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Silicon As the New Lithium

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the throw-the-sand-against-the-wind dept.

Power 211

hduff writes "While lithium-ion batteries offer better performance than lead-acid or ni-cad batteries, the supply of lithium is limited and the batteries can pose problems. Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute are building a better battery with easily obtainable sand and air."

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What about copper? (0, Troll)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375422)

Don't you need a lot of copper to actualyl do anything useful with a battery?

Is'nt the world reserve of copper basically mined out?

Re:What about copper? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375448)

If you are talking about wiring, aluminum is reasonably plentiful and conductiveand was used in the past.

Re:What about copper? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30375522)

In the past?

How about now?

Most overhead lines are made out of aluminum already. It's always been lighter, it's been cheaper for a long time, and it performs very well. Silver, copper, and gold are the best when it comes to pure metals, but aluminum is frequently passable.

Re:What about copper? (5, Informative)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375872)

Aluminum is OK as a transmission medium, but it's not too good in end use applications. Turns out aluminum has a property called "cold flow", when you put it under pressure (like a screw or clamp terminal) the metal literally moves away and creates a loose connection which causes heat and often fire.

Next, greatly varying expansion/contraction properties make aluminum still more likely to work loose when terminated to a dissimilar metal like a lug or screw of brass, steel, etc..

Lastly, all aluminum has a coat of oxide that has high electrical resistance, and it reforms very quickly when it is cleaned off. Proper cleaning and antioxidant paste are critical to avoid failures in such home applications as the line dropping from the service weather head to the meter socket of a dwelling (a common application).

Once the circuits are in the walls of a dwelling you do not want aluminum because of the fire danger. While it has been used for mobile home wiring in the past during times of high copper prices, it is currently hard to insure one of those homes. If you DO have aluminum wire inside your walls you should be checking the torque (but don't over tighten) of every connection at six month intervals... forever...

To sum up, you only want aluminum where you can easily inspect and adjust any connections on a regular basis.

Re:What about copper? (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375888)

Once the circuits are in the walls of a dwelling you do not want aluminum because of the fire danger. While it has been used for mobile home wiring in the past during times of high copper prices, it is currently hard to insure one of those homes. If you DO have aluminum wire inside your walls you should be checking the torque (but don't over tighten) of every connection at six month intervals... forever...

No, you retrofit it with copper ENDS (which attach with conductive epoxy) which don't have this problem. Guess what? We no longer use wires poked into holes in automotive applications anyway; all connectors are terminated somehow.

Re:What about copper? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30376468)

Other poster is right. Aluminum connections can be terminated, which solves a whole hell of a lot of problems.

It's still not perfect, but it's a perfectly viable stand-in for copper. Copper terminals aren't going to need as much metal as copper wires, obviously.

Re:What about copper? (3, Informative)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376568)

I once heard that Emerson (motor maker) uses 10-20 percent of the worlds electrical copper. Motors are a huge user of copper. I work in electric vehicles, and when we pump 100kW through a motor we're losing some 1.6 percent to heat in the windings. Change that to aluminum and the losses will only increase - and then the cooling solution becomes more complex, the weight goes up, the range goes down. Then there are the previously mentioned issues with aluminum. And to the GGP, all the easy copper has been mined, but I believe there is still plenty available to meet the inceasing demand. If handled properly it can be easily recycled too.

Re:What about copper? (2, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375474)

Just use gold instead!

But really, we have a lot of otherwise useful metals being punted around in the form of money at the moment. We should use digital money and put the metal stuff to better use.

Re:What about copper? (4, Interesting)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375664)

There's so little gold in the entire world that even if we spun all of it unto wires the contribution would be negligible.

Re:What about copper? (4, Funny)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375748)

A wire shortage.. People can work up a fear about just about anything I think.

http://xkcd.com/605/ [xkcd.com]

Re:What about copper? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375880)

Aluminum is the third most abundent element on the planet and makes up 8% of the earth's crust, which is enough to ensure that we will never run out of the metal for electrical or structural uses.

We just need an ample supply of energy in order to refine it.

Re:What about copper? (2, Funny)

Turzyx (1462339) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376158)

Hey, look at it this way, when we've eventually all switched to renewable energy, we can finally clear those pesky stockpiles of coal and oil.

Re:What about the old people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30376560)

Much simpler to just cut the population then the supply of everything (per capita) suddenly increases.

What we ought to be working on are technologies to help look after all those old people (you and me) as their proportion increases over time.

Re:What about copper? (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375924)

There was a (temporary) setup [wikipedia.org] along those lines at one point.

