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Degraded Electrodes Observed In Aging Batteries

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the taking-away-all-the-mystery dept.

Power 108

schliz writes "Scientists have identified nanoscale changes in aging lithium-ion batteries that could be responsible for their degradation over time. By dissecting and examining dead batteries, they found that some lithium was irreversibly lost from the positive to negative electrode of dead batteries, and no longer participated in charging and discharging. They discovered that finely-structured nanomaterials on dead batteries' electrodes had coarsened in size, and theorise that the coarsening of the cathode may be responsible for the loss of lithium."

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Too bad your mom! (-1, Troll)

PeopleMakeMeLOL (1717442) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959278)

I guess she'll have to replace her rechargeable batteries in her Silver Bullet sooner than expected...

Planned obsolescence (2, Funny)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959332)

I thought that's the way they were engineered - to generate revenue by way of having to replace them annually.

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959386)

I have a thirteen year battery that still gives over a hour and a half of service. The number of cycles is everything. If you deep cycle it every day, you won't get two years out of it.

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959456)

Really ? I thought it was exactly the opposite.

Re:Planned obsolescence (3, Informative)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959910)

Modern lithium polymer batteries survive best if you keep cycling them regularly, but *not* deep cycling them. Regularly discharging to 30-70%, and then charging again keeps them nice and healthy. Running them down to 0% all the time drives charge backwards through some cells, and helps cause early death.

Re:Planned obsolescence (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33963750)

>>>Regularly discharging to 30-70%, and then charging again keeps them nice and healthy.

I like to use a dog analogy. If you feed your dog until he's overweight, then don't feed him until he's skeletal, and then feed him again til he's overweight, then don't feed until he's skeletal... your dog won't live long. The stress will shorten his life. ----- The same is true for batteries. Overcharging and then draining them to empty stresses the cell. The ideal is to hold the battery between 60% and 90%, avoid stressing it, and thereby extend its life. That's what Toyota and Honda do to extend their hybrid battery life longer than the gasoline engine.

On another note:

I like NiMH (nickle-metal hydride) better than Lithium. They only hold 75% as much energy but have a very long lifetime (over ten years if not abused), and when they do start showing age, and dying after just a few hours, a "refresh" cycle in a charger will restore them to like new condition again. Plus they can be tossed into landfills because they are environmentally neutral (no mercury, no cadmium, nothing hazardous).

Bravo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33964078)

A dog-car-battery analogy all rolled into one!

Re:Planned obsolescence (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960858)

>>>I thought it was exactly the opposite.

I like to use a dog analogy. If you feed your dog until he's overweight, then don't feed him until he's skeletal, and then feed him again til he's overweight, then don't feed until he's skeletal..... your dog won't live long. The stress will shorten his life.

The same is true for batteries. Overcharging and then draining them to empty stresses the cell. The ideal is to hold the battery between 60% and 90%, avoid stressing it, and thereby extend its life. That's what Toyota and Honda do to extend their hybrid battery life longer than the gasoline engine.

On another note:

I like NiMH (nickle-metal hydride) better than Lithium. They only hold 75% as much energy but have a very long lifetime (over ten years if not abused), and they can be tossed into landfills because they are environmentally neutral. Also they are not prone to suddenly short-circuit and explode.

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33962016)

NiCd are the opposite. They need to be fully discharged, or it will be difficult to charge them again.

Re:Planned obsolescence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33962870)

While I'll never win this argument, and really don't care (and it is becoming moot anyway)

The oft-cited memory effect is overblown. The actual, original, effect was a phenomenon observed in satellite batteries in very specific conditions.

Moreover, there is another reasonable (and tested) explanation for everyday NiCd "fatigue" people always observed. NiCd batteries were typically used with cheap, dumb power supply chargers. It would just put a voltage out that was reasonable to get a safe current to flow for most of the charge. If you hooked up an empty NiCd for 14-hours, you're fine. But if you hook up the 50% full NiCd for the same (recommend) time, you now start to cause over-charging effects that cause some very well known physical changes in NiCds that increase self-discharge and effectively destroy capacity. Also, how could the user be blamed for not knowing the precise capacity and the appropriate charge-time (they can't).

NiMH coming the market has this mitigated in two ways. First, NiMH are much more forgiving of over-charging. Secondly, recently, an IC controlled smarter current-regulating charger is a common-place and cheap thing even for the AA plugin chargers.

I still have NiCd power tools (decent-quality, not the dollar-store crap), that use smart chargers with temperature sensors and graduated charging. I just pop the battery in there between uses, and these batteries have lasted for years. The same thing goes for handheld radio equipment.

Lithium-Ion batteries cannot even be safely implemented without smart charging/supervision techniques, so charge-management is a non-issue for the *most part*, but there are occasionally problems.

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33962970)

But does anyone even make or use NiCd batteries any more?

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

dcavanaugh (248349) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961774)

Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) works as you expect. Those batteries are old technology, but they are still used in some cordless power tools and certain other applications. Unless you let them fully run down, the develop "memory" and refuse to run out a normal cycle. The memory issue does not apply to NiMH and Lithium Ion, but each of those technologies has its own limitations.

