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Power Science Hardware Technology

Rice University Adds Asphalt To Speed Lithium Metal Battery Charging By 20 Times (nextbigfuture.com) 131

schwit1 writes: The Rice lab of chemist James Tour developed anodes comprising porous carbon made from asphalt that showed exceptional stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles. A high-current density of 20 milliamps per square centimeter demonstrated the material's promise for use in rapid charge and discharge devices that require high-power density. The Tour lab previously used a derivative of asphalt -- specifically, untreated gilsonite, the same type used for the battery -- to capture greenhouse gases from natural gas. This time, the researchers mixed asphalt with conductive graphene nanoribbons and coated the composite with lithium metal through electrochemical deposition. The lab combined the anode with a sulfurized-carbon cathode to make full batteries for testing. The batteries showed a high-power density of 1,322 watts per kilogram and high-energy density of 943 watt-hours per kilogram. Testing revealed another significant benefit: The carbon mitigated the formation of lithium dendrites. These mossy deposits invade a battery's electrolyte. If they extend far enough, they short-circuit the anode and cathode and can cause the battery to fail, catch fire or explode. But the asphalt-derived carbon prevents any dendrite formation.

"The capacity of these batteries is enormous, but what is equally remarkable is that we can bring them from zero charge to full charge in five minutes, rather than the typical two hours or more needed with other batteries," Tour said. "While the capacity between the former and this new battery is similar, approaching the theoretical limit of lithium metal, the new asphalt-derived carbon can take up more lithium metal per unit area, and it is much simpler and cheaper to make. There is no chemical vapor deposition step, no e-beam deposition step and no need to grow nanotubes from graphene, so manufacturing is greatly simplified."
The findings have been published in the journal ACS Nano.
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Rice University Adds Asphalt To Speed Lithium Metal Battery Charging By 20 Times

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'd love to see how much energy they could get out of Ni-Fe and Ni-Zn batteries using modern manufacturing techniques... no toxic or exotic compounds required!
    • Re:Why Lithium? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @12:11AM (#55313031) Journal

      Battery chemistry is a hot topic and pretty much anything that shows promise is being researched by someone somewhere.
      Ni-Fe [google.com.au]
      Ni-Zn [google.com.au]
      and those results are just for 2016-2017, and I didn't search for synonyms "Nickel", "Iron", "Zinc", "cell" (instead of "battery".)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Nickel is plenty nasty on its own, thanks...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Nickel is plenty nasty on its own, thanks...

        But not so nasty that most Canadian coins aren't made from it.

        Refining it may be funky, but there's nothing wrong with the metal itself. It's used in all kinds of everyday items.

    • I'd love to see how much energy they could get out of Ni-Fe and Ni-Zn batteries using modern manufacturing techniques... no toxic or exotic compounds required!

      Very few industrial processes create more pollution than nickel smelting.

      • Re:Why Lithium? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @07:32AM (#55313889) Homepage

        That's some pretty hefty hyperbole. It got that reputation from the past history at Sudbury, but today Sudbury is used as an exemplary case study of reducing environmental pollution from mining and remediating damaged landscapes.

        • Yeah man, Im from there, I remember when it was scorched earth, moonlanding like. Rock climbing for miles and river pollution oh man. Crazy colours ive seen in creeks south of the superstack.

          On the drive in on the Kingsway it would feel like another planet, but today there are forests galore. They started planting in the 80s and now it has really improved, there is soil again, less bareface rock, and the air is so much better.

        • Meanwhile, spewage continues at places like Norilsk.

          Fixing it in one place hasn't eliminated the problem.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Nickel-Zinc whiskers so damned badly that it's about as useful as rechargeable alkaline - you might get 20-50 charge cycles at best then you're fucked.

  • Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 04, 2017 @11:49PM (#55312971)

    Let's hope this isn't patented, so that anyone can use the research. Universities have a habit of taking federal funds, then patenting the research that those funds produce. This research was partly funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Congress should repeal the Bayh-Dole Act and require that any innovations from federally funded research be placed in the public domain.

    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
      I understand the point but then where's the return on investment in the research if the private sector can immediately profit from it?

