Next Generation of Batteries

 

The good old lithium-ion battery is getting a little long in the tooth. Its days as the #1 power storage solution for mobile devices may be numbered (no doubt still in the thousands of days – but the end is in sight). Lithium-ion has a few problems, the process of making the battery is environmentally unfriendly, dependent on rare earth metals, and difficult to process minerals. Not to mention the disposal of old batteries.

Here are a couple of candidate replacements:

Aluminum-Air Batteries: Not really a battery at all. But a fuel cell that consumes Aluminum to generate electricity. It’s not rechargeable, and best used in future electric cars. You would have to replace the Aluminum cartridge roughly every 1600-2000km, and keep a water tank full. The cartridge would weigh about 45kg (nearly 100 lbs.) and would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 to change. The used cartridge could be re-processed to be reused – but here’s the thing – recycling aluminum doesn’t actually save any energy.

The most interesting idea for these batteries, I think, is to use them as range extenders on lithium-ion battery cars. So you’d have a normal lithium-ion battery pack, with sufficient range for your day-to-day travels, but if you were taking a weekend retreat or have extra errands to run – the Aluminum-Air battery would pick up the slack to get you home…You would probably only have to replace it 3 or 4 times a year – replacements only take a few minutes to accomplish.

Another interesting battery is the Molten Metal battery. As the name implies, its quite warm at about 700c. It’s best used for stationary projects – like grid backup – or data center UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) that provide power while the backup generators start. Not just because they’re hot and heavy, but also because they’re molten and depend on density stratification to separate the cathode from the anode. (with a layer of molten salt as an electrolyte) A jolt or vibration strong enough to cause the metals to touch would cause a short circuit and a very rapid release of energy. So like James Bond’s martini, it’s best not shaken.

The best candidate to replace Lithium-ion batteries in mobile devices is the Aluminum-ion battery. At 8x-10x more energy-dense than lithium-ion, batteries could get smaller – making thinner phones and laptops possible. A phone as thin as a credit card may soon be a reality (that may be pushing it a little – maybe a phone 2x-3x the thickness of a credit card could be possible – and amazing). It also charges very quickly – maybe a minute or two to fully charge a cell phone (the cable required to recharge a car battery in a couple of minutes – would be too heavy to be practical).

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many science-y videos to tout the advantages of Aluminum Ion batteries.

One unexpected advantage of this post is that I learned to spell Aluminum.

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  1. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    So you saying there is a reason to keep drinking PBR and saving those cans. 

    • #1
  2. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):

    So you saying there is a reason to keep drinking PBR and saving those cans.

    To get the deposit back?

    Recycling aluminum requires just as much energy as using new aluminum – so it really doesnt save very much environmentally – except maybe reducing landfill. There was an episode of “Penn and Teller’s Bulls***!” on this topic.

    When I google PBR – I get Professional Bull Riders… Which would make a funny drink.

    • #2
  3. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):

    So you saying there is a reason to keep drinking PBR and saving those cans.

    To get the deposit back?

    Recycling aluminum requires just as much energy as using new aluminum – so it really doesnt save very much environmentally – except maybe reducing landfill. There was an episode of “Penn and Teller’s Bulls***!” on this topic.

    When I google PBR – I get Professional Bull Riders… Which would make a funny drink.

    Really? I’ll have to track down that episode tonight. Many years ago I was told that aluminum was about the only thing that made sense to recycle as it was much cheaper to recycle than process new ore.

    • #3
  4. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):

    So you saying there is a reason to keep drinking PBR and saving those cans.

    To get the deposit back?

    Recycling aluminum requires just as much energy as using new aluminum – so it really doesnt save very much environmentally – except maybe reducing landfill. There was an episode of “Penn and Teller’s Bulls***!” on this topic.

    When I google PBR – I get Professional Bull Riders… Which would make a funny drink.

    Really? I’ll have to track down that episode tonight. Many years ago I was told that aluminum was about the only thing that made sense to recycle as it was much cheaper to recycle than process new ore.

    It maybe cheaper – but it still uses the same amount of energy. I’ll look for it.

    The episode is season 2 episode 5 – originally airing April 29 2004.

    • #4
  5. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    OccupantCDN:

    One unexpected advantage of this post, is that I learned to spell Aluminum.

     

    Unless you live in England where IIRC the spelling is “Aluminium”🙂

    • #5
  6. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    aardo vozz (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN:

    One unexpected advantage of this post, is that I learned to spell Aluminum.