For Uranium isotope separation, they needed some large electromagnets. Unfortunately, WW2 was weighing rather heavily on the copper supply. Instead, they borrowed 13,000 tons of silver from the treasury.

Re:What about copper? (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375626)

Just use iron. It's not like the wiring is all that long.

Re:What about copper? (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375754)

You are aware that iron rusts like a bitch, right?

There's also a lot more to worry about than electrical conductivity. You're passing a DC current through this which means you will have oxidation where this metal meets other metals if you aren't very careful.

This is why aluminum wiring in houses is a problem. The aluminum wiring is fine by itself, but if you try to use copper in the same house then you'll end up starting a fire in short order. In houses that DO have both Al and Cu in the walls, electricians have to install special junctions that allow the two to meet without literally corroding each other.

As for using iron in a car: this is going to be used in a wet condition, probably also with road salts (which increases conductivity), with electrical current. Your wires won't last more than a month if you're lucky.

Re:What about copper? (1)

amilo100 (1345883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375868)

Then use steel...

Re:What about copper? (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375940)

And steel rusts like a bitch in training.

We could use stainless steel, but that would be more expensive than pure copper, I think.

Re:What about copper? (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376044)

And steel rusts like a bitch in training.

We could use stainless steel, but that would be more expensive than pure copper, I think.

But we are not likely to run out of it in the near future - which in case you missed it was the point about copper in the first place.

Re:What about copper? (3, Informative)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376380)

These alloys were cheaper if they are so easily obtainable, but I think there's a reason behind the price of stainless steel, which could be simple scarcity or high production costs.

A cursory glance at Wiki Grandma tells me that stainless steel requires a chromium content of 10 percent or more. And of course we have a singular dominant reserve: chromium is mined primarily in South Africa, harboring half the world's mineable reserves.

Not only that, but stainless steel is an even worse conductor than plain vanilla steel, having a resistance that is more than 30 times higher.

Re:What about copper? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375968)

This is why aluminum wiring in houses is a problem. The aluminum wiring is fine by itself, but if you try to use copper in the same house then you'll end up starting a fire in short order. In houses that DO have both Al and Cu in the walls, electricians have to install special junctions that allow the two to meet without literally corroding each other.

Yeah, but the "special junction" is a copper wire with a butt connector filled with conductive epoxy and surrounded by heat shrink tubing. My mom has them installed in her 1970s double-wide, which of course has Aluminum wiring. You stick it on and heat it up and you're done. It would make more sense to go to 48VDC so that what metal the wire is made of matters less from every standpoint BUT corrosion, and then use stainless steel. Unlike Aluminum, you can reasonably solder it, provided you solder more stainless to it, and use the right kind of solder & flux.

Re:What about copper? (1)

worip (1463581) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375704)

Never mind copper, what about lithium? Lithium is about as abundant as Nickel in the earth's crust: From Lithium's wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] ->

At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth's crust, lithium is the 25th most abundant element. Nickel and lead have the about the same abundance

Not apparently a crisis, although it might be more expensive to mine due to the use of electrolysis.

Re:What about copper? (2, Insightful)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375948)

Lithium in mineable concentration is pretty rare as it is and highly priced because of Lithium-Ion batteries - that's why everyone is searching for another battery type in the first place.

Re:What about copper? (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375946)

No?

I grew up a few hundred miles from a mine that shut down because other mines were more economical. As the price goes up, that sort of mine can start operating again (if they can convince people in the area to put up with the environmental impact).

Re:What about copper? (3, Informative)

macson_g (1551397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376148)

Is'nt the world reserve of copper basically mined out?

According to Wikipedia, "total amount of copper on Earth is vast (around 1014 tons just in the top kilometer of Earth's crust, or about 5 million years worth at the current rate of extraction)". Of course only small fraction of this is available using _today's_ technology.

What would be fun (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375428)

Is if the best sand is in Saudi Arabia and the factory in Australia, then we would ship send both ways from desert to desert and be sure the aliens NEVER contact us!

Re:What would be fun (2, Informative)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375578)

Sand is everywhere.

Chile has half the world's lithium and they're gearing up to play hardball over it. This will hopefully deflate those plans.

Re:What would be fun (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30375654)

Sand is everywhere.

Chile has half the world's lithium and they're gearing up to play hardball over it. This will hopefully deflate those plans.

If Chile plays hardball, then expect the US to claim Chile's harboring Al-Qaeda and are building Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Re:What would be fun (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375786)

They did it in the past but the baddies were the "commies". Other times...

