Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Hardware Science

Researchers Working on Liquid Battery That Could Last For Over 10 Years (engadget.com) 218

Jon Fingas, writing for Engadget: If Harvard researchers have their way, you may not have to worry about replacing power backs quite so often. They've developed a flow battery (that is, a battery that stores energy in liquid solutions) which should last for over a decade. The trick was to modify the molecules in the electrolytes, ferrocene and viologen, so that they're stable, water-soluble and resistant to degradation. When they're dissolved in neutral water, the resulting solution only loses 1 percent of its capacity every 1,000 cycles. It could be several years before you even notice a slight dropoff in performance. The use of water is also great news for both the environment and your bank account. As it's not corrosive or toxic, you don't have to worry about wrecking your home if the battery leaks -- you might just need a mop.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Researchers Working on Liquid Battery That Could Last For Over 10 Years

Comments Filter:
  • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:06PM (#53859205)
    It seems every 6 months I'm turning on the news to witness another "breakthrough" in energy storage that never seems to make it to the consumer market or anywhere else. Wake me when there's a product I can somehow use in my daily life.
    • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:23PM (#53859387)

      I think you're just ignoring the breakthroughs that have been happening.

      It's only about 15 years since a laptop was 1.5" thick, weighed 5lb, and had an amazing 2 hour battery life. In only a decade and a half the amount of energy that's been packed into a laptop battery has increased enormously.

      This is also hugely visible when you look at power tools. I cordless power drill from 15ish years ago would almost certainly us NiCd batteries, with a life of only an hour or two. Modern power drills will last a full day or more with a battery pack that's substantially smaller, and that charges in a far shorter amount of time.

      • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:25PM (#53859413)

        This may explain why my wife is by herself in the bedroom way more than she was a decade and a half ago.

      • Those are all incremental advancements. We haven't had any real breakthroughs like the semiconductor in decades.

      • I think you're just ignoring the breakthroughs that have been happening.

        It's only about 15 years since a laptop was 1.5" thick, weighed 5lb, and had an amazing 2 hour battery life. In only a decade and a half the amount of energy that's been packed into a laptop battery has increased enormously.

        This is also hugely visible when you look at power tools. I cordless power drill from 15ish years ago would almost certainly us NiCd batteries, with a life of only an hour or two. Modern power drills will last a full day or more with a battery pack that's substantially smaller, and that charges in a far shorter amount of time.

        These folks still think that we are in 15 years ago. Lawns were greener, the gaddamned teenagers stayed off of them. It's called grouchy ass syndrome.

    • It seems every 6 months I'm turning on the news to witness another "breakthrough" in energy storage that never seems to make it to the consumer market or anywhere else.

      You should work on being less oblivious to reality. Over the last decade, batteries have become far cheaper, higher capacity, and more reliable. This progress was the result of those "breakthroughs" that you read about.

    • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:40PM (#53859593)

      It seems every 6 months I'm turning on the news to witness another "breakthrough" in energy storage that never seems to make it to the consumer market or anywhere else.

      That's because there are many obstacles to making a successful battery. So basically, depending on the technology you are working with, you may need about 10 or 20 "breakthroughs" before you get a new type of battery on the market. That said, sodium batteries are on the market and they are great for storing power for your house but due to patents, VCs and assholerly in general, they are expensive.

    • My thoughts exactly (no mod points today or I would have modded you up as insightful). But you use the term "news" when I get all of my science fiction tech improvements from Slashdot. I've seen many battery and motor announcements that just never seem to make it to the real world. Anyone remember that small extremely efficient motor that was supposedly going to make it to hybrid cars and revolutionize things? What ever happened to that? I can't even find traces of it in the Slashdot archives!
      • My thoughts exactly (no mod points today or I would have modded you up as insightful). But you use the term "news" when I get all of my science fiction tech improvements from Slashdot. I've seen many battery and motor announcements that just never seem to make it to the real world. Anyone remember that small extremely efficient motor that was supposedly going to make it to hybrid cars and revolutionize things? What ever happened to that? I can't even find traces of it in the Slashdot archives!

        Sure. So what's the point? We supposed to be really pissed off? Or just not try to find breakthroughs? Or just keep the press on total lockdown until an actual breakthrough is put into successful service, a word of it getting out punishable by law if something leaks out? I mean we have a lot of people here on Slashdot who are pissed at the announcement and grousing about it. Has the technology site Slashdot been replaced by the old guys down at the Legion who hate everything? Sit at the bar, drink beer and

    • It seems every 6 months I'm turning on the news to witness another "breakthrough" in energy storage that never seems to make it to the consumer market or anywhere else. Wake me when there's a product I can somehow use in my daily life.