Lithium Ion is gradually replacing NiCd in power tools. But there are issues such as the temperature extremes and high current loads that such tools can be subjected to. In a professional environment where the tools are used intensively every day with battery packs fully discharged, Lithium Ion may not prove to be the best choice.

NiMH prefers what NiCd hates: a partial charge/discharge. I am told the NiMH batteries in a Toyota Prius are charged only to 55% of capacity, and allowed to run down only to 45% before charging begins. The car carries 10x as much battery capacity as it actually uses, supposedly to maximize battery life. I don't know for sure if it works that way, but that's what I heard.

Re:Planned obsolescence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33963088)

While NiCd is nearly dead and buried, so this argument is mostly useless.

I am still not convinced, even the tremendous amount of folklore, that the "memory" effect is real in the situations people generally describe.

The original "memory" effect was discovered in a very special situation with a number of controls that didn't apply to everyday use. At best, using this documented "evidence" is simply a misapplication. If a memory effect separate from other well known degradation effects is what really caused problems for Joe-Blow, I would need much more appropriate evidence.

Until convinced otherwise, I usually just assume the everyday world observed memory effects are 90% of the time due to regular overcharging, which was easy to do when most home chargers were nothing more than a dumb voltage source. The scenario is similar. You hook up the battery from empty for 12-hours, and you're good. You deplete it to 60% (but of course how do you know if its 30 or 60), and so you just put it back on the charger. Or you forget about it for a day. Whatever. Back in the day it was trivially easy to overcharge, and NiCd don't like that much.. certainly no more than any memory effect.

My personal experience has been that with a temp and current control smart-charger (like with high quality power tools and radio equipment) I have little problems, simply popping the battery in whenever.. I have a NiCd pack for a radio that is 15 years old, has seen quite a bit of use, and the pack still runs acceptably. I would gladly replace these NiCd packs... if I had to. Likewise with high-quality power-tools.

NiMH is an improvement for sure. It is more resilient in a number of metrics, and far more environmentally friendly (relatively).

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 3 years ago | (#33963432)

NiMH prefers what NiCd hates: a partial charge/discharge. I am told the NiMH batteries in a Toyota Prius are charged only to 55% of capacity, and allowed to run down only to 45% before charging begins. The car carries 10x as much battery capacity as it actually uses, supposedly to maximize battery life. I don't know for sure if it works that way, but that's what I heard.

Close, it's about a 45-75% [howstuffworks.com] range:

To get maximum life out of the Prius battery pack, the car's computer brain does not allow the battery to fully charge or discharge. Toyota says that for the best service life, the Prius battery likes to be kept at about a 60 percent charge. In normal operation, the system usually lets the charge level vary only 10-15 percentage points. Therefore, the battery is rarely more than 75 percent charged, or less than 45 percent charged.

If you're familiar with the Prius, you know there's a battery-charge indicator on the instrument panel. Toyota says this isn't the charge level per se, but rather a state-of-charge window. The top of the window represents about a 75 percent charge, the bottom about 45 percent charge.

The take-away should be: if you buy a modern device, it should have on-board power management to take care of this. For example the new Macbooks with non-replaceable batteries do similar battery management [apple.com] to maintain life.

Re:Planned obsolescence (2, Interesting)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959396)

We've come a long way since replacement batteries that cost as much as the laptop/phone did in the first place.

Order some generic cells and get soldering.

Re:Planned obsolescence (2, Insightful)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959428)

Apparently, you've never owned an Apple product.

Re:Planned obsolescence (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33959800)

We don't count Apple products in the realms of Progress.

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33963070)

Apparently replacement batteries are indeed available for Apple handheld devices. The trick is to get them open, but kits are available. As for replacing the battery in your MacBook, though, I wouldn't have a clue.

Re:Planned obsolescence (2, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961264)

Do I need to remind you that you have a choice in what products you buy?

Buy something that is open/hackable/geek friendly.
Buy batteries that can be rebuilt by the user using only a screw driver and soldering iron.
Buy laser printers that have a toner refill port.
Buy routers that can be reflashed with your choice of firmware.

Who gives a FUCK about apple. Why does /. even have an apple section?

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960322)

I don't know, I paid $20 for an IBM thinkpad with a bad battery and bad hard drive. Replacing the battery would cost half as much as I paid for my Acer netbook last April.

Of course, the Thinkpad was probably a couple grand when it was new.

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33964476)

The battery pack can be rebuilt for $20 or so.

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965292)

Where? I googled, the cheapest I found was $150.

Re:Planned obsolescence (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33959582)

I read it as

Deranged Electrodes Observed In Aging Batteries

I guess that's what happens when you get older and are bipolar.

Re:Planned obsolescence (2, Informative)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960570)

I just found a power setting on my new Ideapad that keeps the maximum charge at %80. You lose 1/5th of the runtime in the short term, but you should be able to get a much longer total runtime over time out of it, especially if you keep it plugged in. Thank you, Lenovo.