Re:What would be fun (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375970)

Oh and the commies are back already. And finished nationalizing the critical mining industries several years ago.

And they openly traded weapons with Iran and North Korea, boasted their strength and are currently dominoeing all neighboring countries to follow a socialist agenda. With Maoist rebels operating in the border territory against the still-capitalistic neighbor and all that.

Just like the good ol' times.

Re:What would be fun (3, Informative)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376022)

Oh and the commies are back already. And finished nationalizing the critical mining industries several years ago.

I think you're confusing Chile with Bolivia. Chile has one of the strongest growing economy in South America and is a capitalistic country alright. Bolivia, on the other hand, has a socialist government and has been playing hardball with their lithium reserves.

Re:What would be fun (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376302)

I was of course thinking of Bolivia, which currently instigates all sorts of quarrels along their borders. They successfully installed metastases in neighboring countries and are clamoring for more, hence the term "Domino".

Re:What would be fun (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376050)

About time for the Yanks to sponsor a new fascist dictatorship and snuff a few thousands of the motherfuckers, hey?

Re:What would be fun (4, Funny)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376258)

Of course we can always wait for the socialist dictatorship to snuff some *millions* in their inevitable joy camps and then just build a memorial. This would be sensible, cheap, safe, environmentally-friendly, politically-correct and deeply respecting the local culture and religion.

You can still do a lot wrong when you're doing nothing. I suggest we print more money and send it to them, that's what my great European Union does all the time - and boy, it works sooo well, just look at Somalia, where an entire new industry with thousands of jobs was created by paying hundreds of millions to free a few ships.

Deep breath and settle (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375438)

Phew!

I thought I was going to have to inject silicon under the skin on my shoulder. Funny, didn't think all those implant leakages produced well adjusted, although a little quiet and drooley, bar wenches.

"Turn the desert green" backfires (4, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375460)

Wouldn't you know it. You turn the desert into an environment that supports agriculture and the very thing you got rid of in mass quantities turns out to be the main ingredient in the technology of the future. Doesn't that just rub you the wrong way.

Re:"Turn the desert green" backfires (2, Informative)

SirLoadALot (991302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375836)

Actually at the moment things are going from green to desert. Desertification is a major problem around the world, including Africa and China, where arable land is being lost to the expansion of major deserts.

Marketing/advert submissions (4, Insightful)

lanner (107308) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375482)

While new battery technology is very important in our current time, the sheer number of duplicate stories and borderline advertisement/marketing stories on Slashdot about these new batteries, WITH a combines lithium FUD scare at the same time no less, sours these stories.

Re:Marketing/advert submissions (4, Informative)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375512)

While new battery technology is very important in our current time, the sheer number of duplicate stories and borderline advertisement/marketing stories on Slashdot about these new batteries, WITH a combines lithium FUD scare at the same time no less, sours these stories.

Seconded. Does anyone else remember when Slashdot stories linked to journals and essays rather than blogs and press releases? Hopefully the click-through counts reflect the /. reader's ability to avoid anything with "blog" or "gadget" or perhaps these days even "google" in the URL.

Re:Marketing/advert submissions (1)

Nikker (749551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375588)

Thirds over here. Maybe if we get some low UID's involved in this thread we can bump the IQ of the Slash Populous a notch above rather than debating evilness and iphones.

Just a thought....

Re:Marketing/advert submissions (3, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375736)

"Just a thought...

I had that thought once but when I tested it I found UID's and IQ's are not inversely related.

Re:Marketing/advert submissions (1)

Nikker (749551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376122)

I never made that relation. The reason I mentioned the UID was in hopes that it would carry more weight with the sites editors. Many of the low UID's can remember where the site came from and maybe they can help to inspire Taco et al to bring it back.

Re:Marketing/advert submissions (1)

crazycheetah (1416001) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376090)

You know, that's what I've been thinking... I used to come on /. and read some really interesting thing every day. Now, I end up not even RTFA unless it actually sounds like it has some truly good stuff in the article. And yet I'm still disappointed when I do RTFA quite a lot lately, for how much it doesn't seem like much more than an advertisement/marketing story or blog article.

Disclaimer: My UID doesn't reflect how long I've browsed /., as I didn't use to read the comments nearly as much as I read the actual articles (which has kinda reversed)

Re:Marketing/advert submissions (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376342)

I seemed to miss the part where this is a marketable product. It looks to me like standard "This research will change the world" silliness that likely won't be commercialized for years. It says as much in the linked posts.