      Seems like you should tell us exactly what these breakthroughs were then.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They don't make money if you're not replacing your batteries all the time.

    • Ah but with a liquid battery they might be doing that a lot especially in cars because I expect replacing the liquid is a very fast way to charge it.
      • by suutar ( 1860506 )

        wouldn't you also have to replace the (presumably solid; the battery shell has to be solid or it gets messy, and some point(s) on it have to conduct) electrodes?

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:43PM (#53859627)

      They don't make money if you're not replacing your batteries all the time.

      These flow batteries are targeted for home and grid storage, which is a market that currently barely exists. No powerful incumbents are being threatened. Utilities would be affected, but in a good way, since more grid storage would diminish the need for unprofitable "peaker" generators.

      • by ctilsie242 ( 4841247 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:49PM (#53859687)

        Home and grid storage are unique in their battery needs. Unlike transportation and portable devices, energy density by volume and by weight is less of an issue than the amount of charge cycles. NiFe batteries are solid performers, but being able to have better energy density, and not have to worry about watering the batteries or worrying about offgassing is a plus.

        Of course, this by itself won't revolutionize things, but you pile up all the improvements happening with batteries, and we are actually getting somewhere. Once we get batteries within an order of magnitude of propane or gasoline with regards of energy density by volume, the transportation industry will be as radically changed as it was when the internal combustion engine did to the industry in the past century.

        • Well, and charge/discharge efficiency.

          NiFe batteries have a pretty atrocious efficiency: ~65% for charge, ~80% for discharge, or approximately 52% round-trip. Although like all batteries, the efficiency varies depending on the SOC. For instance, avoiding the top 25% of charge would bring this up some.

          IIRC lead acid numbers vary quite a bit, but a charge/discharge regimen that won't eat your batteries in short order is around 72%, round trip.

          Li-ion battery types (and there are lots) can be over 90% round tri

      • which is a market that currently barely exists

        No battery like this on the market is a reason why the home/grid storage market doesn't exist. The grid has been betting on capacitor-based storage so far, since they're not seeing anything else coming along.

        • which is a market that currently barely exists

          No battery like this on the market is a reason why the home/grid storage market doesn't exist. The grid has been betting on capacitor-based storage so far, since they're not seeing anything else coming along.

          Check out what Los Angeles is doing.

      • They don't make money if you're not replacing your batteries all the time.

        These flow batteries are targeted for home and grid storage, which is a market that currently barely exists. No powerful incumbents are being threatened. Utilities would be affected, but in a good way, since more grid storage would diminish the need for unprofitable "peaker" generators.

        But it isn't coal, the official fuel of Slashdot.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      Its not only the battery manufacturers - I suspect one of the prime motivators for new phones these days is that the 2-3 year old ones have abysmal battery life.
  • by Melkman ( 82959 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:10PM (#53859257)

    Ferroce isn't harmeless https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] and viologen isn't a nice substance either http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/ca... [sigmaaldrich.com]

  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:10PM (#53859259)

    Promises in advanced batteries are borderline worthless. Everyone has a superior battery.....that they can't deliver one.
    Ambri / Sadoway "dirt-cheap, made from dirt" / Japan Power Dual-carbon / Phinergy's aluminum-air /Sakti3/ Sumitomo low-temp molten , etc.

    Hal's Battery Blog has notes on battery announcements going back years. Many, many promises, not many tangible advances.

    https://halsbatteryblog.wordpr... [wordpress.com]

    • Would be interesting to see if patents were awarded. And if they were sold, who bought them. I'm sure we'd see a lot of oil companies in that list.

    • Many of these technologies may have promise - iff they get sufficient manufacturing infrastructure development to bring their costs into line with competing, established technologies.

      When it takes a Billion dollars and ten years on a chance to have a 10% better widget, most investors lose interest.

  • by marcle ( 1575627 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:11PM (#53859263)

    One more press release about a laboratory demonstration with an undefined time to market.
    Just about zero technical details, why did I click on it?
    Haven't we had enough of this stuff, Slashdot?

    • Hey, patent filing costs money. They have to be vague until the vulture capitalist gets tricked into backing the "research" project which is really a veiled attempt at keeping a materials engineering professor supplied in paychecks and lab equipment and his PhD students supplied with dissertation subjects.

      If they actually disclosed anything actually informative, somebody could possibly figure out the secret and beat them to the patent filing, capture the investment dollars or prove that their idea is junk

      • To be fair, these are research projects. The things they describe usually work, but may not have all the properties you would need to make a commercially successful battery. For example, the cell voltage; it should be as high as possible, some cell types are below 1 volt, which is really too low. Or it may not have very good current capacity, so you'd need excessively large membranes. Or loads of other things.