      I think there needs to be a middle ground, patented but easy to license the technology.
      • by Hodr ( 219920 )

        I think you missed his point. If the investment is ours, the return should be ours. The school's return is in the form of tuition and prestige (leading towards more tuition), the students return is a valuable and marketable education, and the professor's return is continued employment and the opportunity to publish.

        Obviously if it's a private university, or the work is entirely funded by non-government funds, then there is no issue with privatizing the results.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A couple of points to consider on this (I am a prof at a University, but used to work in industry):

      1 - in my field at least (biomedical research), industry won't touch something without patents, which means it won't make it to market. It just costs too much to do all the safety & efficacy testing etc for it to make economic sense without a patent. The appropriateness of pharma pricing is a separate discussion, but the reality of the situation is if you want patients to benefit, you need industry to get

    • Congress should repeal the Bayh-Dole Act and require that any innovations from federally funded research be placed in the public domain.

      Only if they adjust university funding to compensate. Public universities generally license their patents liberally, so it's not like the public is stripped of access to the technology.

      University funds ultimately come from the public regardless. The only impact of these patents is what that money flows through: a private company or the US treasury.

      I would support a mandatory FRAND licensing model to prevent anyone from stepping out of line though. Public-funds patents should be available to any interested p

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05, 2017 @12:13AM (#55313039)

    At 943 WH/kg and 1322 W/kg, this is really quite good. According to wikipedia, this is 4x "traditional" Li-ion density in terms of storage and decent in terms of charge/discharge rate.

    I know they tested 500 cycles. Get to 1000 and it is practical. Get to 5000 and it owns the market.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Phone batteries are typically good for about 500 cycles. That's why heavy users who get down to a few percent every day find they only last 18 months.

      Phone manufacturers motivated to improve battery longevity because it just means extra sales for them and the new model will be out in a year anyway.

      • For the most part, expect companies would want their customers to upgrade because they want to, vs because they have too. This is why these companies try to change the look and feel and add new features to their devices. Because it is was just because their batteries died on them, then chances are they will go with an other company who had better battery life.

        I think the biggest killer, is every upgrade, expects more processing power, so each upgrade will use more battery faster.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Most people get new phones on contract, which means every two years. So the manufacturers design for two year lifespans, and an average user will get through their 500 cycles in a bit over 2 years, so there really isn't much incentive to provide a better battery. Or even a user replaceable battery.

      • You're not right. People that buy the high end phones are not typically waiting for their current phone to stop working. They are buying the new phone because it's faster, has different features, or is just new and shiny.

        Heck, portable batteries are so cheap and small now that - short of the charging port breaking - a new battery should never be a reason to buy a new phone.

  • Accidentally discovered when somebody ran over a phone

  • Talking of batteries, here's one as DIY [youtube.com] (Many of them are there).

    The idea is - we have too many battery blue prints to work on. None of them are practical enough to be produced.

  • by locater16 ( 2326718 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @12:34AM (#55313089)
    So any /.er knows battery "breakthroughs" are once a month or more on average (or so it seems). But most, or so far one supposes all, of them have major problems. A battery needs to hit high power density, IE how much power it can deliver over time. High energy density/specific energy, IE how much energy it can store per liter and per kilogram. It needs to be able to last over a long amount of charge/discharge cycles, because if your battery loses too much energy/shorts/explodes after a few charges then it's useless. And it needs to be cheap to make.

    Well, surprise, but somehow this one seems to be the announcement that, could, hit all of those points. The reported numbers are several times the current best for li-on power density, energy density (assumedly for both volume and weight), lasts a lot of charge and discharge cycles, and doesn't require some exotic rare earth material to make. Assuming the actual creation process isn't exotic or complex, IE can be economically scaled, this could actually be the coming of the affordable electric car/smartphone battery that actually lasts all day/etc. that's been promised for a while now. Here's fuckin hoping.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'd have to agree. This does appear to be the game changer and it doesn't use expensive materials.

      EV range out to 800k's or so - no more range anxiety problems.
      Charge rate fast enough that it's no longer the bottleneck in driving distance - helped by the better range. And yeah, that matters, turning a one day trip into three massively increases costs. Accommodation for a start.

      Or alternately, the same range as now with much less battery - drop the cost and size of batteries and more sensible (1-2 person) co

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        If you can push the range out to about 600 miles, which these batteries look like they could, then you only need to be able to recharge over night.