Which brings to my next point: DON"T KEEP YOUR LAPTOP PLUGGED IN. Charge it, then unplug. The battery will last much longer if you continually cycle it, rather than if you try to keep it topped off all of the time. I've toasted batteries in 6 months by keeping them plugged in for too long. Use them like batteries, or they will die.

Re:Planned obsolescence (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33961356)

If you want to keep your laptop plugged in (say if you use it as a desktop replacement), take out the battery.

I am using the first (original) battery that came with it, it's still good enough to give me about 20 minutes worth of power so in case of a power outage there's enough time to finish what I am doing, saving my work, and gracefully power down the system (unless the power came back up, of course).

I bought an aftermarket regular and an extended capacity battery for less than an original Sony battery would have cost me (disclaimer: I bought the laptop used).

Re:Planned obsolescence (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 3 years ago | (#33962836)

Some laptops won't run with the battery removed, and some batteries can't be removed (easily).

Nonetheless, you can't have it both ways. Either you get a topped off battery that's ready when you need it (at the cost of slightly diminishing the life of the battery each day), or you have a disconnected battery that will self-discharge even if it's not in use. As you say, if it's 100% a desktop replacement, then removing the battery is worth a shot, provided you remember to re-insert it and allow it to charge before mobile use. If you're regularly using it for mobile use, however, you'll probably just have to suck it up.

It would be nice to see a switch to electrically disconnect the battery without the need to remove it, allowing for the best of both worlds, but that's probably expecting too much.

Re:Planned obsolescence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33964076)

You know, I don't have enough data to strongly confirm nor dispute your findings, so I will do neither. But it brings up a couple interesting issues.

First, I toasted a battery on a desktop-replacement in short order, but I assumed the primary cause was heat. And not from charging the battery. Plugged in, the machine would run full blast, and with dedicated video that got hotter than a fucker as well. So I wonder how much the keeping it plugged in really causes problems (ie lack of cycling) vs the simple cause of the battery being constantly in a hottish environment.

The second thing is, if cycling really helped by itself (and the heat wasn't an issue), why not simply cycle the battery continuously in the background. Being an EE of products sold into price-sensitive markets (not all EEs are battery chemistry experts though--even though I designed power supplies and Li-Ion charging circuits for a living--it is a complex subject and the basic theory doesn't always explain the effective phenomena, and there is a lot of misinformation out there, even amongst certain "experts"), I am aware that "hybrid-drive" circuitry could easily add a few bucks to the BOM, which may be reason enough (Its not like you could just dump power into a resistive element in a portable device--unless you needed it to run in the Yukon).

But I would still be curious if there was any real, *good* scientific evidence, that certain types of cycling would prolong Li-Ion life measurably, over and above the effects of banal heat issues and the known inevitable "shelf-life" issue, that these dudes are looking at.

Keyword slapping strategy. (2, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959350)

Every decade they find some keyword and the slap it on everything in sight. In the past they have indiscriminately slapped "motor" "radio" "jet" "aero" "bio" "e-" ... Now it is "nano".

Gimme a break. These batteries are based on electro-chemistry. You know, interactions between molecules. Everything that goes on in batteries, all batteries, are nanoscale, by definition. Corrosion in the electrodes had been known and studied for ages. It is a damn chemical reaction that will happen at molecular level.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (3, Insightful)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959448)

Sure, the net effect is at the macro-scale. But we now have the ability to look at these systems at the nano-scale and investigate why the "damn chemical reaction" gets going in the first place. "Nano" here says more about the equipment used to look at the battery than the battery itself.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959656)

Electrochemists everywhere have known why the 'damn chemical reaction' gets going for many decades, and equipment that allows study at 'nano' scales has been around for quite a while now also, even though it continues to get better. I see no basis to criticize these researchers, since there was almost no information of substance in the article. But I have to agree with the grandparent: if you want to get your research funded, or want people to read your article, be sure to scatter the word nano around. Some people will react to the word as if its a sure indicator of cutting edge work.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

RaymondKurzweil (1506023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965750)

Fuck you, buzzword hating bitch. Be warned, in 2030 you may well find yourself left-behind after the Singularity rapture.

Nanobots are the way and the life. If you don't believe in them, may your puny brain turn to goo.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (2, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959942)

Yeah, I wish I'd had one of those fancy-pants "nanoscopes" to look at slides of fly wings and flower pollen when I was a lad - we had to make do with primitive "microscopes".

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961602)

Nanoscope? Ha! I'm waiting to get my picoscope!

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 3 years ago | (#33962908)

Pfft, nanoscopes. Anyone not using a femtoscope might as well just turn in their nerd card now.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (0, Redundant)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33963178)

Pfft, femtoscopes. Anyone not using a yoctoscope might as well turn in his nerd card now.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 3 years ago | (#33963910)

Pfft, femtoscopes. Anyone not using a yoctoscope might as well turn in his nerd card now.

You expect me to give up my Planck length scope for that piece of crap?

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959454)

Absolutely. And considering that distances at that level are what? 10^-19? That is a gagaillionth.

So, this is really happening on the gaga scale.

Cue the bleach blond in the bikini!

Re:Be afraid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33959498)

And of course - these are the bastteries going into the electric cars of the future - Can you spell new battery pack expense of 10 grand every few years? - Be afraid - be very afraid.