     

    Unless you live in England where IIRC the spelling is “Aluminium”🙂

    Thats how I spell it too – but auto correct kept flagging it…

    • #6
  7. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    OccupantCDN:

    The best candidate to replace Lithium-ion batteries in mobile devices is the Aluminum-ion battery. At 8x-10x more energy-dense than lithium-ion, batteries could get smaller – making thinner phones and laptops possible.

    I’ve never understood why phone manufacturers think the goal is to make phones as thin as possible. They’re plenty thin already, and in fact if they get too thin they have other problems (they’re harder to hold, for one thing, and also more prone to damage from flexing). I’d much rather have a phone that’s exactly the size of the one I have now, but with ten times the battery life.

    I’ve occasionally heard talk about supercapacitors as a replacement for batteries. Pretty speculative at this point, I think, but if they could be made workable (and safe) they would be a promising option, with very rapid charging times and virtually unlimited life.

    • #7
  8. Cal Lawton Member
    Cal Lawton
    @CalLawton

    Obligatory.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InlDtLf3MTA

    • #8
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    I’ve never understood why phone manufacturers think the goal is to make phones as thin as possible. They’re plenty thin already, and in fact if they get too thin they have other problems (they’re harder to hold, for one thing, and also more prone to damage from flexing). I’d much rather have a phone that’s exactly the size of the one I have now, but with ten times the battery life.

    I’ve never understood why phone and tablet manufacturers think the goal is to make the bezel as thin as possible.  That also makes the devices harder to hold and use.  I really need to replace both my phone and tablet, but am holding out until they get over the stupid zero-bezel craze. There are some signs that they are drawing back from that insanity, but they have a ways to go yet. 

    • #9
  10. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I’ve never understood why phone and tablet manufacturers think the goal is to make the bezel as thin as possible.

    THANK YOU! One of my pet peeves when reading phone reviews is when the reviewer gripes about how wide the bezels are (which usually means a difference of a millimeter or two). My thinking is that if you’re looking at the bezel, you’re using your phone wrong…

    A phone should be as small as it can be while still being big enough. And I think we reached that point a few years ago. To circle back to the subject of the OP, I am all in favor of improved battery technology, but in my mind the goal from this point forward should not be making phones smaller. I want a phone I can charge once a week.

     

    • #10
  11. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN:

    The best candidate to replace Lithium-ion batteries in mobile devices is the Aluminum-ion battery. At 8x-10x more energy-dense than lithium-ion, batteries could get smaller – making thinner phones and laptops possible.

    I’ve never understood why phone manufacturers think the goal is to make phones as thin as possible. They’re plenty thin already, and in fact if they get too thin they have other problems (they’re harder to hold, for one thing, and also more prone to damage from flexing). I’d much rather have a phone that’s exactly the size of the one I have now, but with ten times the battery life.

    I’ve occasionally heard talk about supercapacitors as a replacement for batteries. Pretty speculative at this point, I think, but if they could be made workable (and safe) they would be a promising option, with very rapid charging times and virtually unlimited life.

    Actually the technology already exists to make flexible screens, and battery packs. 

    Bendy phone from 2019:

    didnt seem to have taken off.

    The problem with super capacitors is current flow, its not an issue for hand held devices, but for electric cars the current flow would require such a heavy cable the average consumer would not be able to ‘comfortably’ lift. Aluminum-ion batteries may take this feature away anyhow. If you could charge your mobile device in 2 minutes or less – would switching from Al-ion batteries to an expensive super capacitor really make sense?

    • #11
  12. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    If you could charge your mobile device in 2 minutes or less – would switching from Al-ion batteries to an expensive super capacitor really make sense?

    Oh, well, if you’re going to bring cost into it, that changes everything! :-)

    If they all cost the same, then I’d want a phone that could charge in seconds, and could go through an unlimited number of charge/discharge cycles without any degradation in performance. But of course, technology doesn’t work like that. So yeah, it’s always a tradeoff, and I certainly wouldn’t complain about a charge taking a whole 2 minutes…

    • #12
  13. CurtWilson Lincoln
    CurtWilson
    @CurtWilson

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):

    So you saying there is a reason to keep drinking PBR and saving those cans.

    To get the deposit back?