        Put another way this is more than you can legally drive in the EU under the working time directive going around in circles at 70mph. Which of course is not realistic.

        Actually I would say at more like 450 miles of real world driving is the most you can drive in a day without doing a driver change before you become dangerous on the road due to tiredness. However I

        • Actually I would say at more like 450 miles of real world driving is the most you can drive in a day without doing a driver change before you become dangerous on the road due to tiredness.

          The speed limit here is 80 mph. 450 miles is just under six hours of actual driving when you keep to the limit (and a lot of people drive a few mph faster.) Which will be interspersed with food stops at the very least.

          Also, people are different. Your and my personal safe driving range really doesn't define the same thing

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      To be honest... unless you're actually a scientist with access to a lab to create this stuff... it still "doesn't matter" until they are in shops, available to buy, just like everything else.

      Until then, it's quite literally a science experiment.

      It's like telling me that we have fusion-reactors. That's great. Cool science. The scientist in me loves the idea. But until someone actually BUYS ONE and puts it into the real world, it's entirely and literally academic. It doesn't affect my life, or almost any

      • You have to be a futures trader, or a research scientist for this kind of article to have any impact on you...

        Everyone is a "futures trader" to some extent. For example, if you think there will be a massive improvement in commercially-available batteries within the next five years or so then it may not make sense to go out and buy an expensive electric vehicle based on soon-to-be-obsolete battery tech. Articles like this one help you estimate the likelihood of that happening and make a more informed decision, even if the commercial applications are still some years down the road.

  • by millertym ( 1946872 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @12:38AM (#55313093)

    That might be an exaggeration... but seriously. After 15 years of reading amazing stuff on Slashdot, the amount of that stuff that actually becomes something beyond "University discovery" even 5+ years out from the initial story is depressingly tiny.

    • by Tharsis ( 7591 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @03:30AM (#55313359)

      Welcome to the world of research! The gap between physical possibilities and economical viability is large, but without sufficient breakthroughs on physical possibilities we will never find one that is economically viable.So, regardless of the chances being slim that we will reap the benefits of all these breakthroughs anytime soon, I am still happy to see such breakthroughs happen.

      Not only that, but reading that they used asphalt for this makes me think I'm driving on the biggest darn battery everyday (I know, it's not true... still...;)

      • by eth1 ( 94901 )

        Welcome to the world of research! The gap between physical possibilities and economical viability is large, but without sufficient breakthroughs on physical possibilities we will never find one that is economically viable.So, regardless of the chances being slim that we will reap the benefits of all these breakthroughs anytime soon, I am still happy to see such breakthroughs happen.

        Also, I got the impression from this one that it's not "aha, we've developed this new, fragile thing that can't yet work outside of a lab," but more "aha, we've found a way to solve some of those annoying economic viability problems! And it charges really fast!"

        • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

          This. 100 times this.

          They are not out on some limb exploring new concepts that requires all sorts of supporting context. They have discovered a way to fix problems with current tech using CHEAPER processes and materials to get BETTER batteries.

          Expect this to be scarfed up and put into production with the utmost haste.

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @04:57AM (#55313537)

      Really? Because 15 years ago I certainly didn't have 3Ah battery capable of being charged in 30min and only 4mm thick sitting in my pocket.

      • 15 years ago I certainly didn't have 3Ah battery capable of being charged in 30min and only 4mm thick sitting in my pocket.

        To be fair, you also didn't have a phone that was so thin it needed one, so power-hungry it needed one, and you could actually replace the battery if you needed to so it wasn't an outright horror if it couldn't make it through the day. Oh, and you could also opt for a higher-capacity aftermarket battery and back. You know, because the battery was replaceable.

        Welcome to the future, where

        • I haven't had a chance to verify it, but in the thread about the Pixel's loss of the headphone jack someone mentioned it was the chipset manufacturers mandating the feature be deprecated. This seemed odd, because while I could see why Google or Apple might want to sell lots of expensive and easily lost Bluetooth earbuds and dongles, I didn't get a chance to see what Intel might have in the game
          • Closing one of the last analog holes means that your music an only pass through digital approved devices.