        This is primary research, they're announcing that they've managed to get excellent stability, via s

    • Just about zero technical details, why did I click on it?

      Because the text was between <a> and </a> tags.

    • One more press release about a laboratory demonstration with an undefined time to market.
      Just about zero technical details, why did I click on it?
      Haven't we had enough of this stuff, Slashdot?

      No, I find it fascinating to be ahead of the curve on learning about this and other "maybe" technologies. I remember hearing about DVDs years before they hit the market and thinking "oh cool". The thing is, you have to accept a low % of these cool techs ever make it.

      • One more press release about a laboratory demonstration with an undefined time to market.
        Just about zero technical details, why did I click on it?
        Haven't we had enough of this stuff, Slashdot?

        No, I find it fascinating to be ahead of the curve on learning about this and other "maybe" technologies. I remember hearing about DVDs years before they hit the market and thinking "oh cool". The thing is, you have to accept a low % of these cool techs ever make it.

        The other thing is, that a lot of other cool tech comes eventually from the failures.

        I really get annoyed with all the whining from people who expect every advance to be finished in time for next quarter's corporate sales bonuses. Or worse yet, nay-say entire technologies because they're not yet perfect (solar, anyone?) We live in an era where progress happens at a dizzying rate and people nevertheless grump that discoveries don't all have instant commercial application and that they're being lied to or eve

  • by by (1706743) ( 1706744 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:12PM (#53859271)
    Not sure if it's paywalled... [acs.org]

    It seems that they're claiming energy densities of ~20Wh/L; wikipedia quotes 250-676 Wh/L for lithium-ion, however, TFA is referring to a flow cell, so it's a bit apples and oranges...but as far as using one of these in your phone, don't hold your breath.
    • by unrtst ( 777550 )

      ...but as far as using one of these in your phone, don't hold your breath.

      As opposed to using a phone in one of these, DO hold your breath.

    • It seems that they're claiming energy densities of ~20Wh/L

      Compare that to petrol which has an energy density of 46.4MJ/kg which is 12.9kWh per "equivalent litre" (1l water has a mass of ~1kg but petrol itself is less dense than water). Now you gain something back because an internal combustion engine is far less efficient than an electric motor but even if you assume it is ten times less efficient (which is not the case) you would need a fuel tank ~64 times larger to have the same range as an internal combustion engine.

      Even for a laptop you would need a 4 litr

    • by pz ( 113803 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:54PM (#53859733) Journal

      The subtitle of the article makes it pretty clear that the handheld market is not what is being targeted here:

      It might be an ideal form of energy storage for solar and wind power.

      It's intended for fixed-location installations where physical volume isn't such a concern, so energy density, while important, doesn't matter as much. The same niche is currently occupied by the nickel-iron battery that was recently mentioned in another /. article that I can't put my typing fingers on right at the moment. Same issues there: high reliability and lifetime, but (comparatively) poor energy density suggests power-smoothing for solar or wind would be an ideal application.

      • And with a flow cell, I believe (???) you can effectively decouple energy capacity and power capacity, unlike a conventional battery. That seems like a pretty nice feature, in terms of cost (assuming the electrolyte is cheap), expansion, and perhaps safety.
        • Yes, this is the case because you have tanks holding the liquids, and these are flowed through a cell to extract the energy. The volume of the tank sets the amount of energy stored, and the surface area of the cell where charging/discharging takes place sets the power.

    • You would probably get more wattage from an actual Apple or Orange.
    • 20 WH/L is not incomparable with other flow batteries:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      Lithium ion batteries are hugely more energy dense, but that's not the point, the idea of flow batteries is that they may be super cheap.

  • Anything that doesn't have enough energy to go boom if the contents are spilled/mixed/come in contact while charged won't have enough energy to power whatever portable device I'm likely to be using. I would check to see that the energy density is low, but there isn't a single link to the actual research in the article, nor to even the researchers name, just "Harvard Researchers." This article would get a failing grade in a 3th grade science fair. It's no wonder people believe lies when you can just post any

    • You can spill water. You can spill oil. Neither goes boom when doing so.

    • A stick of butter has enough energy to power a mobile device, without creating a boom when contents are spilled.
      • That's because it's in a form that does not allow for the rapid release of electrical power. This will be in a form that is specifically designed to release power, or it's going to be pretty useless as a high capacity/high draw battery.

        You might say the same about gasoline - you can spill it, but it's certainly not "safe." And if it should spill while actively producing power (aka on fire), it's going to get messy really fast.

