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New Lithium-Air Battery Delivers 10 Times the Energy Density

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the under-water-to-stay-above-water dept.

Power 281

Al writes "A company called PolyPlus has developed lithium metal-air batteries that have 10 times the energy density of regular lithium-ion batteries. The anode is made up entirely of lithium metal, and the surrounding air acts as the cathode, making the batteries incredibly energy dense. Previous efforts to make lithium metal batteries have been stymied by the sensitivity of lithium to water in the air. The new batteries use a sophisticated membrane to protect the lithium anode and PolyPlus has even created a version that works underwater, by drawing oxygen through the membrane. Lithium metal-air batteries could be light-weight power sources for demand for plug-in hybrid vehicles and consumer electronics; IBM also recently announced that it would develop lithium metal-air batteries for the energy grid and for transportation."

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Explosions (1, Funny)

cromar (1103585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487021)

I'm no battery scientist, but I wonder if these batteries will be more or less safe compared to the lithium-ion batteries. I guess I could go read the article but...

Re:Explosions (1, Informative)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487099)

I'm no battery scientist, but I wonder if these batteries will be more or less safe compared to the lithium-ion batteries

if the energy density is higher, that normally means "less safe".

interesting, nearly-relevant article [dansdata.com]

Re:Explosions (5, Informative)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487413)

Diesel fuel has a very high energy density and very little explosive potential. The danger comes not from the contained energy, but how fast that energy can be released.

Free and "Fun" Experiment (3, Interesting)

reporter (666905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487557)

To test the use of the new lithium batteries as bombs, we could just connect the anode to the cathode. Then, we physically observe the explosive force.

I was warned that car batteries can explode if you short-circuit them in this way.

Re:Free and "Fun" Experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487911)

So er, expose the lithium metal to the air?

Re:Explosions (1)

Duositex (620105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487673)

I'm pretty sure there's some equation that some guy wrote once that talks about the energy density of matter.. something to do with mass and the speed of light etc... can't put my finger on the name.

Re:Explosions (2)

zygotic mitosis (833691) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487849)

Oh, right, except that equation deals with nuclear energy and not chemical energy.

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487941)

You make it sound like burning "dinosaur juice" is somehow a bad thing.

Let me guess. You're one of those people who have yet to figure out that "environmentalists" and "climatology" are all part of a vast international conspiracy against oil companies. You probably believe everything Al Gore says and think Ross McKitrick is a quack. Maybe if you stopped letting other people do the thinking for you and learned to think for yourself, you wouldn't have fallen for this global conspiracy.[/CONSERVATIVESTRAWMAN]

Re:Explosions (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487725)

if the energy density is higher, that normally means "less safe".

Right. Generally, if it stores energy, there usually is a failure mode which involves the rapid release of the stored energy in an unpleasant manner. That's true whether the energy is stored in mechanical, chemical, or other forms. And the more useful energy you can pack into any given size container, the more danger you pack into that same space.

Re:Explosions (3, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487881)

That's simply not true. TNT is less energy dense than aluminum. Which one would you rather be standing next to when a blasting cap is fired on them?

In this case, the energy density of the lithium has nothing to do with how fast it can react. The rate the lithium can burn is exactly the same as the rate in which it can burn in much less energy dense lithium primary cells. And furthermore, while this may be a fundamental problem in "small" devices like cell phones and laptops, large devices, such as electric car battery packs, have ample room for fire prevention, isolation, suppression, and venting systems.

Re:Explosions (2, Informative)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487131)

lithium metal material reacts rapidly and violently with water
(From the TFA)

The safety concern is the main problem here.

Re:Explosions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487185)

lithium metal material reacts rapidly and violently with water

And they wanna make a version we can take underwater with us? I think I'll pass.

Don't crash your car in the rain (1)

random coward (527722) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487133)

Would be bad to have a crash penetrate the membrane in a rainstorm. Would make quite a vigorous reaction to be sure.

Got a hammer? (4, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487161)

I'm no battery scientist, but I wonder if these batteries will be more or less safe compared to the lithium-ion batteries. I guess I could go read the article but...

Anything that breaks the membrane and allows moisture to come into contact with the anode will start a nice fire. Or you can microwave them. Or blend them.