You know, they buy those batteries back. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33959918)

You know, they buy those batteries back. Because the lithium and all is still there, but not taking any part in the situation. So they'll buy your 10 grands' worth of batteries for 8-9 grand.

And can you please not say "every few years" when you mean "every decade or so". Hyperbole is bad enough, but you're managing hyperbollocks.

So, all in all, that would be 2 grand in batteries every 15 years. 10,000km a year that would be 75km per dollar. Petrol prices at $1/gal that would only be matched at 50mpg+. And you'd still have to buy new batteries for your petrol car.

Cheers.

Re:You know, they buy those batteries back. (1)

HisMother (413313) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960098)

You forgot the cost of electricity for charging!

And you forgot that oil prices rise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33961402)

And you forgot that oil prices rise.

PS to the other AC, Toyota buy their Prius batteries back.

Who do you think buys your lead-acid batteries back? Or do you just chuck yours in the landfill?

Re:And you forgot that oil prices rise (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961888)

You get a core deposite back that reduces the cost of the new battery. If you don't return your battery when you buy a new one, the new battery costs approx. $20 more.

Re:You know, they buy those batteries back. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33960454)

Who exactly is buying these batteries back? All your arguments apply equally to Lead Acid Batteries, which are 99% recycleable. When I buy a new battery they will 'buy back' my old one for $9 in my state, $12 in others, but my new one is costing $60+. That's not the 80-90% your logic says they should pay me.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (4, Informative)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959532)

Really? You're complaining about using the term "nano" to refer to structures bigger than molecules but smaller than the wavelength of light?

By the same token, everything that goes on in your body is based on bio-chemistry, and therefore "nanoscale by definition". But it's still useful to distinguish (for example) biochemical changes in bone digestion due to biphosphonates from microscopic changes in bone structure associated with osteoporosis from large-scale changes associated with being run over by a truck.

The nanoscale structure of battery electrodes, larger than individual molecules but smaller than the wavelength of visible light, is absolutely critical to optimizing battery performance. It's distinct from the battery's basic chemistry, it's distinct from gross electrode shape and size, and it's certainly distinct from the macroscopic and chemical changes "studied for ages" in association with corrosion.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33959560)

Every decade they find some keyword and the slap it on everything in sight. In the past they have indiscriminately slapped "motor" "radio" "jet" "aero" "bio" "e-" ... Now it is "nano".

Gimme a break.

Agreed. And add to this the i... prefix (like iPod, iPhone, iPad, Iraq, Iran and so on).

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33959716)

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Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33959844)

My god, it is actually down to chemistry?

All these years I thought the batteries would catch cold, have
electrical indigestion, or develop tension myositis syndrome...

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (2, Insightful)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960032)

Some others...hi-fi, cyber, eco....

Other words are also used for their positive or negative connotation, stripped of other meaning. An example that comes to mind is when people say that something rocks. A song, a radio station, a musician, or a band can rock. Nothing else can rock, sorry.

I've noticed that many people with "good" language skills wield words easily because that's how they think. When they hear a new phrase they get some sense of its meaning, and subsequently use it where it seems to be appropriate. But it seems they don't actually have thoughts aside from their collection of phrases. If an idea doesn't map neatly to the syntax of whatever their primary language is, its not even real to them. On the other hand, some people who are slower with words struggle with language because they're not thinking in cliches, and have the challenge of figuring out how to contort their thoughts into words. These people appear stupid to those in the glib class, but in a substantial way they're actually smarter. (Of course, lots of really smart people are good with words, and lots of people who have trouble with words are stupid in other regards also.)

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33963570)

A song, a radio station, a musician, or a band can rock. Nothing else can rock, sorry.

So when I sit on that chair on my porch I'm, what, tipping back and forth? But not rocking?
More on point, anything that gets you up and moving can rock, even if it is not music.
Besides, rock and roll originally [etymonline.com] had a meaning before being applied to music: among other things, it refered to movements associated with sex.

rock (v.1)
"to sway," late O.E. roccian, related to O.N. rykkja "to pull, tear, move," Swed. rycka "to pull, pluck," M.Du. rucken, O.H.G. rucchan, Ger. rücken "to move jerkily." For musical senses, see rock (v.2). Rocking horse is first recorded 1724; rocking chair is from 1766. To rock the boat is attested from 1931. Rock-a-bye first recorded 1805 in nursery rhyme. rock (v.2)
"to dance to popular music with a strong beat," 1948 (first attested in song title "We're gonna rock"), from rock (v.1), in earlier blues slang sense of "to cause to move with musical rhythm" (1922); often used at first with sexual overtones (cf. 1922 song title "My Man Rocks Me (with One Steady Roll)"). Sense developed early 1950s to "play or dance to rock and roll music." Noun sense of "musical rhythm characterized by a strong beat" is from 1946, in blues slang. Rock star attested by 1966. Rocksteady, Jamaican pop music style (precursor of reggae), is attested from 1969.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 3 years ago | (#33964216)

I almost added a few sentences on the sex angle, and how that does and doesn't relate to what I'm talking about, but decided it wasn't worth the effort.

