New Developments in Battery Technology

On November 2, 2015, in Technology Update, by sharilee

Tech companies and car manufacturers are making big investments in battery technology. And for good reason. Sales of electric vehicles (EVs), including battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PEVs) are soaring, especially in the EU where gasoline prices are 2-4x higher than in the U.S. IncHEVreased use of mobile devices is also driving the need for battery innovations, even as chips and operating systems are designed to be more efficient and save power. The latest IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows 6.8% growth in smartphone units shipped in Q3 2015 vs Q3 2014 to over 355 million units. Add to that, growth in wearables, laptops, tablets, and smart homes.

But battery technology has been slow to change over the years. Li-Ion has dominated to date because a lithium anode has a high energy density and is lightweight. In an interesting article, “Why We Don’t Have Battery Breakthroughs” in MIT Technology Review, Kevin Bullis writes:

One difficult thing about developing better batteries is that the technology is still poorly understood. Changing one part of a battery—say, by introducing a new electrode—can produce unforeseen problems, some of which can’t be detected without years of testing.

In startup Envia, they had licensed a promising material developed by researchers at Argonne National Laboratory. Subsequently, a major problem was discovered. The problem—which one battery company executive called a “doom factor”—was that over time, the voltage at which the battery operated changed in ways that made it unusable. Argonne researchers investigated the problem and found no ready answer. They didn’t understand the basic chemistry and physics of the material well enough to grasp precisely what was going wrong, let alone fix it.

The single most important factor in achieving a mass-market BEV is cost. “Estimates are that the cost of battery packs needs to fall to below US$150 per kWh for BEVs to become cost-competitive with internal combustion vehicles,” said Bjorn Nykvist and Mans Nilsson in their Nature Climate Change paper, “Rapidly falling costs of battery packs for electric vehicles.” For Li-Ion battery packs, costs have decreased over the last 8 years, from above US$1,000 per kWh to around US$300 per kWh.

Innovations in Li-Ion Battery Design

New developments show much promise. According to Brookings Institution’s TechTank blog:

Lithium heats up and expands during charging, causing leaked lithium ions to build up on a battery’s surface. These growths short-circuit the battery and decrease its overall life. Researchers at Stanford recently made headway on these problems by forming a protective nanosphere layer on the lithium anode that moves with the lithium as it expands and contracts.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 10.00.19 AM

Figure 1. Movement of lithium ions and electrons in a Li-Ion battery during charging and use.

Israeli startup StoreDot has developed a new type of Li-Ion battery that it says can be fully charged in a few minutes. In a standard Li-Ion battery, the internal resistance blocks the flow of the current and makes it more difficult to deliver spikes of power. StoreDot is using bio-organic peptide “nanodots” to make very thin battery electrodes with supercapacitor-like rapid charging and a Li-Ion-like slow discharging.

Beyond Lithium Ion

Researchers at BASF recently doubled the amount of energy that can be stored in an older type of battery, nickel-metal hydride, now used in HEVs. This makes them comparable to Li-Ion batteries in terms of storage, but with the advantage of increased safety. They don’t use flammable liquids, so their cooling systems and electronic controls are simpler. The scientists changed the microstructure of the batteries to make them more durable and lighter. They can store 140 watt-hours per kilogram. Li-Ion can store up to 230 watt-hours per kilogram, but the added weight counters that advantage.

Scientists at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute have developed a hybrid device that goes beyond simple changes in battery cell chemistry. According to Green Car Reports:

The experimental device combines the energy density of a lead-acid battery with the quick charge and discharge rates of a supercapacitor. It’s six times as energy-dense as the average commercial supercapacitor. That combination of qualities has great potential impact for electric cars. It would theoretically offer more compact energy storage and faster charging without sacrificing range.

Researchers claim the version being tested can hold twice as much charge as a typical thin-film lithium battery–but on a surface one-fifth the thickness of a piece of paper. This performance was reportedly achieved by maximizing the contact area between the electrolyte and the two electrodes. Those electrodes are made from manganese dioxide, but feature a three-dimensional laser-scribed graphene (LSG) structure.