First they came for boxcutters, but I wasn't a terr'rist, so I didn't say anything.
Then they came for hammers, but I wasn't a terr'rist, so I didn't say anything.
Then they came for screwdrivers, but I wasn't a terr'rist, so I didn't say anything.
Then they came for microwaves, but I wasn't a terr'rist, so I didn't say anything.
Then they came for blenders, but I wasn't a terr'rist, so I didn't say anything.
Then they came for can-openers, but I wasn't a terr'rist, so I didn't say anything.
So here I sit starving, unable to open this frigging can of food, and even if I could, I'd have to eat it cold because I can't nuke it and without tools I can't fix the furnace. Now if only I could find a rock and a lithium battery, I'd be able to cook it!

Re:Explosions (3, Informative)

philpalm (952191) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487183)

Let me say this, idiots that don't take care of the new lithium batteries will spur the need for more idiot proof batteries. The article mentions that you should not introduce any amount of water near these types of batteries. Since water is very common, do not put both an idiot and this battery near each other. At ten times the energy output, it may be 10x more dangerous.

Re:Explosions (5, Informative)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487243)

Or if you even looked at the article, you would see a demo of it running underwater.

Re:Explosions (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487257)

Exposed to air, and protected by a thin membrane, I should think these would be a little on the explosive side, if the membrane gets damaged and water gets to the lithium, a vigorous reaction, as the chemists says. Still you should see the caesium air battery I built, heavy as a brick and explodes first hint of damp weather.

---

Batteries [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Re:Explosions (1)

mmontour (2208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487597)

Still you should see the caesium air battery I built, heavy as a brick and explodes first hint of damp weather.

You actually get less 'boom' out of caesium than some of the lighter elements, as Theodore Gray [theodoregray.com] demonstrated.

Re:Explosions (1)

zygotic mitosis (833691) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487923)

That may be true per volume, as atoms are bigger as you go down the periodic table, but the chemist in me says that you will get more bang out of the same number of atoms using cesium. Don't make me break out the enthalpies of formation tables...

Re:Explosions (1)

zygotic mitosis (833691) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487985)

Oops, per volume, as well as per mass, of course.

Re:Explosions (2, Insightful)

PotatoFarmer (1250696) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487267)

Previous efforts to make lithium metal batteries have been stymied by the sensitivity of lithium to water in the air.

I believe the summary is the first time I've ever seen "sensitivity" used as a synonym for "tendency to explode violently."

Based on some spectacular chemistry class demonstrations of lithium/water interaction, I'm going with significantly less safe than Li-ion.

Re:Explosions (1)

Burning1 (204959) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487659)

I've seen the term sensitivity applied to a lot of violent explosives. C4 and Nitroglycerine come to mind.

Re:Explosions (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487841)

I believe the summary is the first time I've ever seen "sensitivity" used as a synonym for "tendency to explode violently."

My former girlfriend was a very sensitive person.

It never occurred to me before, but now that you mention it, I think this is exactly what she meant by the term.

Re:Explosions (1, Troll)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487399)

That is my knee-jerk reaction as well. There is a rather variable component that the user is expected to provide in the operating environment. How does it respond to various changes in the environment? How does the introduction of gases like methane affect performance for example? I have a particularly gassy friend who childishly enjoys his flatulation...(I think he needs some medical help.) And what about other things like smokers, various air densities at different altitudes? What about other applications like space?

Consistency and reliability is rather important when it comes to electrical power and devices that use it. Even if it is very safe, other factors need to be considered as well.

Re:Explosions (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487437)

Wouldn't that be Dammit, Jim, I'm no battery scientist!

Same old story... (5, Insightful)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487053)

"it expects these batteries to be on the market within a few years"

Just like those ultra efficient, cheap, solar panels we've been promised 'next year' each year for the last decade.

Re:Same old story... (1, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487191)

Exactly. Call me when I can buy AA sized versions of these at WalMart. Or upgrade my Powerbook(Macbook Pro?)'s batteries using this commercially. The budding musician in me wants a long lasting 9v battery that costs less than $4.

Re:Same old story... (3, Funny)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487907)

The budding musician in me wants a long lasting 9v battery that costs less than $4.

Dominating in "Guitar Hero" does not make you a musician. Just like knowing the Star Wars prequels sucked doesn't make you a filmmaker. Or, having the AOL screen name "SugarBabeeGrl710" doesn't make you girl.

Re:Same old story... (1)

berend botje (1401731) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487205)

Solar panel efficiency is progressing slowly but steadily. Evolution instead of revolution. Todays panels are way better than panels made a few years ago.