And what is Slashdot for if not publicizing vaporware?

Re:Marketing/advert submissions (1)

mr crypto (229724) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376416)

Seconded again. It seems like new energy technologies are announced at around one per week, and they invariably use "could", "might", "hope" and other terms for "it is not proven but we want more money for research". Everyone is hoping for a silver bullet, but continuation of these articles just breeds cynicism.

We need a Slashdot tag for these, something like "hopeful".

Natrium batteries (2, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375498)

Chemically very similar to Lithium. Plenty of Natrium around.

 

Re:Natrium batteries (5, Informative)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375552)

Natrium is called SODIUM in English. (Not sure, but I think that English is the only language that does not use the word "natrium" for Na).

And it might not be able to form the components that you need for the battery (it's not pure lithium).

Read more here.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium-ion_battery#Electrochemistry [wikipedia.org]

Also, if it would work, sodium is much heavier than lithium.

Re:Natrium batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30375614)

not true, czech language doesn't use "natrium" for Na either, it is called "sodik" instead

Re:Natrium batteries (4, Informative)

pmontra (738736) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375640)

Not sure, but I think that English is the only language that does not use the word "natrium" for Na.

Natrium was the original Latin name for the element but it's Sodium in English http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium [wikipedia.org] , sodio in Italian http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodio [wikipedia.org] , sodium in French http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium [wikipedia.org] , sódio in Portuguese http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B3dio [wikipedia.org] , sodio in Spanish http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodio [wikipedia.org] and I stop here because I don't want to enter into languages I don't know.

Google gives 12,500,000 occurrences of Sodium and 730,000 of Natrium.

Re:Natrium batteries (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376018)

Interestingly it's natrium in both Finnish and Swedish.

Re:Natrium batteries (1)

dvh.tosomja (1235032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375712)

> Not sure, but I think that English is the only language that does not use the word "natrium" for Na

Slovak and Czech call it "Sodík"

Re:Natrium batteries (4, Informative)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375732)

Natrium is called SODIUM in English. (Not sure, but I think that English is the only language that does not use the word "natrium" for Na).

No, both are used very widely, actually: "Sodium" (from arabic suda: soda headache tablets) is used in most Romance and Slavic languages and "Natrium" (from ancient Egyptian natron: baking soda/soda ash) is used in Germanic languages and Hungarian/Serbocroatian, mostly due to the influence of Berzelius (who was a Swede).

Re:Natrium batteries (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375752)

Also, if it would work, sodium is much heavier than lithium.

and much lighter than nickel.
 

English is wrong. (3, Funny)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375758)

Natrium is called SODIUM in English.

The chemical name is Natrium. Clearly English is wrong.

 

Re:English is wrong. (2, Interesting)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375992)

The chemical name for mercury is "hydrargyrum" and I'm glad nobody uses that regularly. "Quicksilver" could follow the latin word best without bending the tongue of scientists and technicians beyond repair.

Re:English is wrong. (2, Funny)

Darth Sdlavrot (1614139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376198)

You must be from München.

I'm from Munich, and I call it Sodium.

Re:Natrium batteries (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375794)

How about "Sódio" in Portuguese?

Re:Natrium batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30375832)

Its called "natrium" in Swedish. Never heard of sodium until you wrote it.

Re:Natrium batteries (1)

MattSausage (940218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376230)

So just out of curiosity, and probably to be modded redundant, the Chemical formula for salt is spoken as "Natrium Chloride" there?

Re:Natrium batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30376220)

Actually, Spanish word for sodium is "sodio". Funny thing, as one would have expected it to be "natrio" instead (just substitute "o" for "um" and there you have a Spanish version of a Latin word). Which makes me wonder if someone at sometime forgot that sodium probably comes from Arabic, as per Wikipedia, and thought it was Latin instead.

Re:Natrium batteries (2, Insightful)

Darth Sdlavrot (1614139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376348)

Actually, Spanish word for sodium is "sodio". Funny thing, as one would have expected it to be "natrio" instead (just substitute "o" for "um" and there you have a Spanish version of a Latin word). Which makes me wonder if someone at sometime forgot that sodium probably comes from Arabic, as per Wikipedia, and thought it was Latin instead.

Perhaps Spanish was influenced by the Arab presence in Spain during the Middle Ages?

Re:Natrium batteries (1)

thodi (37956) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375558)

That would be sodium for most people here, by the way.

Re:Natrium batteries (1)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375584)

Hmmm yes but no.
Lithium has quite the diagonal relationship with Magnesium.
Diffusion of Sodium is quite different than Lithium's.