Second Life Battery Applications

EV batteries lose their ability to propel a vehicle over time.There is a growing market for EV batteries in after-life commercial applications, such as power generation on the grid. GM, for instance, is using the Volt battery system to supplement renewable power gen at one of its facilities, making the facility a net zero building. Nissan and Green Charge have developed ex-EV battery systems that companies can use to manage their utility demand charges, substituting battery power for electricity from the grid during peak pricing.

Eventually, carmakers will incorporate EV batteries while they’re still installed in cars, using vehicle-to-grid (V2G) systems. Such an approach promises better regulation of frequencies on the grid to smooth the power loads and lower usage during peak demand periods. The U.S. Department of Defense has invested $20 million in the DoD Plug-In Electric Vehicle Program, which has so far installed 500 V2G-enabled vehicles at bases in the states. This program has shown that frequency regulation alone can reduce the monthly lease price of a plug-in electric sedan by 72%.

Open-Cell-vs-Closed-Cell-photos

Regardless of the application, batteries need to be packaged to absorb internal impact energy. PORON® polyurethane and BISCO® silicone foams withstand collapse that can happen due to the stresses of compression and temperature in battery packs over time. This Compression Set Resistance (C-set resistance) can help extend the life of the battery by continuing to seal and absorb shock. These unique foams from Rogers Corporation also have a unique ability to act as a spring by retaining a very consistent level of force across a range of compressions. This allows the designer more flexibility and reliability in packaging of the battery pack due to the ability to predict the cushioning material’s behavior across varied dimensional tolerances.

Tangible improvements in battery technology are surfacing. This will have a significant impact on our use of EVs and mobile devices, and, when combined with developments in renewable energy, will drive interesting global changes in economic and political norms.

InnoTrans 2012 is less than a week away and we’re ready to leave an impression on the show!

Our booth is waiting, our information is fresh, and our team of talented engineers and marketers is ready to go.

So what can you expect from us there? Well…

  • A booth that will let you not only see our products, but also experience them
  • Sound barrier solutions that increase passenger comfort by creating a quieter cabin
  • Seating that rewards riders and OEMs alike with a minimum life of 10 years and minimum decreases in both indentation force deflection (IFD) and height.
  • Flooring solutions to keep things running smoothly by lowering natural frequencies and passing even the most stringent flame, smoke, and toxicity (FST) standards.

Find more information and show specifics including where to find our booth here. Hope to see you there!


In this article, Ken Kozicki from High Performance Foams, shares the real cost of a gasket or seal, which has a much bigger impact than the actual cost of the item itself … especially in a rail car:

More often than not, there is a significant amount of emphasis and evaluation placed upon the selection of the materials used within the more prominent features of the interiors. This includes composite materials for side wall and ceiling liners, seat cushion foams and upholstery, and flooring structures, to name a few.

…what is frequently ignored is the hidden value and importance of the multitude of gaskets and seals that protect, preserve and actually integrate the various interior systems and modules together. While one of the main functions of a gasket or seal is to keep moisture or water from leaking into an undesired place, there are also many other considerations that should go into gasket selection. A great deal of engineering effort is spent determining vibration isolation and damping, acoustic blocking and absorption, as well as contribution to EMI/RFI protection and conformance to flame, smoke and toxicity requirements.

Ken answers questions like:

  • Does the quality of material that seals two expensive wall panels really make a difference?
  • Do you know what a compression set is?
  • Do you know what degradation of force deflection is, and how it impacts a seal?

Download the The Real Cost of a Gasket article.

Introducing the L3 Première: Reduce vibration in rail flooring

The High Performance Foams team recently launched a new product in its BISCO® line of silicone foams called the L3 Première, specifically designed for rail applications.

Employing breakthrough technology, the new L3 Première improves the passenger experience by reducing vibration in flooring constructions. Utilizing L3 Première isolation pads enables a smoother, more comfortable passenger ride especially in high speed rail applications.

Under extreme conditions for temperature and load, L3 Première maintains performance by retaining thickness and performance with low stress relaxation. 20 percent lighter than its L3 predecessor, the durable, long last-lasting material greatly resists compression set reducing the need for costly refurbishments over a railway cabin vehicle’s operational lifespan.

Read the full L3 Première press release.

Download a data sheet.