Todays panels aren't ultra efficient, but they get the job done. Price isn't an issue anymore, the break even point is just a few years.

Re:Same old story... (2, Insightful)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487627)

Price isn't an issue anymore, the break even point is just a few years.

Not according to the article on Slashdot just a few days ago. You'll looking at break even in 14-20 years for any entire system which can take your house off the grid. And that assumes a very sunny location.

Re:Same old story... (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487251)

Your pessimism is misplaced. Don't you remember cell phones from the early 90s? Those giant bricks? When the then top-of-the-line NiMH battery was introduced in 1989, it boasted 45Wh/kg energy density. Now we have li-ions widely available at 200Wh/kg (4.5x the energy density) and 10x the power density.

For any given tech advance, the odds of it making it to market are low. But there are so many tech advances, many of which you never hear about, that the tech continues to advance at a good clip.

That said, I'm not a really big fan of any X-air batteries. They tend to be inefficient, low power, expensive, and have poor cycle life. There are literally dozens of li-ion advances working toward commercialization that can each 1.5 to 8x the density of either the anode or cathode, so regular li-ion still looks to have a lot of life in it. Also, I'm particularly interested in the recent advancements in lithium-sulfur. Practical lithium sulfur cells are 3-4x the energy density of current li-ion and are efficient and with reasonable power (excepting the unimpressive "stabilized" ones), but they tend to have very short cycle lifes. The University of Waterloo came up with a really interesting approach of wicking the sulfur into the pores of mesoporous carbon, baking it off the outside, and then functionalizing the carbon surface with PEG to repel the hydrophobic sulfur and keep it trapped in the pores so it can't migrate across the membrane and precipitate useless lithium polysulfates (the normal means of capacity loss in LiS). Their results were pretty astounding. In one experiment, they deliberately used an electrolyte known for dissolving polysulfates, thus facilitating capacity loss -- and compared their electrode with a traditional one. In a couple dozen cycles, the traditional electrode lost something like 96% of its capacity. Theirs lost only about a quarter of its capacity.

Re:Same old story... (2, Funny)

berend botje (1401731) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487425)

functionalizing? I'm not a native speaker, but even I think you are making up words....

Re:Same old story... (4, Funny)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487457)

Don't be silly! Functionalizing is a perfectly cromulent word.

Re:Same old story... (3, Informative)

dfetter (2035) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487621)

It's a word used in chemistry, surface science and materials engineering. In that context, it means "add a functional group." http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/functionalize [wiktionary.org]

Re:Same old story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487705)

I happen to be a fan of "guesstimate" and "gription" myself.

Re:Same old story... (2, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487809)

Funny is a good mod rating for that. It's always funny when someone makes fun of someone for their use of words without taking the time to look up what the words actually mean. Do a google search for "functionalize" and "carbon". You'll find 563,000 hits. Most of the prominent ones are peer-reviewed scientific papers. Functionalization, in a chemistry context, means to add a functional group [wikipedia.org] to a compound.

Re:Same old story... (1)

Takichi (1053302) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487303)

FTA:

The company has partnered with battery manufacturer Quallion to produce batteries based on PolyPlus's electrode designs and will make batteries under contract for an undisclosed government agency.

It seems a bit more promising than the normal breed of vapourware, no?

Re:Same old story... (1)

electricalen (623623) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487397)

Yeah, an amazing new battery posted on the front page of Slashdot that holds 10 times the power of traditional batteries using nothing other than air as the new ingredient. Hold on while I get the party poppers and start celebrating the automobile and electronics revolution.

Breaking (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487061)

Harrison Ford fell off his yacht in extremely rough seas and is presumed dead.

First Farrah and then MJ and now this tragic news [mediafetcher.com] . Can't help but wonder what is next.

Re:Breaking (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487113)

If it really did happen, it would surely be God's wrath. That last Indiana Jones movie offended the mighty Poseidon.

Unfortunately, you are just using an old troll [nydailynews.com] .

Car crash (1, Interesting)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487077)

It would be intersting to see what happens during a car crash in the rain when one of the cars is equiped with those batteries.

Re:Car crash (1)

reginaldo (1412879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487431)

Man, I am not going to be happy until I get a car that is powered by electric eels. Then when cars crash it has the added benefit of flinging pissed off electric eels everywhere.

