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Power Hardware

Researcher Develops Explosion-Proof Lithium Metal Battery With 2X Power of Lithium-Ion (hothardware.com) 124

MojoKid writes: Tufts University professor and founder of Ionic Materials, Mike Zimmerman, hopes that his resilient ionic battery technology will finally replace Lithium Ion. The reason scientists and researchers pay so much attention to battery design is because today's lithium-ion technologies have several downsides, as we saw recently with Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 recall. If you were to take apart a lithium-ion battery, you'd find a positive electrode called the anode and a negatively charged electrode called the cathode. There's a thin separator that sits between the anode and cathode. Everything else is filled up with liquid, or electrolyte. Charging the battery causes positively charged ions to flow through the liquid from the negative side to the positive side. As you use the battery, the ions flow in the opposite direction. However, the electrolyte is extremely flammable and they can explode when pierced or overheated. Zimmerman's ionic battery trades the flammable liquid for a piece of plastic film to serve as the electrolyte. It isn't prone to overheating and catching fire. The same goes for piercing, cutting or otherwise destroying the battery. Also, unlike lithium-ion batteries, Zimmerman's ionic batteries use actual lithium-metal, which can store twice as much power. Lithium-ion batteries don't contain lithium-metal because they're even more prone to overheating and exploding than lithium-ion, but that risk is removed by Zimmerman swapping out the liquid electrolyte for a solid. Further reading: Yahoo News
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Researcher Develops Explosion-Proof Lithium Metal Battery With 2X Power of Lithium-Ion

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  • Lithium-ion batteries don't contain lithium-metal because they're even more prone to overheating and exploding than lithium-ion, but that risk is removed by Zimmerman swapping out the liquid electrolyte for a solid.

    Illogical, Illogical.

    All units relate. All units.

    Norman, please coordinate!

  • Thank you (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @08:03PM (#53778163)

    Without half that summary being a 5th grade science lesson I would have no fucking clue how a battery works

    • by tsa ( 15680 )

      I have the feeling this new technology is not as fantastic as it's presented because of that.

  • Uh, thanks. (Score:4, Funny)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @08:09PM (#53778189)

    If you were to take apart a lithium-ion battery, you'd find a positive electrode called the anode and a negatively charged electrode called the cathode. There's a thin separator that sits between the anode and cathode. Everything else is filled up with liquid, or electrolyte. Charging the battery causes positively charged ions to flow through the liquid from the negative side to the positive side. As you use the battery, the ions flow in the opposite direction.

    Dear Editors, Thanks for explaining, on a tech site, how, basically, every battery works.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Now, now. They're just copying and pasting from the original article. Without clearly marking it as a quotation.

    • While I do know this already, I don't think this is by itself bad. Estimating exactly which knowledge should be taken for granted can be difficult to estimate; for example, a while ago there was an article here about P != NP (the biggest open problem in theoretical computer science) and there were a whole host of comments that essentially amounted to people declaring that they had no idea what the article was talking about.
    • Re:Uh, thanks. (Score:5, Informative)

      by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2017 @01:43AM (#53779103) Homepage

      Perhaps this is better, "Li-ion batteries use an intercalated lithium compound as one electrode material, compared to the metallic lithium used in a non-rechargeable lithium battery."(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium-ion_battery), even referenced. - and just in case - "In chemistry, intercalation is the reversible inclusion or insertion of a molecule (or ion) into compounds with layered structures. Examples are found in graphite and transition metal dichalcogenides." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercalation_(chemistry)) - oh bugger - "Transition metal dichalcogenide (TMDC) monolayers are atomically thin semiconductors of the type MX2, with M a transition metal atom (Mo, W, etc.) and X a chalcogen atom (S, Se, or Te.). One layer of M atoms is sandwiched between two layers of X atoms. A MoS2 monolayer is 6.5 Ã... thick."(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition_metal_dichalcogenide_monolayers) - when will it end - The chalcogens (/ËkælkÉ(TM)dÊ'ánz/) are the chemical elements in group 16 of the periodic table. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalcogen) ;D.

      • Testing out that fancy schmancy chemistry degree..? Alas those fancy schmancy Unicode characters you copy/pasted are a bit too highfalutin for /.
        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Dude, I was going for funny, give me a break, well, I guess I'm just not funny enough, just boringly informative ;D

    • by fisted ( 2295862 )

      Makes me wonder how a cell works.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @08:11PM (#53778205)

    Zimmerman's ionic batteries use actual lithium-metal, ...

    Just don't drop it in water if it ever gets damaged.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The subject matter Is interesting, but first of all, please link to the original article [yahoo.com], and secondly, tone down the sycophancy.

    Have the claims been verified by anyone but a Yahoo reporter who knows slightly less than nothing about electrochemistry?