Lithium limited? (5, Informative)

MojoRilla (591502) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375516)

According to the All Cars Electric blog [allcarselectric.com] there is no looming shortage of lithium. From the article:

Gerson Lehrman Group, a New York consulting firm, estimates that even if 500,000 cars powered by lithium ion batteries were produced in 2015, they would use less than 10 percent of last year's global lithium output. And global output continues to climb.

And there is the fact that salt water has lithium. In fact, some startups are trying to extract it now [wired.com] . If the price goes high enough, it will be practical to extract lithium from the ocean.

Re:Lithium limited? (2)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375548)

To say that the supply of lithium is limited, is like going back 150 years ago and saying that the supply of oil is limited.

Re:Lithium limited? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375738)

To say that the supply of lithium is limited, is like going back 150 years ago and saying that the supply of oil is limited.

So when can we expect Peak Lithium?

Re: peak lithium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30375862)

Every day obviously, but which peak are you referring to? Mania or Depression?

Thank you. Thank you. I'll be here all the week.

Re:Lithium limited? (2, Informative)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375864)

depends. right now were're surface mining lithium salts from exposed salt flats. theres no telling how many rich veins of lithium salts are hiding in valleys or near aquifers. i'm sure someone is working on that, but until someone runs analysis on where those veins might be i doubt anyone could tell you. more than likely battery technology will move beyond lithium long before (100 years?) we run out of lithium "ore" you can just shovel off the ground and into the back of a truck (Seriously, do a google image search for "lithium ore" - they literally shovel it right off the ground into piles, and later into pickup trucks)

Re:Lithium limited? (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376016)

A few weeks after Peak Copper, Peak Oil and Peak IQ.

Peak Oil is scheduled since thirty years to happen any minute.
Peak Copper is currently underway in Europe because valuable non-ferrous metals are pilfered where and whenever the police isn't looking for a second.
But Peak IQ already happened in 1990 (google for "Flynn Effect", if you doubt it) but I think it was some sort of a pre-requisite for the other Peaks - with the exception of Peak Climate, which curiously follows the inverse of the Flynn Effect trend.

Peak Oil is past. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30376216)

Peak Oil is past. Peak oil isn't "we're running out" or even "we're not able to get it out quicker" but merely that you can't increase supply to match demand.

That's all.

And that passed us by in the 70's in the US, 90's in South America and North Sea and depending on which country, the 80s to the 00's in the Middle East.

Increased oil prices are the proof. OPEC tries to keep the price low enough to be sold quickly and high enough to be profitable, thereby maximising the rate of profit making in the oil industry.

That they have been unable to control the prices shows Peak Oil is past.

Re:Lithium limited? (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375870)

Would extracting lithium from the sea impact sea-life? I imagine if we started doing that and relying on it, our consumption would just keep spiralling upwards while there was a drawn-out global debate about what effect it is having, which gets resolved just in time to stop the human race dying out, but not in time to stop significant destruction to the marine ecosystem.

but i might just be being paranoid/pessimistic as i don't know anything about it.

Re:Lithium limited? (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376032)

We are already extracting sodium and chloride from sea water and it's a boon to people and Golf courses in the Middle East.

But we could start mining lithium in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and filter out all the plastic nurdles there and sell them as a cheap by-product, would that appease the Greens?

Re:Lithium limited? (4, Informative)

MtHuurne (602934) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375988)

There are some important differences though. Oil is used as an energy source, while lithium is used to store energy. When a battery reaches its end of life, the lithium can be extracted and used to make a new battery.

Also, a rising price of lithium means more lithium ore will become economical to mine. Because extracting oil takes energy, there is a point at which it is not worthwhile to extract the oil since you would have to burn more oil than you extract.

Besides, the price of lithium is currently a very small portion of the price of a battery. The price of lithium could rise to 10 times its current level and batteries would still be affordable. If the price of oil would rise to 10 times its current level, the impact would be huge.

Summary (3, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375538)

Still in prototype (seems he might have only made one, and he tested it for 600 hours ). Not rechargable. More powerful than current hearing aid batteries. May be made rechargable in 10 years (how on earth do people estimate this stuff? How can you estimate how long it will take to do something no one has ever done? It might not even be possible). Rumors abound. If it works out it will be great, but don't hold your breath.

Still, it's kind of cool that you can make a battery out of sand.

