Advanced Batteries New Nickel-Lithium Battery Has “Ultrahigh” Energy Storage Capacity

Published on October 6th, 2009 | by Nick Chambers

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New Nickel-Lithium Battery Has “Ultrahigh” Energy Storage Capacity


Researchers have found a way to create a battery out of Nickel and Lithium that can store more than 3.5 times the energy of lithium-ion batteries and are much safer to boot.

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Lithium-ion batteries are great and all—having heralded in a new age of portable electronics and allowed for the possibility of mass-market electric cars—but they have a few major drawbacks. For instance, they have a propensity to catch fire and explode and, although they have a much better energy storage capacity than say lead-acid or nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, they still weigh too much to pack more than a couple hundred miles of range into a passenger car.

Your standard issue Li-ion battery can hold about 55 watt hours of energy per pound of battery. Today’s modern electric cars need about 25 kilowatt hours (kWh) of power to go 100 miles. As an example, The Tesla Roadster has a 53 kWh Li-ion battery pack and goes just a bit more than 200 miles on a full charge.

Doing some calculations, you’ll find that the weight of a Li-ion battery quickly becomes the limiting factor in increasing the driving range of an electric car—you need roughly 500 pounds of Li-ion battery for every 100 miles or range, give or take. Using the Roadster as an example again, its battery pack weighs about 1000 pounds—just a bit more than 1/3 of the entire car’s weight.

Taking this dilemma head-on, Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have combined the recent discovery of a special glass ceramic film called LISICON with what would normally be two incompatible battery materials—Nickel and Lithium—and have succeeded in making the world’s first Ni-Li battery. It can hold more than 3.5 times the energy of Li-ion batteries and doesn’t run the risk of catching fire.

How Did They Do It?

A typical battery works by separating a cathode (positively charged) and an anode (negatively charged) in some sort of electrolyte. The difference in charge between the cathode and anode is what generates electricity. In a Li-ion battery the electrolyte is an organic solid substance (part of what makes it prone to catching fire), whereas in both lead-acid and NiMH batteries the electrolyte is a liquid (much less prone to catching fire).

Usually the electrolyte separating the cathode and anode has to be the same substance. Because of this, the cathode and anode materials both need to be compatible with the same electrolyte, which has restricted the choice of cathode and anode materials—up till now.

By separating the cathode and anode with the special LISICON material, the AIST researchers have found that the cathode and anode can be placed in two completely different electrolytes—allowing for much greater flexibility in the choice of cathode and anode materials.

Further reasoning that by combining the best properties of NiMH batteries with those of a Li-ion battery they could obtain an “ultrahigh” energy density, they placed a nickel hydroxide cathode in a liquid electrolyte and the lithium metal anode in an organic electrolyte separated by the LISICON glass.

And voila! The world’s first Ni-Li battery was born. Their experimental battery cell has already obtained a “practical energy density” of about 194 watt hours per pound of battery material.

Imagine if that Tesla Roadster had 1000 pounds of Ni-Li batteries in it—that’s a 700 mile range. Certainly an improvement, no? Now we just need to figure out how to fully charge it in a reasonable time—on a standard household outlet it would take the better part of three days.

Granted the Ni-Li battery has some hurdles to overcome, namely that is an incredibly complex battery and manufacturing it may be difficult. Also, the LISICON glass would need to be durable enough to resist breakage over the expected life of the battery. But humans have figured other more complicated things out—like this—so it’s really just a matter of time.

Sources: Green Car Congress and Journal of the American Chemical Society (DOI: 10.1021/ja906529g)

Image Credit: Li et al. 2009




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Not your traditional car guy.



  • http://www.non-scalable.com NonScalable

    What would we do without Japan? This is the type of advances we need, not fractional increases in battery storage, but ‘multiples’.

  • http://www.non-scalable.com NonScalable

    What would we do without Japan? This is the type of advances we need, not fractional increases in battery storage, but ‘multiples’.

  • Brian N

    I hope this research goes really well, for the no of charge cycles to be very high once they know, and degradation over lifetime to be low.

