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Power Science Technology

Boosting Battery Storage With Seaweed 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the giving-batteries-a-kelping-hand dept.
New submitter cartman writes "A substance found in brown algae, 'including the type which forms forests of giant kelp,' could be used to increase the storage capacity of batteries, according to scientists at Georgia Tech (abstract). The substance, called alginate, allows silicon particles in the anode to swell without damaging the anode, thereby increasing storage capacity of batteries by up to a factor of 10. 'The full potential of a silicon anode can't be exploited until researchers develop a matching cathode capable of handling the same amount of lithium ions. But even with existing cathodes, alginate-silicon anodes could increase the capacity of lithium-ion batteries by 30 to 40 percent, according to Yushin.'"
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Boosting Battery Storage With Seaweed

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  • Crap... when do we get the Zepher? (minus the explosion)

    • by tp1024 (2409684) on Monday September 12, 2011 @07:44PM (#37382060)
      But where is the Virus battery? I mean, WE [slashdot.org] HAVE [slashdot.org] BEEN [slashdot.org] PROMISED [slashdot.org] they'd be around.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Viruses are hard to deal with on the mass production scale. People fail to realize, while new discoveries can very well dish out what they say they can, doesn't mean it will ever hit the market for a simple reason; cost and production ability. If it's difficult to produce on a mass scale (can't produce enough to warrant the infrastructure investment aka high initial investment and low sales) or simply too costly (high cost production cost), you simply won't see it on the consumer market.

        The use of viruses w

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Fuel cells DO work, it's just that other stuff gets the job done for less.
      It's like the situatuion with corrosion. In most cases it's really easy to prevent corrossion, you just coat everything in gold. The space where engineers work is finding something good enough to do the job at a sane price.
    • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Monday September 12, 2011 @08:33PM (#37382286)

      Ummm, this is completely different in every single way. Those are all fuel cells. This is just a better lithium-ion battery.

    • by philpalm (952191)
      Maybe there is a conspiracy to prevent all slashdot highlights to be false? Most breakthroughs are announced to get developer funds. We know that most ideas are a failure. I suppose investment capital is like buying a lottery ticket....
  • by Lead Butthead (321013) on Monday September 12, 2011 @07:35PM (#37382010) Journal

    ... could be used to increase the storage capacity of batteries

    Translation - Fund me, and I might produce something.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      ... could be used to increase the storage capacity of batteries

      Translation - Fund me, and I might produce something.

      This is a think tank, and I think I made a good deal.

    • As opposed to what? "I have something, fund me to R&D it." ..?

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Monday September 12, 2011 @07:38PM (#37382024)
    C'mon. How often did we read this stuff? How often will we keep reading it again?

    For over 100 years [lowtechmagazine.com] now, miracle batteries for electric cars have been supposed to be just around the corner.

    I'll quote from the link I gave:

    "A large number of people interested in stored power are looking forward to a revolution in the generating power of storage batteries, and it is the opinion of many that the long-looked-for, light weight, high capacity battery will soon be discovered." (source [archive.org], 1901).

    "The demand for a proper automobile storage battery is so crying that it soon must result in the appearance of the desired accumulator [battery]. Everywhere in the history of industrial progress, invention has followed close in the wake of necessity" (Electrical Review, 1901).

    Can't just finally file them right next to the perpetuum mobile cranks and move on until somebody actually delivers on those stupid promises?

    • by Firehed (942385)

      Look at the increase in quality of batteries, though. We're not going to have an overnight breakthrough, but we'll continue to reap the rewards of the breakthroughs from five years previously.

      I can't comment for cars, but laptops certainly show this. Ten years ago, the battery for my laptop weighted as much as my entire laptop does today, lasted 1/4 as long and that computer was capable of far less (never mind the charging memory). All things considered, that could easily be a 10x gain in energy density ove

      • by tp1024 (2409684)
        The Lowtechmagazine [lowtechmagazine.com] ran a story on the development of electric cars and batteries last year:

        In spite of this, the 2010 vehicle has a much better battery under the hood than the 1908 vehicle. The Fritchle Electric had lead-acid batteries, like all its contemporaries, with an energy density between 20 and 40 Wh/kg (early 1900 batteries had energy densities of only 10 to 15 Wh/kg). The Nissan and the Mitsubishi have a more powerful lithium-ion battery with an energy density of around 140 Wh/kg.