Re:Summary (5, Informative)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375566)

First of all (I'm a researcher in power MEMS/micro power sources), I must say that a battery that has been tested for 600 hours count as an excellent proof of concept. Most of the stuff we develop we're happy if it works for minutes, let alone hundreds of hours. This is in advanced stage. Second: so what if it's "only" a primary battery? The market for primary batteries is HUGE and because they are disposable, making them cheap and environmentally friendly is just if not more important, than with secondary batteries.

Re:Summary (4, Funny)

AGMW (594303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375688)

Still, it's kind of cool that you can make a battery out of sand.

Yep, and to charge it you just turn it over!

Estimates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30375894)

off-topic, but...

How can you estimate how long it will take to do something no one has ever done? It might not even be possible)

Heh. That's what folks in my industry (software) do all the time.

(/me runs to skirt the customer hitting me over the head)

Re:Summary (2, Interesting)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376086)

My car still burns non-rechargeable hydrocarbons and one tank barely lasts 600 hours.

If the energy-to-weight and energy-to-cost ratios of that battery could reach even the general vicinity of gasoline, everything else concerning click-in systems or replacement is peanuts and will be invented less than one second after the battery itself. Of course we will have BluBattery and HD-Battery warring for dominance, but that's only a minor nuisance compared to the fact that we now could power cars, trucks, boats and airliners without needing to pay or liberate more 17th century cleptocracies somewhere in the deserts.

charge my batteries (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375542)

in a daze 'cause i found juice

does this mean (3, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375576)

they'll be treating manic depression with silicone?

Then again, I guess they've been doing that for years with breast implants...

Re:does this mean (2, Funny)

rcamans (252182) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376276)

And what's this sexism bs? Why not femic depression? Or Femalic?

Re:does this mean (2, Funny)

bilbobob (1036984) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376524)

More to the point, in 10 years time my girlfriend will have implants that can recharge my ipod. Obviously contactless power would be best; not sure USB piecings would go down too well. I might even start saving for my own pec implants now.

Information (1)

gabebear (251933) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375604)

Paper at http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1388248109003889 [elsevier.com]

The capacity of the prototypes was very small, but they are hoping to acchieve 10 Ah/g.

Re:Information (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376194)

Specific Ampere hours don't tell much about the energy content, which is the crucial value in battery development.

The paper talks about a 1-1.2V battery, so we could assume it gets about 1 Wh/g or 1kWh/kg. 1 kWh = 3.6MJ, so this battery could reach about 3-4MJ/kg.

Gasoline or diesel are in the range of 40-50 MJ/kg, but the engine and ancilliaries are much heavier than a simple electric motor. This electric motor has a much higher torque than four-stroke gasoline engines and can sustain short bursts of much higher peaks, therefore 75kW would be comparable in an electric car. Assuming a common automotive power plant of 100kW weighs about 200kg complete with all liquids including 50l of gasoline, we would have 12.5MJ/kg for this common application total.

This revolutionary battery is still only a third of the power-to-weight ratio of a common automotive power plant (with an estimate probably erring some in favor of the battery). And that is without the electric motor, because I have no idea how much a 75kW specimen weighs.

Re:Information (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30376386)

I have no idea how much a 75kW specimen weighs.

(Posting anonymously in order to preserve mod points)

A lot less than you'd think. I have a 10kW motor that weighs 1.5kg, and isn't as wide around as my out-streched hand. The biggest enemy for these permanent magnet motors is heat. Even if your 100kW motor is 99% efficient, you still have to dump 1kW. Assuming that the motor scales (and it does), you could make 100kW out of 15kg, but I don't know how you'd keep the magnets below 85C (the temperature at which normal supermagnets demagnetize).

And of course 99% is unrealistic. 90% would be a little better. So now you have to dump 10kW of heat from an object the size of an LCD screen. That's quite a lot of cooling. Cars get away with it because much-- perhaps the overwhelming majority-- of their waste heat goes out the exhaust in the form of hot gasses.

Still, contrast that size and weight with an equivalent car engine and you see why electric is so interesting. Cooling them efficiently is a challenge, but by no means impossible.

Understand how it works - and then applications (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30375608)

The article does not help understand how it actually works, so I read around and went to the Technion-friends website.

Basically normal sand is Silicon-Dioxide. If you take pure silicon and build a battery from it, and expose the battery to air, the silicon will interact with the oxygen in the air. So the pure silicon will become silicon dioxide - sand. In the process, it releases energy.

The neat trick in the battery - is that they set it up so that the energy is released NOT as heat (which is the usual thing), but some of it as electricity. They do this with some kind of membrane that allows oxygen ions to flow through, but electrons must come the other way - hence an electric flow.