    You also might mention that the entire thing is promotion for a NOVA special ("Search for the Superbattery [pbs.org]") which will hopefully have more information. (trailer on YouTube [youtube.com].)

  • ICE (Score:5, Informative)

    by backslashdot ( 95548 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @08:35PM (#53778307)

    The thing that is preventing 600 mile range electric cars is not the limited capacity of lithium ion, it's the cost. I mean, 750 kilograms of lithium ion battery is the equivalent of a 15 gallons of gasoline in a regular car. A Tesla 85D carries a 540 kg battery and gets 270 miles range. You can easily make a vehicle that can carry 1200 kg of battery. A Tesla with 1000 kg of battery would weigh about 3000 kilograms -- but even accounting for the increased weight, it get well over 600 miles of range (that's enough to comfortably drive between any two big towns in most if not all of the US). The problem is that 1200 kilograms of lithium ion battery costs a shit-ton of money. That's the whole point of the gigafactory. What I am saying is that if we had zero new advances in battery technology other that making it much cheaper than it costs today .. we could have electric cars that outperform gasoline cars in miles travelled before refilling.

    So if there is an advance in batteries I want to know, what will it cost in the medium term?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It doesn't help that batteries are made of explodium. It would cut out a lot of the ancillary costs and save a bit of weight if you didn't need to pack them into a safe.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The other problem is charge time and charge station availability.

      Tesla is almost deliberately misleading on their charge times. Now before you start madly typing hear me out. They say 'half charge in 20 mins at a superstation' That gets me ~150 miles. In my current ICE car that would take 4-5 gallons depending on how I drive it. I can get 5 gallons in 5 mins easy. Full tank in under 10 mins and that gets me regularly 400 miles range. For a tesla however the numbers are basically random from 20 mins t

      • The charge time issue shouldn't be a problem once we get to 600+ mile ranges. That's enough time on the road to either into a hotel for the night, or at least have a relaxed dinner? I mean, travel (i wont say drive, because cars are less than a decade from level 5 autonomy) for 8 hours .. have dinner for 45 minutes. Then go a further 2 to 4 hours then check into a hotel for the overnight full charge ... is that unreasonable? How often do you need to drive faster than that in a hurry but couldn't take an air

        • Have you never taken a road trip with a friend or SO and drive in shifts?
          An EV with a 4-16 hour recharge time won't work for that scenario. All EVs should include range extending generators. It would be a hybridization between electric and ICE vehicles. Oh I know - let's call it a hybrid car!

          • > All EVs should include range extending generators

            If its on a trailer, sure. That makes it entirely optional.

            • Even that would be an improvement. If they were to offer that as an option, I would buy a Tesla.

              I still prefer the idea of a gas turbine engine running at peak efficiency rapid charging the battery cell as needed, and they're compact enough that it would not require a whole lot of space for installation; the fuel tank (which I would imagine would only require 15L-20L gal of fuel) would likely be larger than the turbine-driven generator... plus a gas turbine engine would sound really cool! ;) (I'm only partl

          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

            Have you never taken a road trip with a friend or SO and drive in shifts?

            Considering everyone in the car gets restless around the same time, no. Driving in shifts I understand, but perhaps that's a young person sport because I kind of enjoy my 1/2 hour breaks to get out and stretch legs every couple of hours, as does everyone else in the car.

            Yes, it could be pushed, but really being able to unfold oneself and take rest stops turns a start of a vacation from a rush to a more relaxed experience. And yes, I've

          • All EVs should include range extending generators.

            It wouldn't need to be very big, either: a 5hp generator
            would only cost about $1000 and would fit in the trunk.

        • The charge time issue shouldn't be a problem once we get to 600+ mile ranges. That's enough time on the road to either into a hotel for the night, or at least have a relaxed dinner?

          Not for me, it isn't. I need a car that will do 1000 miles a day, and I'm not waiting a couple of hours to refuel.

          How often do you need to drive faster than that in a hurry but couldn't take an airplane?

          Several times a year. The airport nearest my destination is four hours from it by car, and ticket prices are absurdly expensive.

          But thanks for asking.

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        The required charge time is a function of capacity. That is with sufficient capacity/range the time to charge becomes ever less relevant.

        So for example if my car could go 700 miles on a charge it would not matter if it took 12 hours to charge the dam thing because at 70mph (maximum legal speed in the UK) I can only drive 647.5 miles in the 10 hours (during which I must at least 45 minutes of breaks) the Working Time directive classifies as the maximum safe time a professional driver is allowed to work. Exce

      • > Range anxiety that you point out is not the issue. It is charging time and charging availability anxiety. A bigger battery helps that somewhat but also makes the issue even worse. Once those issues are worked out this will be a silly conversation. For example if there was 1 gas station in my state I would not think 'man gas cars are amazing'. No, I would be thinking 'not going to buy that'.