Thanks for the rocking chair meaning of the word 'rock' though, I wasn't aware of that one.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960084)

Indeed. I hate progress in anything other than technology as much as anyone else, but it is just barely possible that "nanoscale" is a reasonable term to use here. They are talking about very small physical changes in the electrode as Lithium atoms migrate away from it.

AFAIK, there's not official definition of "nanoscale", but I understand it usually refers to measurements between 1 and 100nm. It seems reasonable to apply the term to any kind of thing that is convenient to describe in nm (e.g., anything whose size is larger than an Angstrom but smaller than a micron).

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33960610)

'Finely-structured nanomaterials':

These are called dendrites, and they grow as individual lithium molecules are pulled off the cathode. They grow like, and look like a stalagmite in a cave. Essentially the dendrites start short-circuiting tiny portions of the battery, and reduce the available potential between layers. So yes, they are nano-SCALE-structures, created during a chemical process.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960756)

Gimme a break. These batteries are based on electro-chemistry. You know, interactions between molecules. Everything that goes on in batteries, all batteries, are nanoscale, by definition. Corrosion in the electrodes had been known and studied for ages. It is a damn chemical reaction that will happen at molecular level.

They're not talking about the chemistry, though. They're talking about structural changes. So while the "nano" may be annoying, it's appropriate. Still, this doesn't sound any different than already well-known mechanisms in lithium and nickel batteries. But being a good Slashdotter I only looked the summary, and that I only skimmed.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961896)

The same problem applies to electroplating operations. If your electrolyte bath is not in perfect condition, if temperatures are not right, if the current is too high, etc... you will get a bad plating finish.

Batteries (lead, lithium, nickel-cadmium, carbon-zinc) all have the same problem. A certain percentage of the metals end up in a state that is useless for battery operation. This should not be a big surprise to anyone who understands the chemical processes.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961278)

Gimme a break. These batteries are based on electro-chemistry. You know, interactions between molecules. Everything that goes on in batteries, all batteries, are nanoscale, by definition. Corrosion in the electrodes had been known and studied for ages. It is a damn chemical reaction that will happen at molecular level.

Except, we don't know why lithium-ion batteries age. That is, even if you treat them well, they'll eventually die out anywhere from 1-5 years. The clock starts ticking the moment they're manufactured, and their capacity decreases from that point onwards. Treating it well means it lasts a little longer, but they all have a well-defined expiry date.

It's why you never buy replacement LiIon batteries until you need it (the one you keep in storage will age at the same rate, maybe a little slower than the one in use), and avoid "New Old Stock" batteries like the plague. Even ones that have their charge maintained and never cycled die eventually. It's hard enough at times when you wonder if that battery on the shelf has been sitting around or you're looking at new stock.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33961964)

The problem is that morons are in charge of distributing funding. You have to use the buzz words or they think you're not doing up to date science.

Re:Keyword slapping strategy. (1)

StayFrosty (1521445) | more than 3 years ago | (#33962034)

You forgot to mention the suffixes marketing people love to slap on stuff. Slapping "-o-matic" on the end of everything from the 50's comes to mind right away.

News? Not news. (0, Flamebait)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959410)

This is news? Chemists have known of this issue with all chemical batteries for as far back as chemists have been involved with batteries. It gets attributed to Entropy. And this was taught in Chemistry 101 20 years ago.

  • Chemistry 101 - the one-semester everyone who is not a science major wants to take. The easy class that got shrugged at by non-chemistry majors.
  • 20 years go - it's probably being taught in High School these days.

Not just outdated, ridiculously outdated "news".

"This just in - scientists use vacuum tunnel and state of the art electronics to detect that gravity accelerates two different masses - at the same rate!!" [NB - sarcasm]

Re:News? Not news. (3, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959542)

And instead of just taking the "attributed" reason they bothered to do some work and report on what they suspect is the actual physical/chemical cause rather than just a catch-all "disorder". Since that helps with trying to reduce the problem.

Why didn't you do that sometime in the last 20 years if it was so damn obvious?

Re:News? Not news. (-1, Troll)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959648)

And instead of just taking the "attributed" reason they bothered to do some work and report on what they suspect is the actual physical/chemical cause rather than just a catch-all "disorder". Since that helps with trying to reduce the problem.

Why didn't you do that sometime in the last 20 years if it was so damn obvious?

  1. Instead of taking the "attributed" value of G in physics, we can keep re-testing it every few years just to ensure that we keep science alive - but I won't call it "News" when that's done.
  2. I stopped doing Chemistry 20 years ago, when I started doing Computer Science.
  3. They'll wind up increasing entropy in the process of trying to avoid it [but you may have had to take CHM 102 for that...]
  4. It's cheaper both in terms of money and entropy to recycle the battery instead of trying to slow down the molecular rearrangement into a permanent lower energy state.

Thanks for ths easy questions. Next time try some of Dr. Tantrum's "Elixer for Polite Discourse" before you post.

But if they wanted to get research grants instead of doing "real work", then they did a great job.