Re:Car crash (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487935)

I bet you have to poke the eels with a stick to make the car go faster, am I right? :)

Re:Car crash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487897)

It would be intersting to see what happens during a car crash in the rain when one of the cars is equiped with those batteries.

What happens when your gasoline powered car crashes and the tank ruptures?

Re:Car crash (1)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487925)

My brother is going to be a fire fighter in the Seattle area. I have a feeling car crashes are going to be a lot tougher to deal with in 5 to 10 years.

Primary or secondary? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487079)

I suspect primary.

 

Re:Primary or secondary? (1)

McGregorMortis (536146) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487651)

So do I.

The technology sounds very similar to the aluminum-air batteries that have been around for years, though not commonly used. They work by oxidizing the aluminum, and the process is not reversible (at least not within the cell.)

You "recharge" aluminum-air batteries by dumping out all the aluminum oxide (which maybe can be recycled back into aluminum in a smelter), and installing fresh aluminum plates.

I wouldn't want to try that trick with plates of pure lithium...

Re:Primary or secondary? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487971)

Incorrect. The lithium oxidizes to lithium peroxide, which can be reversibly transformed to lithium metal and free oxygen.

Double edged sword (1)

berend botje (1401731) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487103)

Energy density is a double edged sword. Yes, I would love to have ten times the runtime of my laptop. But there are inherent dangers. The current Lithium-Ion batteries are pretty dangerous when they are mistreated. Having ten times the energy stored in a battery? I'm not sure that is a blessing or a curse. Burning down your house isn't worth having a longer lasting laptop;

Re:Double edged sword (2, Insightful)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487203)

I'm not sure that is a blessing or a curse. Burning down your house isn't worth having a longer lasting laptop;

I know what you mean but you could also say burning down your house isn't worth having a stove. You just need to know that the battery can be dangerous and you should handle it accordingly.

Re:Double edged sword (0, Troll)

berend botje (1401731) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487347)

I'm fully aware that there are dangerous things around the house. But most of them are well known by Joe User.

A slightly broken laptop battery burning down the house isn't.

It isn't statistically likely your laptop will catch fire. But considering the number of laptops out there, it's just a matter of time. Having ten times the energy density just means the difference between a scorched desktop and a burned down house.

Just to make clear that progress isn't always beneficial.

Re:Double edged sword (5, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487287)

Energy density is a double edged sword.

No, it isn't.

But there are inherent dangers. The current Lithium-Ion batteries are pretty dangerous when they are mistreated.

Lithium-Ion batteries are dangerous because of very low internal resistance. ie. They can dump a large amount of current in a very short time. This is completely independent of energy density, and future designs could well have higher energy density with less danger of thermal runaway.

Re:Double edged sword (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487541)

Lithium-Ion batteries are dangerous because of very low internal resistance. ie. They can dump a large amount of current in a very short time.

Nope, that's not it either. Low internal resistance is a good thing, well correlated to power (not energy) density. Lithium ion batteries are mostly dangerous because they're flammable; short them out or overcharge them and they'll catch fire. If they merely got hot they'd be a lot less dangerous.

Re:Double edged sword (0, Troll)

Synchis (191050) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487799)

[citation needed... again]

Re:Double edged sword (0, Troll)

Synchis (191050) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487775)

[citation needed]

Re:Double edged sword (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487313)

Use the increased energy density to get super light batteries with the same total energy content and hopefully safety. Sounds like a win to me.

Re:Double edged sword (3, Interesting)

LordKaT (619540) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487409)

My laptop constantly overheats, I mistreak the battery to hell, and still it keeps working.

And millions upon millions of other people have had the same results.

I've only got one piece of advice for you: stop being such a pussy. You're slowing the rest of us down.

Re:Double edged sword (2, Insightful)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487473)

Batteries may be somewhat dangerous, but right now we're parking our cars in our garages with 15 gallons of gasoline in the tanks. If it gets out, it flows all over the place. It also fills the air with an explosive gas that will also cause poisoning in people, or at least intoxication. Lose one threat, gain another. The battery is probably safer than the gasoline.

Re:Double edged sword (2, Interesting)

need4mospd (1146215) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487719)

If you think about it, single edged swords are also double edged swords. I mean, it cuts on one side, but not the other....

I think I just blew my own mind.

Re:Double edged sword (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487769)

Burning down some idiot's house who mistreats his laptop is totally worth you and me getting longer-lasting laptops, though. If they can be made safe enough for people who don't abuse them, they're safe enough. I haul gasoline in a big tank in my car right now, for example. There's some danger, but I've never been burned or blasted by it yet.