    One can dream, its definitely one to follow.

  • Brian N

    I hope this research goes really well, for the no of charge cycles to be very high once they know, and degradation over lifetime to be low.

    One can dream, its definitely one to follow.

  • Brian N

    I hope this research goes really well, for the no of charge cycles to be very high once they know, and degradation over lifetime to be low.

    One can dream, its definitely one to follow.

  • Carbon Buildup

    How do you think this type of battery would compare to the nanoparticle batteries being developed? Those seem closer to being commercially viable. They may not have quite the energy capacity, but they do score in being low weight and safer than conventional batteries.

  • Carbon Buildup

    How do you think this type of battery would compare to the nanoparticle batteries being developed? Those seem closer to being commercially viable. They may not have quite the energy capacity, but they do score in being low weight and safer than conventional batteries.

  • Nick Chambers

    Carbon,

    Which nanoparticle batteries are you talking about? Do you mean the EEStor ultracapacitors?

  • Carbon Buildup

    The EEStor, or even the Oasis battery (which I’m ASSuming uses nano lead, though they won’t say).

  • Carbon Buildup

    The EEStor, or even the Oasis battery (which I’m ASSuming uses nano lead, though they won’t say).

  • Carbon Buildup

    The EEStor, or even the Oasis battery (which I’m ASSuming uses nano lead, though they won’t say).

  • http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/05/hybrid-electric-bike-with-afterburners.html Russ Finley

    The new lithium batteries don’t catch on fire.

    This idea is just another lab experiment. I wish them luck but let me know when they launch their IPO:

    http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/09/a123-is-go.html

  • http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/05/hybrid-electric-bike-with-afterburners.html Russ Finley

    The new lithium batteries don’t catch on fire.

    This idea is just another lab experiment. I wish them luck but let me know when they launch their IPO:

    http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/09/a123-is-go.html

  • http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/05/hybrid-electric-bike-with-afterburners.html Russ Finley

    The new lithium batteries don’t catch on fire.

    This idea is just another lab experiment. I wish them luck but let me know when they launch their IPO:

    http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/09/a123-is-go.html

  • CornCob

    Wonderful article! Thanks!

  • CornCob

    Wonderful article! Thanks!

  • CornCob

    Wonderful article! Thanks!

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  • Samuel Tisdale

    the only problem is the charge time. But you could cut the Tesla Roadster’s battery in 3/4 and it would still have a range of 525 miles add some flexible pv cells all over the car to help with charging which would decrease charge time a little. that would still give the Tesla Roadster farther range than cars now and make it a viable over the road vehicle.

  • Samuel Tisdale

    the only problem is the charge time. But you could cut the Tesla Roadster’s battery in 3/4 and it would still have a range of 525 miles add some flexible pv cells all over the car to help with charging which would decrease charge time a little. that would still give the Tesla Roadster farther range than cars now and make it a viable over the road vehicle.

  • Roy

    Why people make claims about long charge times based on 110V 15A is beyond me. Do you cook with a stove plugged into a 110v outlet? Do you dry your clothes with a hair dryer? Home charging a BEV will be by 230V 50A(1l.5kw) to 70A(16kw) service. At 30kwh/100miles and 15kw plug, 300 miles of charge will take 6 hours.

    Someting like 3 reported instances of spontaneously burning lithium batteries about 10 years ago, and still expounding the dangers. When was the last time your laptop errupted in flame or your cell phone exploded in your pocket? If this was a common occurance we would all have stories to tell.

  • Roy

    Why people make claims about long charge times based on 110V 15A is beyond me. Do you cook with a stove plugged into a 110v outlet? Do you dry your clothes with a hair dryer? Home charging a BEV will be by 230V 50A(1l.5kw) to 70A(16kw) service. At 30kwh/100miles and 15kw plug, 300 miles of charge will take 6 hours.

    Someting like 3 reported instances of spontaneously burning lithium batteries about 10 years ago, and still expounding the dangers. When was the last time your laptop errupted in flame or your cell phone exploded in your pocket? If this was a common occurance we would all have stories to tell.

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