Re:News? Not news. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33959884)

What about places where removing the battery is hard? What about pacemakers, deep-space probes, or iPads? Wouldn't it be nice to have a battery that could handle far more recharge cycles than the current ones?

Re:News? Not news. (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961948)

This is where we need supercap technology to actually get working and usable for small devices. This way, we can replace the batteries in hard to access devices with supercaps that don't depend on a chemical reaction to store charge, and can be charged/discharged millions more times than a battery.

Re:News? Not news. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33962308)

except that capacitors can suffer from holes in their dielectric material that can be brought on by overcharging, chemical reactions, etc. These holes reduce the efficiency of certain types of capacitors over time, much like cathode/anode erosion in rechargable batteries can do.

Re:News? Not news. (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#33963068)

Very true, and an important concern. However, the average lifespan of a cap is definitely longer than a battery, especially if coupled with charging circuitry that can tell the dielectric is about to arc across and not keep stuffing farads in the thing.

The problem is that caps don't have enough energy/weight to make them a battery replacement yet.

Re:News? Not news. (2, Insightful)

my $anity 0 (917519) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959990)

Oh, I'm sorry, discovering WHY and HOW things happen suddenly isn't science. The only thing that's science is doing "real work". Strangely, I used to call that engineering.

Re:News? Not news. (0, Flamebait)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960166)

You're jumping to an incorrect conclusion based off of a faulty reading of my comment.

I never said it wasn't "science". I said it wasn't "news".

Have you actually read TFA?

Have you known the exact same information in TFA for 20+ years?

I can say "yes" to both. So I have the background and knowledge to opine: It ain't "News".

If in work I come across a "proof" as weak as the empty rhetoric found in these comments, I normally just let the person embarrass themselves.

But in slashdot, no one can admit their ignorance.... [in space, no one can ...]

Re:News? Not news. (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959736)

I'm glad you put the "[NB - sarcasm]" bin in there. I was just about to hopelessly embarrass myself by taking that seriously [NB - sarcasm].

Re:News? Not news. (1)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959900)

For most of the Slashdotters, it was unnecessary.

But there are those for whom it was absolutely needed.

Re:News? Not news. (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960064)

It was supposed to be a kind of joke, because I made the same 'error' you did ;)

Re:News? Not news. (1)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960232)

Oh. I thought it was supposed to be a kind of empty rhetoric.

Communication is a muddled action.

WTF? (1)

pinkeen (1804300) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959420)

"Things degrade and break over time, especially if you use them."
How this is news ? WTF?

Re:WTF? (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959626)

"Things degrade and break over time, especially if you use them."
How this is news ? WTF?

The article carefully avoided mentioning that the scale of the damage was not known before. In my limited chemistry knowledge I always assumed the problem was the electrodes either went into solution or gained a molecule thick film of icky-stuff that prevented the reactions.

Its bad news... If you're trying to prevent dissolving, well, thats a very well known problem and you can play games with buffer solutions and making the electrodes more or less insoluable, and all kinds of other ideas. Old tech "no problemo". Or if the problem was thin film growth, basically electroplating gone wild, thats also old tech "no problemo" with chleating agents and electropositive series and decades/centuries of metallurgical corrosion research. By old tech, no problemo, I mean its a well developed area of study, not "the great unknown", or not that the solution inevitably exists or is cheap, just that the research is likely to proceed quickly and efficiently. But what is a non-mechanical engineering solution to surface roughness getting screwed up chemically? Hmm. At this time of morning, I have no idea what the next step could be. Lots of blue sky research money getting spent, I'd guess.

Re:WTF? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960140)

Slashdot has just discovered entropy, apparently.

Solar backup (0)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959480)

How about equipping devices with a small solar cell that can act as a charger in emergencies? Might be a good idea when the LIon no longer roars.

Re:Solar backup (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959584)

A small solar cell isn't going to do shit, and whenever you're not using it, it's just a waste. Leaving batteries in the sun is a recipe for failure, so leaving battery-powered devices in the sun is the same. (Most of those solar battery chargers are fucking lame just for this reason, including ALL candybar chargers.)

If you want a small solar charger, carry it separately. You can get one with LiIon batteries in it from SlaveryExtreme for about $13.

Re:Solar backup (3, Funny)

isama (1537121) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959760)

I woudn't google SlaveryExtreme if I were you.

Re:Solar backup (1, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959996)

I woudn't google SlaveryExtreme if I were you.

If people don't know what DealExtreme is, or if people don't know that all this $2.99 shit coming out of China is built with slave labor, or can't put these two facts together, then they probably don't need to be buying any cheap chinese shit anyway.

Re:Solar backup (0, Offtopic)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960976)

When did we get all the China shills around here? It seems like lately when I mention that China is the place to which we outsource [most of] our slavery, I get downmodded. Yet, it is a known fact that a great deal of the cheap plastic shit you will see on the shelves is made with literal slave labor. Chinese prison camps come in two flavors, rock-breaking and toy-assembling. Rent What Would Jesus Buy and in the extras you will get to witness the account of one woman who was imprisoned in China for the crime of being openly Christian. She was tortured, raped, and imprisoned for years longer than her sentence. While she was in one camp, she literally was put to work assembling Christmas Lights which were to be sold at a major US chain. The simple truth is that buying goods from China is supporting slavery, period, end of story. It doesn't really matter whether you buy from some ethical company, either; it's all supporting the Chinese economy and I doubt there are many Chinese goods which do not include components made with slave labor.

