Over the years, battery technology has been slow to change. Li-Ion has dominated thus far because a lithium anode has a high energy density and is lightweight. Recent research demonstrates that new developments are showing promising results.

Fade, Capacity, and Size

As most mobile phone users know, batteries fade as they age. This “capacity fade” means the amount of charge a battery can supply diminishes with use. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have identified the mechanism behind the scenes of fade in Lithium-ion batteries.

Other energy storage issues include capacity and size of the battery package. Researchers at Stanford have created an innovative mathematical model that will help develop new materials for storing electricity.

The high costs and technical challenges of battery storage have taken great leaps toward mainstream use, expanding exponentially along with renewable technologies. Further development and expansion of renewable energy infrastructure promises significant gains with the advent of grid-connected electrochemical battery systems. These systems will also provide a more flexible and reliable grid.

Hybrids & Electric Vehicles

A recent breakthrough in rechargeable zinc-based batteries may be able to store as much energy as lithium-ion batteries. Zinc-based devices could also end up being safer, cheaper, smaller, and lighter. Applications include microhybrids, electric vehicles, electric bicycles, and eventually, smartphones and power grid storage.

Pininfarina, designer of exotic cars from Ferrari, Maserati, and Alfa-Romero, has several new projects in the works with Hybrid Kinetic Group, a clean-energy auto company. The new vehicle designs feature high energy, high density “super batteries” that can recover energy. Micro-turbine generator range extenders recover almost 30% of the total energy stored and can extend the EV’s range to 1000 kilometers in one charge. The motors have a long lifespan, too, up to 50,000 hours of operation or 50 million kilometers.

A new, fast-charging, solid-state battery technology for EVs has been developed by John Goodenough, inventor of the lithium-ion battery. The new technology uses a glass electrode instead of a liquid one, sodium instead of lithium, and provides three times the energy density of Li-ion batteries.

Chemists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have announced a new safe, rechargeable battery technology that could end up in electric vehicles, bikes, or ships. Lithium-ion batteries are a problem because of the liquid inside them. If the battery or device gets too hot. in the form it usually takes inside alkaline batteries, zinc doesn’t cooperate with recharging. It’s prone to forming dendrites—tiny, problematic spikes. The NRL scientists reconstituted the zinc into another form, which makes the alkaline battery rechargeable without risking dendrite formation.

Power Electronics

In battery technology, semiconductors serve critical functions: boosting performance, reducing power losses, and optimizing thermal management.

Rogers’ ROLINX® busbars act as power distribution “highways.” These laminated busbars provide a customized power liaison for connecting battery cells or interconnecting between battery packs. The busbars can integrate both power and signal lines, including, for example, temperature measurement.

In IGBT and MOSFET power modules, substrates provide connections and cool components. curamik® ceramic substrates are able to carry higher currents, provide higher voltage isolation, and operate over a wide temperature range.

 

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