Like any innovation, will take some years to be fully researched and commercialized. Small batteries will probably come first, bigger ones (for cars) later. And how to recharge does not seem obvious - at least not from the description so far.

A lot of people above are skeptical - but really this kind of innovation is what science and engineering are all about. Innovation goes hand in hand with raising ever more questions; we should be used to that by now.

Really really cool. And smart. My hat off to the Israeli guys and their collaborators in USA & Japan.

(Electro-)Chemistry is quite fuzzy (5, Informative)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375620)

I have read the original publication (doi:10.1016/j.elecom.2009.08.015) and cannot understand much of the (electro-)chemistry of it.
The electrode potential is strongly dependent on the doping of the silicon, which makes sense, but the I/V curve looks less than impressive. It's mostly a bad fuel cell, at the moment.
Also, the chemistry of the electrolyte is not clear to me. In principle the battery should work according to dissolution of Si from the anode, transport through the electrolyte (an ionic liquid with fluorine) and reaction with oxygen at the air cathode. The researchers claim that they observe a white deposit at the cathode, and that this deposit is SiO2.
Silicon-fluorine chemistry is quite complicated, IIRC, and I cannot for the life of me imagine transport of Si4+ ions in the electrolyte. Also, HF as such does not dissolve Si, but it need some strong acid to start the etching. How this phenomenon can happen in the ionic liquid is beyond me.

Also, in the introduction, the researchers claim that the battery has an "infinite shelf life", but then talk about corrosion currents in the paper. If there is corrosion (i.e. self discharge), then the shelf life is quite limited.
Cherry on top, they claim that SiO2 is easily reducible to reobtain Si. I am not familiar with silicon metallurgy, but I am not sure it is easy to do it electrochemically, let alone replate Si at the anode upon recharge.
On the plus side, they used metallurgical grade Si, which is dirt cheap when compared to semiconductor grade Si.

I would love for this to work, but at the moment the authors have omitted quite a bit of information. If I were the referee, I would have asked at least the questions above. Think of it, there is a corresponding author for a reason.

Disclaimer: I work in battery research, and I am hence jealous that they made it to the front page of Slashdot.

Re:(Electro-)Chemistry is quite fuzzy (1)

rcamans (252182) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376286)

Um, making the front page of a gossip blog of ill repute is not necessarily the peak of one's life.

I, for one, welcome my silicon overlords.

Specialty (3, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376460)

If this is your specialty, then please contribute more good articles about new batteries. It's hard to sort through the "coming soon in 10 years to never" from "coming soon, works pretty dang good now, perhaps on sale as early as next year" from "on sale now, here is a link" stuff.

Battery tech to me today is sort of like solar PV tech. I've read hundreds of articles of new amazing break throughs, yet when I go check prices, the PV panels I got ten years ago are still a deal compared to what I see offered for sale today. They are marginally more efficient today, but at twice the price. Same with ancient tech lead acid batteries for bulk stationary storage, or short range urban electric vehicles, still the best deal out there. As soon as you go to anything else, zooba, whip out the platinum card and prepare to pay as much for a battery bank as a new mid range conventional car.

That's what people are looking for, the currency unit to watts or amphours deal.

Except for the smallest portable gadgets using lithium ion, I am just not seeing any affordable and practical major breakthroughs hitting the market with either solar PV or batteries, compared to say the advances in the last ten years with computers/cellphones, what you can get for the same or less dollars.

Figuring out how it works (5, Informative)

giladpn (1657217) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375680)

(sorry may be some confusion - a double post since the previous one inadvertently was anonymous)

To better understand how this works, I went to the Tehnion website.

Sand is actually Silicon-dioxide (combined silicon and oxygen). Pure silicon interacts with oxygen form the air to create sand. That's first-year normal chemistry. Usually such an interaction produces heat not electricity.

They built the battery from pure silicon, and the trick is that Oxygen from the air has to pass through a membrane to get to the silicon and oxidize it. The membrane will allow only oxygen ions through, so electrons have to flow the other way to match up with the ions and maintain overall neutrality. Hence you get a current instead of only heat.

Of course it will take some years to commercialize. Small applications will come first (small batteries), only later will we get big batteries (for cars?) and even later rechargeable stuff (if at all). I noticed many people are skeptical - but this is normal in science and engineering. Any real innovation raises new questions that must be answered. Kudos to the Israeli team, and their collaborators from USA & Japan.

but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30375770)

what happens when we run out of sand? :)

But notice the caveats (4, Interesting)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375910)

Wonderful, but there are an awful lot of warning signs that this thing is not a world-beater:

* It's not rechargeable. And I don't know of any simple electrochemical process that reverses the oxidation of silicon.

