing well...
      • "shh" don't tell the investors but Tesla still has not made a profit in four years. Last year they built 35,00 cars and lost US$294.0 million. That is $8,400 per car.

        • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

          "shh" don't tell the investors but Tesla still has not made a profit in four years. Last year they built 35,00 cars and lost US$294.0 million. That is $8,400 per car.

          Let's give the investors a little credit, shall we, and assume that they know the difference between losing money and investing money? Because Tesla's the money you think Tesla is "losing" is actually being pumped into scaling up their operations (Gigafactory, additional assembly lines, Supercharger network, etc). Hence the high stock valuation -- lots of people (many of whom are smarter than you or I) are betting that they have a bright future.

        • distinguish between:

          1. investing money and losing money
          2. heavily amortized costs (R & D, building a factory) vs. per-unit costs

          How the world works will always be a mystery to people like you. You are doomed to witness many companies in your life go [seemingly overnight] from "losing $8400 per unit" to "raking in billions of dollars in profit". Let me try to put it into terms your tiny little brain can understand:

          For essentially every single product in history there has been some point in its early prod

          • For essentially every single product in history there has been some point in its early production when it was "losing $8400 per unit".

            Agreed, the thing is how much time do you give them before "investing" becomes "throwing good money away in hopes of recovering money already invested".

            BTW, there is no need to belittle someone in a civil conversation. It is a blatant intimidation tactic and uncalled for.

  • Maybe I'm missing the point because I'm just a layman for this, but if NOT using the toxic components makes the batteries cheaper and simpler to produce ... why were they using the toxic components in the first place?

    • Some toxic chemicals make better electrolytes than some non-toxic chemicals. If one chemical is 5 times as efficient as another then the tank can be 1/5th the size and get the same storage. Then there is stability to be taken into consideration. You don't want to have to replace fluid or plates in the stack often.

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      For one thing, according to the article, the acid-based (toxic) version of the battery stores about 1/3rd more energy per unit volume, so the non-toxic materials are a trade-off of capacity for safety.

      For another thing, innovation doesn't work the way you seem to think it does. You don't usually start by inventing the final, most optimized version, because it's often not obvious what will work and what won't until you've done some experiments to see what is possible. Once you've got a prototype that works

    • ... why were they using the toxic components in the first place?

      They were experimenting with acidic compounds that work well based on their properties. They switched to one non-toxic alkaline chemical then had to engineer the other to match. At the moment, the non-toxic version only has 2/3 the capacity of the same-size toxic version. Or, you know, you could read TFA.

    • As a rule of thumb, chemicals which represent a great density of potential energy are very chemically active, and very chemically active materials are destructive to living tissue. Exceptions exist, but I haven't seen any batteries that run off bacon fat.
    • Because they took a while to find better chemicals to use.

      This is basic research, they came up with an entirely new type of battery using organic molecules, but one of the chemicals was pretty toxic, but otherwise the battery was pretty good; and they've been fine-tuning it ever since, trying to get it even better.

      It's not like there's a roadmap for this kind of thing, there's lots of complex trade-offs between cost, longevity, battery voltage, weight, volume etc. etc. and trillions of different battery che

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday September 25, 2015 @06:33AM (#50595521) Journal
    They seem to have take a food additive, replaced some sulphur atoms with hydrogen and created a synthetic compound they claim to be safe and non caustic.

    Flow battery stores the energy in electrolytes in external tanks. Thus at some point we could have gas stations dispensing "charged" electrolytes making way for very rapid recharging.

    As usual for any battery technology it works in the lab and the product is X+10 years away, where X is the current year.

    • I doubt the energy density of the fluid is anywhere near the same volume that a lithium ion battery displaces. If so, either you're going to have to refill your Tesla ever 50 to 100 miles (or whatever), or build a car with a larger tank to increase range.

      Land is cheap, and its trivial to bury large tanks underground. This flow battery technology combined with some flywheel capacitors [cleantechnica.com] is really the way to go for buffering energy at the grid level.

    • Brawndo's got what batteries crave. It's got electrolytes.

    • The energy density of this electrolyte will be nowhere near that of a lithium ion or sodium ion battery.. at least by an order of magnitude. So that 1000# Tesla battery is now 10,000# of fluid. All of that weight decreases the efficiency of the vehicle that has to move it.

      • by Doke ( 23992 )

        According to Wikipedia, the energy density of lithium ion batteries is 250–676 Wh/L. The older acid-quinone battery had about 50 Wh/l. The article says the new chemistry gets about 2/3 of that, around 33 Wh/l. Lead-acid batteries are around 60–110 Wh/l. So this would probably be useless for mobile applications, but good for stationary purposes. Supposedly flow batteries can last indefinately, unlike lead-acid. It sounds like that would make them good for big data center UPS batteries.

        ht

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday September 25, 2015 @06:35AM (#50595527) Homepage Journal

    Flow batteries aren't news, yet the words "flow battery" appear nowhere in the summary. This is an article about a flow battery. If you were expecting something new, this article isn't about that.

    • Flow batteries aren't news, yet the words "flow battery" appear nowhere in the summary. This is an article about a flow battery. If you were expecting something new, this article isn't about that.

      And the article babbles incoherently about 'connecting electrical lines', while saying nothing about what makes this flow battery actually practical. The 'noxious chemicals' in the existing flow batteries were actually not a problem to contain.

  • Would this be effective for large UPS batteries in data centers? The current lead calcium acid batteries we use are expensive, heavy, and need to be replaced every few years. It would be interesting if we could replace the membrane and pump in some new fluid.

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Heck, good luck getting the big UPS manufacturers to even use established tech that's better/longer lasting than lead-acid. We'd be lucky if they moved to NiCad by 2025, decades after everyone else stopped using it.

  • by alteran ( 70039 ) on Friday September 25, 2015 @01:51PM (#50599031)

    I never see flywheels discussed in this context. I don't understand why not, though.

    No need for exotic compounds, sky-high efficiency. They don't have to be replaced every three years.

    There must be a reason people keep dismissing them out of hand...does here anyone know what the reason is?

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      AFAIK the most recent company to make a serious attempt at market penetration with flywheels was Beacon Power. They got as far as building one frequency regulation plant to operational status, and then the financials caught up with them; there's a private equity firm trying to put humpty dumpty back together again, we'll see how they do.

      Just like flow batteries, it's a tech that needs a lot of up front money and work to scale out, and is stepping into a field where they have to compete with a variety of co

      • by alteran ( 70039 )

        Thanks for the info.
        Regarding your last comment, I wasn't talking about why the article or folks here didn't mention flywheels. Just wondering if someone had some perspective on why flywheels are never mentioned for solving the intermittent generation problems of wind and solar.

The nation that controls magnetism controls the universe. -- Chester Gould/Dick Tracy

Working...