        • by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @06:10PM (#53860607)
          I know. Butter is just an example of a substance that holds a lot of energy and is perfectly safe to handle. You could eat the butter, and use it to power a hand crank to run your mobile device. A trained athlete could generate hundreds of Watts Not very practical, I admit, but it shows the things that are theoretically possible with the right kind of chemicals. We're just barely scratching the surface.
  • These batteries can only be used by diabetic mice with induced Alzheimer's. That's how it always works.
  • by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:22PM (#53859375) Journal

    Water doesn't tend to be the problem in aqueous solutions. The fact that it's a solution means that you've got these other chemicals in your water if it spills. I doubt anything that stores a high amount of charge is something you want to casually mop up while the kids and pets lap it off the floor.

  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:23PM (#53859393)

    And perhaps 130 years from now, someone will find a way to encapsulate or solidify the electrolyte to prevent spillage or evaporation. Maybe they'll call it a dry cell [slashdot.org].

  • Nontoxic Viologen? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Verdatum ( 1257828 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @04:30PM (#53859473)
    That's curious. Viologens tend to be substantially toxic. An example of a viologen is the herbicide paraquat. of which, it only takes 25mg/Kg to kill the average dog.
  • Be it a battery, gasoline or plastic explosives, any time you pack a lot of energy into a small space, there is some risk of the energy being rapidly released. You can make it safer, but not 100% safe.

    Hard to get a battery with a huge storage density that truly isn't somewhat dangerous. A lot of energy in a small space tends to look like a bomb.

  • Thousands of cycles, too. A lead acid battery can be cleaned up with a mop but I wouldn't recommend using that mop to clean your floors afterwards.

    • I used my cotton mop to clean up my battery acid spill, but it asploded next time I tried to mop the kitchen.

      Cap'n Crunch, no!!!!

  • Haven't we also had a ton of stories talking about how the solid batteries researchers are working are the future because they are more stable? Maybe the liquid guys and the solid guys will create an inbetween "gel" ba... oops.
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @05:16PM (#53860001)
    This is a flow battery [wikipedia.org]. The cathode and anode are dissolved in the electrolyte on opposite sides of a membrane. Current can then flow across the membrane to produce electricity. Their attraction is that because the cathode and anode are in a liquid state, you can "recharge" a battery simply by pumping out the old fluid and pumping in new fluid - just like with gasoline. No need to develop specialized machinery to remove, move around, and insert heavy block batteries. The drawback is that energy density is a lot lower than for solid batteries, consigning them (thus far) to fixed energy storage systems (e.g. battery backup for a building).

    They've developed an electrolyte which doesn't degrade as readily and can last a decade. The battery does not last that long. Its cathode and anode still need to be replenished to recharge it.
  • Seems like the primary point of this battery tech is getting slam-dunked by the mobile phone and personal device power crowd. It's NOT a matter of energy density (although that is a moderately important issue), but the LONGEVITY / RECHARGE CYCLES of this battery tech.
    Hell, even if it is 10 times the size of current lithium tech batteries, the fact that it can survive for a DECADE of charge / discharge cycles makes it a REAL plus in the 'load levelling' supplemental power arena, especially since they won't be stressed to full discharge / recharge on a daily basis - - - which SHOULD effectively extend the useful lifespan to several decades.
    It's not a question of how much power you can pack into a given volume, it's HOW LONG the battery can perform before needing replacement - - - and this tech really seems to be a contender for bulk power storage for dealing with peak demand power usage - with a very long life cycle.
    Please get off the volumetric power rants, and look at the feasibility of using this type of battery, even if it takes up a lot (relatively) of space, and consider it's application as a serious long-term power load leveling technology.
    Consider, also, that it is much smaller than compressed air, elevated water, or molten salt storage systems, and appears to offer much lower maintenance / support expense, since it is basically an electrical cell that probably only requires a reasonable thermal environment.

    Yeah, I've made some assumptions - that may be way off base - but at least I'm NOT trying to cram this LONG-TERM, HIGH-RECYCLE, ELECTRICAL STORAGE technology into a miniaturized application (phones, laptops, watches, etc.) that it was never intended for.

  • "The use of water is also great news for both the environment and your bank account..."

    The lack of corruption and greed would also be great news for capitalism, but much like a battery that lasts 10 years, we'll never see that shit happen to benefit the masses.

    Don't ever fucking assume something that would last 10 years would end up being "good" for your bank account. In today's environment of overpriced disposable electronics and SaaS, promoting a long-term bargain is practically illegal.

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury

Working...