        I'll be sticking with ICE vehicles for the forseeable future thanks to the 3 minute "recharge" time. As much as I

      • >They say 'half charge in 20 mins at a superstation' That gets me ~150 miles. In my current ICE car
        > that would take 4-5 gallons depending on how I drive it. I can get 5 gallons in 5 mins easy

        This is not a problem, this is a GIGANTIC OPPORTUNITY. If I was Tim Horton's I'd be building charger stations at every location on a highway. A captive audience who has to spend 20 minutes waiting on the side of the highway for something? My god man, think of it!

        Layouts would have to change. Lots more seating, le

    • I am very confused by this.

      I mean, 750 kilograms of lithium ion battery is the equivalent of a 15 gallons of gasoline in a regular car.

      You can't be saying that 15 gallons of gasoline weighs 750 kilograms(-force). So what does this mean?

      You can easily make a vehicle that can carry 1200 kg of battery.

      I don't think there is anything easy about increasing the mass of a car by 50%.

      • by Duhfus ( 960817 )
        I think he is saying that to get as much range as 15 gallons of gas, a car needs to carry 750kg of Lithium ion battery.
      • There's more than just the fuel. I'm not saying the comparison is correct, but you need to account for things like the engine as well. Electric cars have motors instead of an engine, but they are much smaller as well as lighter than an ICE engine and a lot of the ancillaries (alternator, radiator, braking system etc.) can be reduced in size or removed entirely in an electric.
    • The thing that is preventing 600 mile range electric cars is not the limited capacity of lithium ion, it's the cost.

      It's the cost and the weight. The market for a car that accelerates like a semitrailer is limited.

    • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )

      A Tesla with 1000 kg of battery would weigh about 3000 kilograms

      They already have those [carthrottle.com].

    • And if you equip your Tesla with a 1000 kg battery and go for a drive when it's -20 Fahrenheit, you might make it to the end of your driveway.
  • by volvox_voxel ( 2752469 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @08:40PM (#53778337)
    Among battery researchers that I know, a key figure of merit is the amount of power you get after the thousandth charge-discharge cycle. There are plenty of great battery ideas out there, but they don't have the lifetimes to be commercially feasible. I wonder how this stacks up.
    • It's omitted in TFA, so I bet it have the same shitty lifetimes as all the other "revolutionary" new battery types that never ever reach the shelves.

    • Relax. They invented the battery described in TFA just yesterday. Cycling it 1,000 times will require a few months, and it will make up another Slashdot entry...
    • >after the thousandth charge-discharge cycle
      Solid electrolytes are generally better at this, because you don't get the carriers migrating to places they don't come out of again. And in this case, if it does prevent dendrite formation, which would seem likely for the same reasons, then the other "sudden loss" avenue is gone as well. At first glance you should expect such a battery to last longer.

    • Current Lithium Polymer cells retain 80% of their capacity after 1000 charge cycles. As opposed to standard Lithium Ion cells (18650's) which retain ~70% of their capacity after 500 charge cycles. The batteries in a newer smart-phone are likely Lithium Polymer.
  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @08:47PM (#53778369)

    C'mon, this is basic stuff for a News for Nerds site

  • by locater16 ( 2326718 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @09:15PM (#53778483)
    As usual, new battery announcement, with nonexistent details about real, practical questions that are highly relevant to practical implementation such as: Power density? Battery lifetime? Ease of manufacturing/cost? All of these need to be at least as good as current, top of the line li-on batteries, or it'll die the same death as the previous hundred or so "breakthrough" batteries that have been announced. None of them were so much as mentioned, instead saying (evasively) this uses "real!" lithium metal which "can store twice the power (energy density) of traditional li-on batteries". But can the battery itself store twice the energy density of li-on batteries? And which ones, today's top ones or like, some irrelevant comparison to li-ons from over a decade ago?
    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @11:58PM (#53778919) Journal
      According to their website, the power density is significantly higher than lithium ion, and the cost is less than lithium ion. It says they haven't solved all the manufacturing problems, but expect them to be worked out in a year or so (they have funding).
    • About 3 times a year /. and the other sties post one more story on a breakthrough battery. Smaller, lighter, larger capacity, faster charging but it never seems to happen.
    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      Let's not mention the messed up quote:

      Lithium-ion batteries don't contain lithium-metal because they're even more prone to overheating and exploding than lithium-ion

      So lithium-ion batteries are more prone to overheating and exploding than lithium-ion.

    • by GeekBoy ( 10877 )

      Exactly. This says it uses lithium-metal. Isn't lithium a rare earth mineral that is really expensive and relatively hard to find? If so, wouldn't it follow that if it's using a lot more lithium it's going to be a crap ton more expensive than a lithium ion battery?