    Recycling aluminum requires just as much energy as using new aluminum – so it really doesnt save very much environmentally – except maybe reducing landfill. There was an episode of “Penn and Teller’s Bulls***!” on this topic.

    When I google PBR – I get Professional Bull Riders… Which would make a funny drink.

    Really? I’ll have to track down that episode tonight. Many years ago I was told that aluminum was about the only thing that made sense to recycle as it was much cheaper to recycle than process new ore.

    It maybe cheaper – but it still uses the same amount of energy. I’ll look for it.

    The episode is season 2 episode 5 – originally airing April 29 2004.

    Sorry, no. While I haven’t watched the P&T episode cited, if it does really make the claim that recycling aluminum (as opposed to other things) doesn’t save energy, I’m afraid that the episode itself is B******t!

    By far the biggest energy cost in producing metallic aluminum from ore (bauxite) is in the chemical reduction (de-oxidation) of the ore. Producing aluminum ingots from ore requires about 24 kWh per kg. Producing the same ingots from recycled metallic aluminum requires only about 1.4 kWh per kg, about 95% less! This explains why over half of the aluminum produced in the US is now from recycled metal.

    By the way, the original name for Alcoa was the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, because their key claim to fame was efficient chemical reduction of aluminum ore.

    • #13
  14. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    CurtWilson (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):

    So you saying there is a reason to keep drinking PBR and saving those cans.

    To get the deposit back?

    Recycling aluminum requires just as much energy as using new aluminum – so it really doesnt save very much environmentally – except maybe reducing landfill. There was an episode of “Penn and Teller’s Bulls***!” on this topic.

    When I google PBR – I get Professional Bull Riders… Which would make a funny drink.

    Really? I’ll have to track down that episode tonight. Many years ago I was told that aluminum was about the only thing that made sense to recycle as it was much cheaper to recycle than process new ore.

    It maybe cheaper – but it still uses the same amount of energy. I’ll look for it.

    The episode is season 2 episode 5 – originally airing April 29 2004.

    Sorry, no. While I haven’t watched the P&T episode cited, if it does really make the claim that recycling aluminum (as opposed to other things) doesn’t save energy, I’m afraid that the episode itself is B******t!

    By far the biggest energy cost in producing metallic aluminum from ore (bauxite) is in the chemical reduction (de-oxidation) of the ore. Producing aluminum ingots from ore requires about 24 kWh per kg. Producing the same ingots from recycled metallic aluminum requires only about 1.4 kWh per kg, about 95% less! This explains why over half of the aluminum produced in the US is now from recycled metal.

    By the way, the original name for Alcoa was the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, because their key claim to fame was efficient chemical reduction of aluminum ore.

    Sorry. In my memory I confused 2 separate things. Its the Aluminum-Air batteries recycling. The used battery sludge is Aluminum-hydroxide – it takes the same amount of energy to recycle that back into a battery. I confused that with all aluminum recycling.

    • #14
  15. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    CurtWilson (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):

    So you saying there is a reason to keep drinking PBR and saving those cans.

    To get the deposit back?

    Recycling aluminum requires just as much energy as using new aluminum – so it really doesnt save very much environmentally – except maybe reducing landfill. There was an episode of “Penn and Teller’s Bulls***!” on this topic.

    When I google PBR – I get Professional Bull Riders… Which would make a funny drink.

    Really? I’ll have to track down that episode tonight. Many years ago I was told that aluminum was about the only thing that made sense to recycle as it was much cheaper to recycle than process new ore.

    It maybe cheaper – but it still uses the same amount of energy. I’ll look for it.

    The episode is season 2 episode 5 – originally airing April 29 2004.

    Sorry, no. While I haven’t watched the P&T episode cited, if it does really make the claim that recycling aluminum (as opposed to other things) doesn’t save energy, I’m afraid that the episode itself is B******t!

    By far the biggest energy cost in producing metallic aluminum from ore (bauxite) is in the chemical reduction (de-oxidation) of the ore. Producing aluminum ingots from ore requires about 24 kWh per kg. Producing the same ingots from recycled metallic aluminum requires only about 1.4 kWh per kg, about 95% less! This explains why over half of the aluminum produced in the US is now from recycled metal.

    By the way, the original name for Alcoa was the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, because their key claim to fame was efficient chemical reduction of aluminum ore.

    That’s my understanding as well.  Bauxite is plentiful in the Earth’s crust, but refining it is very energy-intensive.

    • #15