After the actual slave labor we also have that which is virtual slavery, situations where workers are denied their rights and often forced to work in ridiculous conditions. We have that here too, though. It's called Mexican labor. You don't have to pay any benefits and most of them will just roll over and take it if they are injured on the job since they fear deportation. They live umpteen to an apartment for economic reasons and are happy to have it due to what their country is like... you know, the country whose politics we've been tampering in ever since forever, the country where the results of our war on drugs can be seen most vividly. Immigrant laborers are actually better than slaves because employers don't lose anything when they get sick, they just pick up the next worker. And they'll work just as hard with the whip of a starving family as they will with the old-fashioned kind.

I buy stuff from China all the time, but as long as they are such terrible abusers of human rights, buying anything from China is an irresponsible promotion of slavery.

Re:Solar backup (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961116)

It has pretty decent implications for vehicles. Even with a lead-acid battery, a small amp positive trickle charge will go a long way to making your battery last longer before it's in need of replacement.

Re:Solar backup (1)

WuphonsReach (684551) | more than 3 years ago | (#33962482)

It has pretty decent implications for vehicles. Even with a lead-acid battery, a small amp positive trickle charge will go a long way to making your battery last longer before it's in need of replacement.

Yeah, I have a Coleman solar charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the dash. It's about 10cm wide and 40-50cm long.

During the winter months when I don't go anywhere for a week or two at a time, it's the difference between a dead battery and one that will still start the car after two weeks. (If I don't *have* to go out on snowy/icy roads, I won't. And generally, I don't need to unless something comes up. I don't go stir crazy unless the internet stops working.)

Handy little thing. Excellent for any vehicle that you don't drive at least weekly. I just wish it was wired permanently into the system and mounted somewhere.

Re:Solar backup (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959786)

Because 90% of electronics can't run anything off the power supplied from a solar cell. Solar stuff is still inside the calculator / overnight trickle charger range of power.

Hell, it can take 8-10 hours to charge some AA's in some (not entirely dark) countries. If I have one as big as a folded out suitcase, I might *JUST* be able to get enough juice to start my car once if I leave it in direct sunlight for a few hours / days.

Seriously, your average laptop can pull 90W during booting (19V 4.5A isn't unusual on a PSU). To get even 10% of that, you need a good solar cell of a good size - a folded out briefcase sized solar panel gets you about 13W max (and that only at 12V so it would need to be converted up) with a standard product I can buy today - running in good light. On that briefcase I mentioned it says "During peak hours of sunshine, a mobile phone can be charged in an hour.". It weigh 4.5 kg.

You could SMOTHER your 19" screen laptop in solar cells (back and front and inside and out), add several kilos to the weight, leave it with direct sunlight from all directions, and STILL it would be hard pushed to do more than trickle-charge your battery or run an incredibly low power computing device. A single USB port sucks 5V at 500mA = 2.5W. Four USB ports and you're hitting the maximum of that briefcase which has a similar surface area, under theoretically ideal conditions.

Solar is a complete WASTE at the moment because it's nowhere near efficient enough, in terms of energy density, small scale deployments, etc. It can just about so what people now use it for: calculators, a very, very slow trickle charger, a couple of solar lights (almost always LED's so they are as low power as possible) running for a few hours at night after a day of sunshine. When it hits reasonable amounts of power, then you can begin to even think about anything like that.

If you want to get an idea of things like this, buy yourself one of those cheap wind-up / solar / battery torches that you can find cheap. Spend a week using the torch all day / listening to the radio from a 99p set of batteries. Then spend a week doing the same via solar. Then spend a week doing the same by only hand-cranking. The battery will last for possibly months. The solar cell will probably give you a good few hours - if you're lucky in your weather it'll be able to do 24/7 on such a low-power circuit. Hand-cranking will have you worn out by lunchtime. I guarantee you you will find a new respect for the amount of energy in the average set of batteries and the current efficiencies of things like solar cells and cheap electronics.

To summarise: Solar is shit. Most renewable energies are shit. But we're trying to make them better because we've been so spoiled in the last hundred years by simple things like zinc-carbon batteries, let alone anything more modern.

Re:Solar backup (1)

gabebear (251933) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960482)

Sticking solar panels on things you put in your bag/pocket is dumb, but solar does work well. You can pretty easily carry 50W+ of solar cells, which is enough to run most any laptop (you still need a charging circuit and a small battery as a buffer). http://www.katerno.com/detail.php?s=92637 [katerno.com]

One place where solar panels should be, and aren't, is on hybrid cars. As far as I can tell, they aren't included mainly because of laws mandating that cars meet gas-type requirements(i.e. the US version of the Prius still ships with the EV Mode button torn out). You can get a Prius with solar panels, but they are ONLY used to power ventilation and never charge the batteries for the motor.