        The Nissan's battery can thus store 3.5 to 7 times more energy for a given weight than an average early electric from about 1910.

        The gain in runtime of laptops is mostly a matter of them getting much more efficient and using much less power over the last 20 years. The failure of cars to get greater range is mostly a matter of them getting much less efficient and using ever more power over the last 120 years.

        • After much study, the parent is correct.

          I was not able to find any references to battery powered laptops in 1908. This is evidence enough of the improvement of battery technology.

      • by Osgeld (1900440)

        electric trucks used to be the city workforce, almost all deliveries were done with motors and batteries, so I say no we have not improved since 100 years ago

    • by Brian_Ellenberger (308720) on Monday September 12, 2011 @08:50PM (#37382368)

      C'mon. How often did we read this stuff? How often will we keep reading it again?

      For over 100 years [lowtechmagazine.com] now, miracle batteries for electric cars have been supposed to be just around the corner.

      Can't just finally file them right next to the perpetuum mobile cranks and move on until somebody actually delivers on those stupid promises?

      From the article:
      "If you were to put the lithium-ion battery of the Nissan Leaf in the 1908 Fritchle, the vehicle would have a range of about 644 km (400 miles). "

      Don't be so negative. It hasn't that battery tech hasn't advanced in 100 years, it's that it hasn't kept pace with the demand for faster, safer, bigger vehicles. The advancement in any technology is rarely a big bang. Take the lithium-ion battery in this laptop I am typing on for example, and look at the series of advanced necessary to give me a 6 hour battery in a high performance laptop: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium-ion_battery#History [wikipedia.org]. From wikipedia:

      "In 1979, John Goodenough demonstrated a rechargeable cell with high cell voltage in the 4V range using lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) as the positive electrode and lithium metal as the negative electrode."

      "In 1991, Sony and Asahi Kasei released the first commercial lithium-ion battery."

      It took 12 years from discovery to the first commercial battery, and another 5 to 10 years for them to be widely used. Yet on a supposed "tech" site all I read about are people critiquing any battery tech discovery as lame if it doesn't allow for a plug-in to be driven 500 miles on a charge. This discovery may turn out to not be practical, or may turn out to be THE discovery that leads to a battery revolution.

      And even if we didn't get a 500 mile per charge battery, but instead got some tech that allowed the Volt to be at the same price point as a current Prius? Or even got it from 40 miles to 60 miles in a charge. These relatively modest advancements could start a major revolution where liquid fuels are only used for long-haul travel.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        I think the insane range thing is a very US thing, as there one can hit the road and basically drive away from ones troubles. Try that in Europe and you quickly find yourself somewhere that may not even talk the same language.

      • by tp1024 (2409684)
        As I mentioned further upthread, the problem is that cars are using ever more power - because people agreed that they want to drive them fast. This not only implies a lot of power usage, but also extra weight for safety features. An electric car that does no more than Mach 0.04-0.05 (roughly 50-60km/h) and weighs as much as a small walrus (about 500 kg) could have a the kind of range people are used to these days.

        The problem really is the other cars being too heavy and being capable of driving too fast (
    • Yeah but look on the bright side, you only need a revolutionary power source *once* to power cars.

      We're already so efficient that we can deliver production cars with 300+ mile ranges.

      If you could use a 100 mile range battery then electric cars would take over in a couple of years. We don't need 100 cheap, high capacity battery designs.... we need one.

