Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Nanoparticle electrode for batteries could make grid-scale power storage feasible

Abstract:
The sun doesn't always shine and the breeze doesn't always blow and therein lie perhaps the biggest hurdles to making wind and solar power usable on a grand scale. If only there were an efficient, durable, high-power, rechargeable battery we could use to store large quantities of excess power generated on windy or sunny days until we needed it. And as long as we're fantasizing, let's imagine the battery is cheap to build, too.

Nanoparticle electrode for batteries could make grid-scale power storage feasible

Stanford, CA | Posted on November 23rd, 2011

Now Stanford researchers have developed part of that dream battery, a new electrode that employs crystalline nanoparticles of a copper compound.

In laboratory tests, the electrode survived 40,000 cycles of charging and discharging, after which it could still be charged to more than 80 percent of its original charge capacity. For comparison, the average lithium ion battery can handle about 400 charge/discharge cycles before it deteriorates too much to be of practical use.

"At a rate of several cycles per day, this electrode would have a good 30 years of useful life on the electrical grid," said Colin Wessells, a graduate student in materials science and engineering who is the lead author of a paper describing the research, published this week in Nature Communications.

"That is a breakthrough performance - a battery that will keep running for tens of thousands of cycles and never fail," said Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, who is Wessell's adviser and a coauthor of the paper.

The electrode's durability derives from the atomic structure of the crystalline copper hexacyanoferrate used to make it. The crystals have an open framework that allows ions - electrically charged particles whose movements en masse either charge or discharge a battery - to easily go in and out without damaging the electrode. Most batteries fail because of accumulated damage to an electrode's crystal structure.

Because the ions can move so freely, the electrode's cycle of charging and discharging is extremely fast, which is important because the power you get out of a battery is proportional to how fast you can discharge the electrode.

To maximize the benefit of the open structure, the researchers needed to use the right size ions. Too big and the ions would tend to get stuck and could damage the crystal structure when they moved in and out of the electrode. Too small and they might end up sticking to one side of the open spaces between atoms, instead of easily passing through. The right-sized ion turned out to be hydrated potassium, a much better fit compared with other hydrated ions such as sodium and lithium.

"It fits perfectly - really, really nicely," said Cui. "Potassium will just zoom in and zoom out, so you can have an extremely high-power battery."

The speed of the electrode is further enhanced because the particles of electrode material that Wessell synthesized are tiny even by nanoparticle standards - a mere 100 atoms across.

Those modest dimensions mean the ions don't have to travel very far into the electrode to react with active sites in a particle to charge the electrode to its maximum capacity, or to get back out during discharge.

A lot of recent research on batteries, including other work done by Cui's research group, has focused on lithium ion batteries, which have a high energy density - meaning they hold a lot of charge for their size. That makes them great for portable electronics such as laptop computers.

But energy density really doesn't matter as much when you're talking about storage on the power grid. You could have a battery as big as a house since it doesn't need to be portable. Cost is a greater concern.

Some of the components in lithium ion batteries are expensive and no one knows for certain that making the batteries on a scale for use in the power grid will ever be economical.

"We decided we needed to develop a 'new chemistry' if we were going to make low-cost batteries and battery electrodes for the power grid," Wessells said.

The researchers chose to use a water-based electrolyte, which Wessells described as "basically free compared to the cost of an organic electrolyte" such as is used in lithium ion batteries. They made the battery electric materials from readily available precursors such as iron, copper, carbon and nitrogen - all of which are extremely inexpensive compared with lithium.

The sole significant limitation to the new electrode is that its chemical properties cause it to be usable only as a high voltage electrode. But every battery needs two electrodes - a high voltage cathode and a low voltage anode - in order to create the voltage difference that produces electricity. The researchers need to find another material to use for the anode before they can build an actual battery.

But Cui said they have already been investigating various materials for an anode and have some promising candidates.

Even though they haven't constructed a full battery yet, the performance of the new electrode is so superior to any other existing battery electrode that Robert Huggins, an emeritus professor of materials science and engineering who worked on the project, said the electrode "leads to a promising electrochemical solution to the extremely important problem of the large number of sharp drop-offs in the output of wind and solar systems" that result from events as simple and commonplace as a cloud passing over a solar farm.

Cui and Wessells noted that other electrode materials have been developed that show tremendous promise in laboratory testing but would be difficult to produce commercially. That should not be a problem with their electrode.

Wessells has been able to readily synthesize the electrode material in gram quantities in the lab. He said the process should easily be scaled up to commercial levels of production.

"We put chemicals in a flask and you get this electrode material. You can do that on any scale," he said.

"There are no technical challenges to producing this on a big-enough scale to actually build a real battery."

Huggins is a coauthor of the Nature Communications paper.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Louis Bergeron

650-725-1944

Copyright © Stanford University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Basque researchers turn light upside down February 23rd, 2018

Stiffness matters February 23rd, 2018

Imaging individual flexible DNA 'building blocks' in 3-D: Berkeley Lab researchers generate first images of 129 DNA structures February 22nd, 2018

'Memtransistor' brings world closer to brain-like computing: Combined memristor and transistor can process information and store memory with one device February 22nd, 2018

Chemistry

Ultra-efficient removal of carbon monoxide using gold nanoparticles on a molecular support: New method and mechanism for state-of-the-art gas purification February 9th, 2018

Fast-spinning spheres show nanoscale systems' secrets: Rice University lab demonstrates energetic properties of colloids in spinning magnetic field February 7th, 2018

New filters could enable manufacturers to perform highly-selective chemical separation January 23rd, 2018

Nanowrinkles could save billions in shipping and aquaculture Surfaces inspired by carnivorous plants delay degradation by marine fouling January 17th, 2018

Discoveries

Basque researchers turn light upside down February 23rd, 2018

Histology in 3-D: New staining method enables Nano-CT imaging of tissue samples February 22nd, 2018

Developing reliable quantum computers February 22nd, 2018

Imaging individual flexible DNA 'building blocks' in 3-D: Berkeley Lab researchers generate first images of 129 DNA structures February 22nd, 2018

Announcements

Basque researchers turn light upside down February 23rd, 2018

Stiffness matters February 23rd, 2018

Histology in 3-D: New staining method enables Nano-CT imaging of tissue samples February 22nd, 2018

Developing reliable quantum computers February 22nd, 2018

Energy

Round-the-clock power from smart bowties February 5th, 2018

Silk fibers could be high-tech ‘natural metamaterials’ January 31st, 2018

A simple new approach to plastic solar cells: Osaka University researchers intelligently design new highly efficient organic solar cells based on amorphous electronic materials with potential for easy printing January 28th, 2018

Nature paper by Schlumberger researchers used photothermal based nanoscale IR spectroscopy to analyze heterogeneous process of petroleum generation January 23rd, 2018

Battery Technology/Capacitors/Generators/Piezoelectrics/Thermoelectrics/Energy storage

Leti Chief Scientist Barbara De Salvo Will Help Kick Off ISSCC 2018 with Opening-Day Keynote: In Addition, Leti Scientists Will Present and Demo New Technology for Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting February 8th, 2018

Round-the-clock power from smart bowties February 5th, 2018

NTU scientists create customizable, fabric-like power source for wearable electronics January 30th, 2018

Ultra-thin memory storage device paves way for more powerful computing January 17th, 2018

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project