Re:Solar backup (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33960622)

You should probably be quiet. If you think solar power is good for overnight trickle charging, you don't understand the technology.

You park your car when at work, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33962180)

You park your car when at work, right?

Re:Solar backup (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 3 years ago | (#33962328)

+1 funny

Funniest comment I've seen so far today!

Re:Solar backup (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960654)

"When it hits reasonable amounts of power, then you can begin to even think about anything like that."

I'm not looking foward for the time the Sun turns into a red giant... Now, solar isn't shit. It is just not suitable to be used as a portable power source.

Re:Solar backup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965720)

Add to this that solar cells take 75 years (that's the latest figure I remember) to pay for themselves. You know what doesn't last for 75 years? Your laptop. Also, solar cells.

I love renewable energy, but I wish people would stop spreading lies about it; it pisses me off so much.

degrading in other aging things (-1, Offtopic)

cindyann (1916572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959486)

I've noticed that my wife also doesn't hold a charge as long as she used to.

If she knew I was posting comments about here like this she'd probably get charged up pretty quick though.

Re:degrading in other aging things (0, Offtopic)

slackbheep (1420367) | more than 3 years ago | (#33959634)

Have you noticed any surfaces becoming more coarse and perhaps bloated with age?

Re:degrading in other aging things (0, Offtopic)

eyenot (102141) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960422)

hey don't fret -- is your prostate healthy? cheers!

Re:degrading in other aging things (0)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961782)

If she knew I was posting comments about here like this she'd probably get charged up pretty quick though.

You don't think she'll find out that you're posting using her account, "cindyann"? There could be battery involved...

Speaking of battery, I saw a news report the other day about battered women, and thought to myself "damn, and here I've been eating them plain."

Re:degrading in other aging things (1)

cindyann (1916572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965034)

oh yeah, I'm really so stupid that I'd be posting from her account.

Obviously this is my girlfriend's account.

Re:degrading in other aging things (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965278)

Too bad it's too late for moderation, that deserves a +5 funny!

well, hey: (0, Offtopic)

eyenot (102141) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960370)

my prostate is still healthy! go blahnabbernab on THAT!

YUO FyAIL IT!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33960580)

Out of date and short on detail (1)

koolguy442 (888336) | more than 3 years ago | (#33960646)

This is some just really old news. Papers have been published on this and the other myriad sources of lithium battery degradation over the last several decades. In fact, this sort of coarsening, irreversibility, and poisoning are common in all such "nano" and even "micro" systems in which thermodynamics and kinetics are pitted against each other. For instance, at a three day international workshop on automotive lithium batteries half a decade ago, about a third of the talks were on various degradation mechanisms in these systems. On the other hand, this might be something completely knew that no one in the materials science or electrochemistry fields have heard of, but, being one of those people, and seeing the utter lack of detail in the news article and not being able to find the originating scientific publication, I doubt it. It looks like one of many articles on the subject that someone happened to pick up and submit. And yes, I'm a materials scientist and I study nano-scale materials, including battery electrodes.

Re:Out of date and short on detail (1)

vbraga (228124) | more than 3 years ago | (#33962882)

The paper is on Scripta Materilia, Volume 60, Issue 11, Pages 933-936 (why don't know why but I'm not able to copy and paste while using Chrome). It's available on ScienceDirect. It's over a year old and I don't know if there's any newer paper on the same subject by this group of authors.

The usage of AFM/SSRM to make this kind of consideration is pretty new, at least for me but this is not my field, besides being also a materials scientist. The paper is interesting but I would like to see more quantitative detail.

Implications for EVs? (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961100)

What are the implications for EVs, which seem to primarily use Li based batteries?

I know the 'record' for these batteries is pretty good so far (not bad enough to make Consumer Reports respond yet, at least), but I have to wonder how much of that is due to ideal environmental factors and how much of it is due to the things not being out long enough, or used enough, to get an accurate measure. How are the first generations of the Prius doing? I've yet to see any reviews or analysis. This is important for the used car market (to assure there is one in 10 years, and automobiles don't become disposable due to the cost of replacement).

A $20-30k vehicle lasting a mere 5 years before needing primary propulsion to be replaced is pretty crazy, especially when it involves a non-trivial amount of Lithium to do so (not exactly the most common of alkali metals).

I'm sure there's probably a technological way to prevent or slow this from happening, but for the time being, we're stuck with the technology we've got. Combine this with the lifecycle degradation of cold and heat on Lithium cells, and they seem to be a really poor broad-application general-purpose power sequestering method.

Battery Mythbusters (2, Insightful)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 3 years ago | (#33961704)

People usually have many opinions on how you should use laptop or phone batteries to maintain maximum longevity. Keep it plugged in always when possible, discharge it to 50% every now and then, or always run it from full to empty, etc.

It would be cool if we had some "battery mythbusters" who would systematically test these things with different machines and usage patterns so we could get more solid data on the subject. :)

How is this surprising? (1)

Anomalyx (1731404) | more than 3 years ago | (#33962940)

News flash! Old stuff wears out and doesn't work as well!

Next up: A study on why my 20-year-old car isn't working like its brand new anymore.
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