            Soon:
            *Danger, music from an unverified source detected, sound output disabled*

            • Maybe, but if there are still dongles... how good was a DAC on a phone anyway? If anything you could make a better one if the software on the phone supports digital output from the USB to something that is anticipated to swap it to analog.
              • how good was a DAC on a phone anyway

                Fantastically strong and clean power source from lithium batteries, essentially most modern delta-sigma or advanced segment DACs are difficult enough to tell apart by measurement let alone listening, all it comes down to is a tiny bit of silicon with most of the differences related to actual implementation and dependent on the skill of the person doing the silicon work. Frankly I'd take the skill of the people doing board design on complex devices like phones over those "audio experts" any day of the week.

            • Closing one of the last analog holes means that your music an only pass through digital approved devices.

              Sorry but that doesn't pass the pub test. You can't actually close the analogue hole in any way at all because the signals required to produce sound are perfect for recording. It makes no difference if they come from the phone and go directly to a headphone driver, or if they come from a phone over wireless to the headphones via a built in DAC and then directly to the headphone drivers.

              The analogue hole can't be closed, not without fundamentally changing the way human ears work.

          • chipset manufacturers mandating the feature be deprecated

            No such thing. There's nothing stopping anyone from adding DACs external. There certainly isn't anything stopping someone ordering something by the millions from requesting the feature on an SoC which is already bespoke.

        • To be fair, you also didn't have a phone that was so thin it needed one, so power-hungry it needed one, and you could actually replace the battery if you needed to so it wasn't an outright horror if it couldn't make it through the day.

          I don't have one now that needs it. Heck my Galaxy S5 has no problem lasting 18 days when I enable the power mode that makes it feature comparable to my old Nokia brick. Nothing "needs" it. We "want" it. Modern technology "enables" it.

          Oh, and you could also opt for a higher-capacity aftermarket battery and back.

          You can do that with pretty much every modern phone as well if you're happy with the extra bulk. It's called trade-offs. They haven't changed in last 20 years.

          Welcome to the future, where "better" means "we milk the consumer ever harder."

          Please go back to the technology you had back then. At least that way we wouldn't have to put up with your undiagnose

          • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

            Oh, and you could also opt for a higher-capacity aftermarket battery and back.

            You can do that with pretty much every modern phone as well if you're happy with the extra bulk. It's called trade-offs. They haven't changed in last 20 years.

            Yes, they have changed. You're just not paying attention. My S3 had a removable back, and buying an aftermarket extra-capacity battery for it was exactly as difficult as visiting Amazon for five minutes. My S7 does not have a removable back, and I can't get at the battery. M

            • My S7 does not have a removable back, and I can't get at the battery.

              And yet functionality is still there if you want it. https://www.gottabemobile.com/... [gottabemobile.com] You're just being pedantic about the specifics of exactly how you want to achieve it.

              However, the new phones from Google and Apple do not. Again, this is a significant change in strategy.

              Actually there's more than 2 phones on the market too. Having to quote a Google pixel doesn't help your case. No one gives a crap about a phone with almost no market share. Apple can wallow in their filth. Wake me when I am unable to buy a flagship phone with that feature. Otherwise it's just complaining that not every single manufacturer

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Try enabling the "This Day on Slashdot" sidebar, if you have not already. It shows you five most commented stories from previous years, and it's fascinating to see what we were concerned about back then.

      Today we have "A Car With A Mind Of Its Own" from 2004. Thirteen years later and self-driving cars are still not ready.

  • It does seem fitting to use the stuff we drive over inside the vehicle as well as outside.
  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @09:56AM (#55314521)

    Gilsonite might technically be Asphalt by definition,but it's a unique natural bitumen composed of a mix of light but solid hydrocarbons. It only occurs in one spot on the planet (the Uinta Basin in Utah).

    It's believed to have been created when a few million years ago a geothermal event warmed up the Uintah oil shale (the same stuff they frack) and liquefied a bunch of the hydrocarbons into a slurry that then oozed up the cracks and solidified. It's a solid, actually looks quite a bit like obsidian (glossy and black) but is super light weight and obviously not glass. It's so light weight they mine it by hand with air hammers and use vacuums to collect it and bring it to the surface.

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

  • More "better/faster/gooder" battery news....story number 3,402 that STILL isn't in mass production. LOL.

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