* It requires a Flourine-carrying electrolyte! Lithium is bad enuf, but Fluorine is really bad stuff.

* Usually "air-powered" batteries are limited to very low current, slow discharge applications, such as hearing-aids.
So it's very unlikely these could ever work like in a laptop or car, where you need amps, not microamps.

* Any practical and competitive battery would have to have a good power-density and be stable and manufacturable at a reasonable price.

Re:But notice the caveats (4, Informative)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375942)

It requires a Flourine-carrying electrolyte! Lithium is bad enuf, but Fluorine is really bad stuff.

All Li-ion batteries carry a fluorine containing electrolyte. In particular, LiPF6 is the salt used, dissolved in organic solvents. Plus a whole bunch of additives. The ideal salt would be a perchlorate, but being explosive it's not allowed.

Call me VERY cynical, but. . . (-1, Flamebait)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376238)

I wouldn't put it past the Israeli psyops people to pull a stunt like this.

Please follow the logic.

1. "We're taking a beating in public relations as a nation. What with the whole deliberately bombing civilians, bulldozing homes [imemc.org] , withholding vital medical care from those who don't agree to become snitches [guardian.co.uk] , and perhaps the creepiest of the lot, abduction and organ harvesting. [wrmea.org] --Yes we can control the real press no problem, (have you heard those stories given full coverage in the "real" news?), but this internet nuisance. . ! It's out of our control. We tried a massive astro-turfing campaign with demonstrably false talking points (thank-you Jon Stewart for being the only guy in television land for having the gonads to point them out.) while we were bombing Palestine last holiday season, but when people are able to get together on the unrestricted internet and were able to discuss things in forum rather than simply stare at a CRT and nod like zombies, our evil toxic bullshit PR threatened to not be 100% effective. We need to control this internet!"

2. "What is the most vital, most exciting, most anticipated technological breakthrough that people closely associated with the internet have been wishing for? Ah yes. Good battery tech."

3. "Subtle message; keep us safe from repercussions resulting from our numerous crimes against humanity. (The abused sickeningly often turns into the abuser, and in the case of Israel, it's just a typical example. The West Bank IS a concentration camp.) --But just hold off for another 5 years, because if you turn on us now, you won't get these marvelous batteries which can make your laptops last forever, and did we forget to mention, they can also save the world from automotive greenhouse pollution? Copenhagen what? No that's just random timing, honest!"

4. "Profit."

Hm. Actually, now that I think my way through this, it just seems fishier and fishier. Why is the word "Israel" built into the company name? This smells of a psy-ops play for mind share. --Hardly surprising for the only country on the planet which was able to organize a giant astro-turfing campaign to bolster world-wide support for war crimes and atrocities during the so-called "Cast lead" where the IDF used phosphorus on civilian targets. For crying out loud!

Sorry, Israel. I could care less about your religion, (or any religion, for that matter), but your government is evil and like Germany, the world is letting you get away with it. Heck, worse, the US is funding the damned thing.

So, sorry, no, I don't think your oh-so-innocent battery story making headlines is what it says it is.

-FL

Re:Call me VERY cynical, but. . . (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376540)

Why is the word "Israel" built into the company name? This smells of a psy-ops play for mind share.

So you argue that National Semiconductor is a CIA front (having "National" in its name and being American)? American Express was founded in 1850 but the olderst three-letter agency I can think of, the FBI, is half a century younger. Who does AmEx work for?

Also, this battery is interesting but hardly going to revolutionize the automotive world. From the specs they have released it sounds more like a replacement for zinc-air batteries used in hearing aids. Unless they invent a car that runs on ~1V these batteries are unlikely to power one.

So we have "hey, let's use a company with a name that will immediately put all the conspiracy theorists on high alert to release research data about a somewhat nice but not very exciting new battery technology so they will let us get away with whatever we want". Sorry, but either the Israelis are complete idiots or this is not a scheme to somehow keep us from scrutinizing them.

Re:Call me VERY cynical, but. . . (1)

BeardedChimp (1416531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376554)

As much as I despise how Israel behaves as a nation, do not mistake the actions of it's government for that of it's scientists.

Sion (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30376546)

i wish calling Lithium batteries "Li-on" (Li + ion) had taken root. Maybe we'll get it this time with Si-on.

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