      • no lithium is NOT a rare earth metal, not even close.
        Lithium is quite abundant. There is this huge deposit in Bolivia for example, that has all the lithium we'll need (lets shift our wars from the Middle East to SA, shall we?)

  • First off he is powering an I pad. You cannot see inside the ipad to tell if it has batteries in it. All you see is two wires going in the side no proof the battery he destroys is actually anything but rolled up aluminum foil. Any real batteries when pierced will short by having the electrically conductive screwdriver shorting out the plates on the stack. You should at least get some smoke from the sparks. Same thing on cutting. That blade is going to smash plates right through the plastic electrolyte. If t
  • Yet another battery with awesome power that won't blow up. I think I stopped caring 50 awesome new batteries ago.
  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @10:34PM (#53778713)

    “My top advice really for anyone who says they’ve got some breakthrough battery technology is please send us a sample cell, okay. Don’t send us PowerPoint, okay, just send us one cell that works with all appropriate caveats, that would be great. That sorts out the nonsense and the claims that aren’t actually true.”

    • And in a first to file country, they can reverse engineer it and hopefully get their patent application in first.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        I would hope that anybody who had developed a new battery technology would be smart enough to file a patent before sending it to anyone.
        But then again, there are a lot of stupid people.

  • Challenge accepted.
  • Actual source: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2017 @12:41AM (#53779009)

    This is the source [pbs.org] of the information. It's part of PBS' "Search for the Super Battery" which airs today (February 1, 2017) at 9 pm on PBS.

  • Anytime someone touts a new battery technology find out the answer to these basic questions:

    1. What is the energy density in terms of watt hours per kilogram?
    2. How many discharge cycles can it take before capacity drops to 80%?
    3. What is its flammability?

    Then we can move on to things like cost and manufacturability (which can usually be solved with enough will).

  • and the next thing you read is that it will take years before it's actually production ready.. And by that time there will have been new advances being made in batteryland..
    How many times in the past have we read that some professor/university has created a much better battery, and how many of those have actually been made already....... none....
    So take this news with a barrel of salt..

  • Article: We've done something that never been done before, advanced science, and made what seems like it could be a step toward improving batteries. Slashdot: Can I buy it yet? No? Worthless.
  • This will come to nothing. In a few months time, with the exception of a very small circle, nobody will even remember it.
    • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )

      I will remember. These advances are like my children, they will change the world. Now if you will excuse me, I am waiting for my EESU [wikipedia.org] to arrive.

    • by Trogre ( 513942 )

      You're very likely right.

      However occasionally a battery tech comes along that really does change the world. Remember that NiMH and Li-Ion were met with scepticism when they first came out too.

      This probably won't come to anything - but it might, and that's enough to warrant further investigation.

  • A charged battery contains energy, possibly lots.

    If you damage it or take it apart, the energy has to go somewhere.

    Boom/hiss/crackle/pop!
  • There is a fundamental law that batteries have to follow.

    The energy that is stored has to be able to come back out. So, if you short the electrodes, all that stored energy may be released in a short amount of time. Unless your energy density is very low (i.e. below usable) that will heat up your battery on short notice. There is not much you can do about that.

  • A couple major issues with this writeup.

    First, power is the rate of energy consumption. Energy is the amount of stored work. The summary refers to power, but they mean energy.

    Second, this has been done before. The problem with using a metallic cathode is that when the battery charges Li ions move from anode to cathode and crystallize back into Li metal. During crystallization they form tiny needles called "dendrites" which eventually pierce the polymer separator and cause the battery to short-circuit, rapid

  • It's all bullshit. A lithium-metal battery is a SERIOUS. FIRE. HAZARD. And it cannot be fought with traditional firefighting equipment (i.e. WATER.) Go look at what goes in a Class D fire extinguisher, and then look at the cost. I'd like to see the zero weight, micro thin unubtainium shell he proposes to make the thing 100%, ABSOLUTELY puncture proof. We put Li-Ion batteries in tiny plastic bags.

    The electrolyte is not flammable. Open up a pouch and stick a match to it. It. Does. Not. Burn. "Vent with flame"

  • I recently saw a PBS Nova program that had a segment on Mr Zimmerman's invention. He is a plastics engineer by trade.
    And the battery packs he made were amazing. Some were quite thin.
    It was demonstrated how effective, and safe, they are; being cut into pieces (and still working!), stabbed, crushed, chopped, etc.

    Looks to me to be a real solution. I am taking stock out on Mr Zimmerman!

It was pity stayed his hand. "Pity I don't have any more bullets," thought Frito. -- _Bored_of_the_Rings_, a Harvard Lampoon parody of Tolkein

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