Pudding... (1)

GenP (686381) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487129)

I'll believe it when I can use my laptop for 30 hours instead of 3.

Re:Pudding... (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487503)

I'll believe it when I can use my laptop for 30 hours instead of 3.

I'd be happy to take your laptop once you've used up its 3 hour life. For parts ...

Lithium Oxide? (1)

reginaldo (1412879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487189)

I have a question for the makers of this techL When lithium metal reacts with oxygen, it creates lithium oxide as a byproduct, which is inert to oxygen. If this battery is using solid metal that is covered by a membrane, wouldn't the lithium oxide block oxygen from getting to the lithium after a fairly short while? I would think this is a problem with using lithium metal in general.

You spread the metal out in a thin film (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487573)

Then you roll it up to make it convenient. It isn't a block of metal. What interest me is the volume and mass are going to change as the oxygen is absorbed. Oxygen is almost 2 times the mass of Lithium, only about half the volume but it'll form a crystaline structure with the Li which will hugely increase the volume of the oxide over that of the metal.

 

Re:You spread the metal out in a thin film (1)

reginaldo (1412879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487771)

That is interesting. I wonder what the energy density of a lithium-air battery is halfway through discharge. I would bet it degrades fairly quickly.

Re:Lithium Oxide? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487761)

This was listed as a concern in the link regarding IBM's efforts. So yep, they've taken it into consideration.

They have a design for a battery...so what? (2, Insightful)

dtolman (688781) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487199)

There's no here here. They don't have any real batteries in production. Its still in real-world testing. Or to put it in more slashdot-centric way of thinking... they don't even have 2/4 steps for profit 1) Announce untested idea for new battery 2) ?????? 3) ?????? 4) Profit!

Exploding Laptops? Anyone? (1)

atramentum (1438455) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487279)

I wonder if load could cause them to explode? If you short circuit this thing, will the heat eventually rupture the membrane?

Re:Exploding Laptops? Anyone? (1)

atramentum (1438455) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487391)

Nevermind. It wouldn't.

YEAH RIGHT (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487291)

Batteries suck. There have been many times when batteries would be "10 times" more better than some previous generation. But they never are. Batteries would only be good if cellular phone could run at least a MONTH on them. Or a halogen flashlight could SHINE for that long. But no, they're always still the same sucky thing as in the 1800s, and not the 10 times more powerful than should be if all the times someone claimed they were "10 times better" would be true.

Re:YEAH RIGHT (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487329)

In the parent post, I meant 10^3, but slashdot ate away the ^3 symbol. Also, I mean, do you know what 10 times more means? It means a laptop that now works 3 days, should work 30 days. Do you believe that? I don't. Even though with our technology I find that we should be able to. And that is why I'm frustrated about batteries.

Re:YEAH RIGHT (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487447)

I meant 10^3, but slashdot ate away the ^3 symbol.

A whole new category of homework and test related excuses is discovered!

Re:YEAH RIGHT (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487575)

Even though with our technology I find that we should be able to. And that is why I'm frustrated about batteries.

Oh, we can. But as my electrochem professor put it, as you move towards better energy density you also move towards making what is essentially a bomb. And I don't think you'll be able to get that 30-hour laptop battery on an airplane...

Actually, 1800's batteries were Better! (3, Informative)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487501)

Actually, from the very edge of the 1800's. Development didn't complete until 1901.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel-iron_battery [wikipedia.org]

Nickel-Iron (NiFe) batteries don't appreciably degrade from discharge. There is some wear, but they can last for 50 years if you change the electrolyte. Power and current densities are low, but they are ideal for photovoltaic installations. Battery wear from deep discharge is one of the biggest economic factors of solar power cost.

You can buy them, but currently only from manufacturers in India and China.

Rechargeables in "early development" (4, Interesting)

michael_cain (66650) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487293)

Both articles pointed to by the original post note that rechargeable lithium-air batteries are in "early development". It may be worth noting that zinc-air batteries (fuel cells, more accurately, as these lithium devices are currently) have been available for some years now. The problem is the recharging step, ie, making it a battery instead of a fuel cell. Splitting zinc oxide to get relatively pure zinc back, all within the original container, remains an unsolved problem, in practice. These lithium devices will face the same problem: how do you use electricity to efficiently split lithium oxides to get lithium and oxygen again? If they have indeed solved that problem, and can apply it to other metals, zinc may be a better solution overall, even with somewhat lower energy density. The global mineral reserves are much larger and the problem with water goes away.