    • I'm pretty sure the batteries we have today would have qualified as "light-weight, high capacity battery" in 1901.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Smells a little fishy to me

  • by Anonymous Coward

    if we see this tech hit the streets, it would be one thing. but how long have we been hearing about stuff like this? it been years since we really had any real boost in battery tech. the laptop battery that i got with my 4 month old laptop is the same tech as the old toshiba battery i got in 1996. lithium ion tech is way out dated. we should have had a real break thru by now. but no, any real advance like this promises the sky and the moon, but we will never see a damn thing from this. life as normal. noth

    • if we see this tech hit the streets, it would be one thing. but how long have we been hearing about stuff like this? it been years since we really had any real boost in battery tech. the laptop battery that i got with my 4 month old laptop is the same tech as the old toshiba battery i got in 1996. lithium ion tech is way out dated. we should have had a real break thru by now. but no, any real advance like this promises the sky and the moon, but we will never see a damn thing from this. life as normal. nothing to see. please move along.

      Li-Ion is a fundamentally shitty design.

      Li-Ion cells explode when you charge them too much, and die when drained completely. Li-Ion charging circuitry basically charges a bank of cells to about 80%, thn trickle charges to about 90%, then tops off. The charger knows the array is "full" when it sees it's not holding any more juice. This happens when some of the cells burst. So every charge is actually decreasing your Li-Ion's capacity.

      Ni-MH is a much better battery design for capacity and durability. But

      • by russotto (537200) on Monday September 12, 2011 @10:04PM (#37382698) Journal

        Li-Ion cells explode when you charge them too much, and die when drained completely. Li-Ion charging circuitry basically charges a bank of cells to about 80%, thn trickle charges to about 90%, then tops off. The charger knows the array is "full" when it sees it's not holding any more juice. This happens when some of the cells burst. So every charge is actually decreasing your Li-Ion's capacity.

        No cells burst during normal charging of Li-Ion batteries.

        NiMH has lower energy density, lower power density, lower charge efficiency, and higher storage losses. It's just inferior.

        • Cells burst during normal charging of Li-Ion batteries.
          When cells start bursting the charging circuitry notices that an array of cells isn't holding a charge anymore, and then stops charging that array.

          I'm not talking about the "cell" in the sense that manufacturers advertise them (6 cell vs 9 cell battery), I'm talking about the tiny cells, of which there are thousands and thousands.

          These cells are DESIGNED with bursting in mind - when charging and sometimes when discharging. That's why there's a substrat

          • by russotto (537200)

            When cells start bursting the charging circuitry notices that an array of cells isn't holding a charge anymore, and then stops charging that array. I'm not talking about the "cell" in the sense that manufacturers advertise them (6 cell vs 9 cell battery), I'm talking about the tiny cells, of which there are thousands and thousands.

            Nonsense. There's no control of charging below the individual cell (in the very way they are advertised) level. The final stage of the charge is simply a constant-voltage char

    • Ahhh, the rare entitled Slashdot twat...

  • At what energy density does a battery start becoming a battery/bomb hybrid?

    • As long as I can have a gasoline/diesel powered laptop, I don't care!

    • It doesn't. The tendency of Li-Ion cells to overheat is mostly due to the poor chemical stability of the Cobolt oxide used in them, and has very little to do with how much energy they can store. For a car analogy, consider building a car out of 90% dynamite, let it roll down a hill, and then when the breaks overheat and ignite the dynamite, you conclude the car blew up because fast moving objects have so much energy in them. If you instead built the car out of steel or aluminium, it could probably reach jus

  • by Jack Malmostoso (899729) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:02AM (#37383998)

    Silicon anodes have been under study for many years now, and most researchers gave up when they figured out that the usual binder used in Li-ion batteries (poly vinilene difluoride, PVDF) did not work well with silicon. A couple of years ago people found out that using carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) actually allowed to cycle silicon for hundreds of charges/discharges without significant capacity fading, so the research in the field boomed again and now Sony is commercializing the first examples of batteries with Si as negative electrode.
    It's all about the engineering, and since silicon has proved that the binder is a more important piece of the Li-ion technology than previously expected, these news are actually very welcome.

  • to power my flying car? These figures they promise never end up in production devices for decades and decades. Even though it's very interesting and probably very useful, some patent troll will most likely get away with a lot of money and humanity will have nothing to show for it in the end because of the patent that will be put on this kind of inventions.

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly

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