Re:Rechargeables in "early development" (2, Informative)

IMightB (533307) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487471)

The article uses the term "Single Use"

from TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487519)

The company also has rechargeable lithium metal-air batteries in the early stages of development that could eventually power electric vehicles that can go for longer in between charges.

A few years? (1)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487311)

A few years for this product on the market is too long, I know through reading through some patents that they are currently working on different types of polymer batteries which are actually lighter than lithium polymer batteries. If one of these polymers hits the market before or at the same time as these batteries then it will be no competition on which will dominate the market. If they want to make money they need to get these on the market faster than a few years.

Steorn regoices! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487337)

Finally they have something to efficiently store all of that free Orbo energy!

Scalability plus environmental concerns (1)

javacowboy (222023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487343)

I have a couple of questions about Lithium Ion, as a raw material:

1) What rate of extraction is sustainable? Is it enough to supply all the transportation of electronic devices of the world if petroleum-powered vehicles are replaced, or will production fall short of those needs?
2) What is the environmental impact of extraction, production and disposal?

Until these questions and resolved satisfactorily, I have my doubts.

Re:Scalability plus environmental concerns (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487607)

If we're asking questions I'd like to know just how recyclable all these things are.

I'm so happy 'cause today I found my friends (2, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487387)

If these batteries really can store 10 times the energy of current batteries, they could be revolutionary. They could make the electric car more practical than using gasoline.

However, the big catch is that we can't really produce enough Lithium [wikipedia.org] to make all those batteries. There is a plentiful supply in the water: "Seawater contains an estimated 230 billion tons of lithium, though at a low concentration of 0.1 to 0.2 ppm." But there's probably no practical way to extract it.

Re:I'm so happy 'cause today I found my friends (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487527)

Easy, just filter out all the gold in the process and you'll turn a profit! The ocean IS the biggest gold mine on earth.

Why would you bother with Lithium? (2, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487827)

Use Sodium instead. There's even more of it in seawater. Sure it's a bit heavier, a bit bigger but a tiny fraction of the cost, and cost is a huge problem with batteries.

 

Lithium, a limited natural resource? (2, Interesting)

mwilliamson (672411) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487465)

It seems like this is the holy grail for electric vehicles, and we can finally stop burning dinosaur juice in our little bitty engines and realize the economies of scale of burning dinosaur farts in really big and efficient prime movers. This is all well and good, but how plentiful is lithium, and can it be recycled easily (I suspect yes)? -Michael

Re:Lithium, a limited natural resource? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487547)

Lithium has an atomic number of 3. Elements in the universe are created via fusion. I.e., Lithium is one of the most plentiful elements in the universe, presumably led only by hydrogen and helium. I don't know about the supply on earth, but there should be plenty. :)

Should we ever get our energy through fusion, one of the byproducts may very well be Lithium. I'm not sure on that.

Re:Lithium, a limited natural resource? (1)

javacowboy (222023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487823)

Dinosaur juice! Dinosaur farts! Nice! :)

Glad to see that somebody who understands what fossil fuels are also has a sense of humour.

Re:Lithium, a limited natural resource? (4, Informative)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487851)

It's Bolivia that has all the Lithium. They are already freaking out about corporations raping their country for profit. IIRC Bolivia has started working on putting policy in place to keep from getting screwed over by large mining firms.

"Like many other producers of crude oil, Bolivia finds itself in a frustrating situation regarding its processing and the refining of its raw materials. It finds company in the history of the incumbent automobile fuel source, petroleum. There is a great deal that the Bolivians could learn from the Saudis regarding what they should do with its lithium reserves and how to extract them. To achieve this, Bolivia will want to strive to find the answer to a number of questions with which the Saudis have dealt over the years, and continues to deal with, such as how wealth will be distributed if the commodity is nationalized, how to maintain a balance between maximum production and environmental stability, and what will stabilize the economy once the commodity is exhausted."

http://www.coha.org/2009/02/lucky-bolivia-and-the-future-of-lithium-in-the-world-economy/

Let me guess... (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487511)

Blocked by the panasonic firmware?

Not even rechargable! (-1, Troll)

burtosis (1124179) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487533)

Lol, the batteries in the article are 'primary' batteries which are one use then throw away batteries. Last time I checked the market for one use laptop batteries was quite small, but what do I know compared to the overwhelming editorial prowess that we all have come to cherish in slashdot summaries? FWIW the polyplus website says they are interested in pursuing research on lithium air secondary batteries down the road.

Re:Not even rechargable! (2, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487901)

If they last a month in my laptop, are cheap to replace, and can be conveniently dropped into a recycling bin where I pick up my new batteries, then I don't care so much. It's the logistics that matter as much as anything. It's usually the logistics that are overlooked.

If you lived, worked, and shopped within a few blocks, you wouldn't even worry about your car most days. That's logistics.

If you could replace gasoline with hydrogen, that'd be great. However, you'd also have to replace gasoline with hydrogen in all those gasoline stations. Yet you can't get rid of the gasoline at the stations until everyone else's car stops running on gasoline, too.

Electric cars are great, but most of them need to be recharged overnight. If you build a car than can recharge for a 200-mile trip in 5 minutes, you still need to have recharging stations that can deliver that amount of power that are easily accessible. See? Logistics.

I love all these green techs (0, Offtopic)

xutopia (469129) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487595)

Unless they are in the store at an affordable price it doesn't matter to me. Seriously if a battery that is lighter than air and can go on for 12 months straight without recharge but cost 1 billion dollar do you think you will have one in your ipod tomorrow? These promises of great technologies are nice and all... but it's just R&D until it's feasible in the market.

Re:I love all these green techs (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487721)

Hmmz. I would pay a bit more for a better battery. Sure, I am a fool, but i really would pay a little extra for a better battery. I would see it as buying me kids one or maybe two extra days of earth.

Re:I love all these green techs (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487965)

Unless they are in the store at an affordable price it doesn't matter to me

In that case, I suggest you read Consumer Weekly, instead of a technology news site.

Vaporware we can believe in! (3, Funny)

Alt_Cognito (462081) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487745)

*groan* (yknow, being made of air and whatnot)

tub61rl (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28487753)

Energy Density Fears (5, Informative)

Burning1 (204959) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487815)

A lot of people are raising concerns about the risk associated with increasing the energy density of the battery.

I would like to point out that it's difficult to directly compare the risks of two fuel sources without knowing how quickly the energy can be released, and under what conditions it can happen.

For instance, I enjoy working with motorcycles, which typically carry 2 major energy sources: A battery, which supplies starting and auxiliary power, and gasoline, which supplies primary power (including the power required to charge the battery.)

The gasoline in the tank has a far greater energy density and far higher energy potential than the battery, but of the two, the battery poses the greatest risk of injury and explosion.

The gasoline can certainly burn, but will only explode under very specific conditions. The conditions required to set it burning are also very easily removed. In fact, I'm far more concerned about the chemical damaged caused by exposing fuel to skin than I am about the risk of fire or explosion.

On the other hand, I work around the battery with wrenches that are typically grounded against the frame while in use. Even with a disconnected battery, I've had cases (while working on a car) where the wrench contacts the positive terminal of the disconnected battery, creating very heavy gauge short circuit between the terminals. The resulting release of energy will cut through metal and cause severe burns. Likewise, if overdrawn, the battery can release hydrogen which can either vent and ignite, or build internal pressure causing the battery to explode.

An interesting example of a substance that is explosive, has a high energy density, and is safe is C4, which can actually be used to cook food if burned, but will not explode without a blasting cap.

So... Are these batteries a risk? Perhaps. We should look into that. But it's best not to cry about the sky falling without first investigating the matter.

What about LiS? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487915)

Ten times the energy density of LiIon would be great, but LiS currently (as in, in products that actually exist) gives four times the energy density of LiIon. My laptop's battery lasts 3-4 hours now. Four times that is enough for me to use it all day on battery and just charge it in the evening. The problem is that they currently only last for about 30 discharge cycles, while LiIon is typically rated at 300. This seems like more promising technology for the next few years. LiS is mainly used in military applications at the moment (if you're paying a few hundred thousand dollars for a UAV that may be shot down any time you fly it, replacing the battery after 30 successful flights isn't such a problem), so it's not a technology short on R&D money.

5000 watt hours per KILO? (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 5 years ago | (#28487939)

Am I reading this wrong. If not, something tells me there is a lot more energy going into harvesting and purifying the Lithium than it is worth. If there is a need for an alternative I'd start here.

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