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Working Toward the Next Battery Breakthrough
With more patents than any other woman, UB scientist brings fresh perspective to the nation's electrical grid
Esther Takeuchi, who developed the battery that made possible the first implantable cardiac defibrillators, is using her knowledge to improve the electrical grid.
Takeuchi is working to move from a fossil-fuel based system to greener, renewable forms of energy.
Release Date: June 7, 2010
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- If battery-making is an art, then University at Buffalo scientist Esther Takeuchi is among its most prolific masters, with more than 140 U.S. patents, all in energy storage.
Takeuchi developed the battery that made possible the first implantable cardiac defibrillators, a feat that was recognized last fall with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama. Millions of heart patients worldwide have benefited from the implantable cardiac defibrillators powered by Takeuchi's silver vanadium oxide battery. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, she is developing new cathode materials for improved implantable cardiac defibrillator batteries, with her latest advances on this project recently published in the Journal of Power Sources.
A slide show highlighting Takeuchi's biomedical research is available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm8MqA3u4MQ.
But now Takeuchi is applying to the electrical grid -- the vast, national network that delivers energy from suppliers to consumers -- her unique perspective on how to coax the best performance out of battery chemicals.
Having two years ago made the jump from industry to academia after 22 years, Takeuchi, a SUNY Distinguished Professor in UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, may be just the scientist to find the right combination of materials that will usher in the next energy storage revolution.
"Esther has a unique perspective," says Amy Marschilok, PhD, UB research assistant professor of engineering, who has worked with Takeuchi for more than six years. "In developing the silver vanadium oxide material that now powers the implantable cardiac defibrillator, she took an idea and turned it into a functional battery."
"Now she's taking that experience and applying it to these very different areas," Marschilok continues. "Could a variation on one of the battery systems one day be applied to powering homes and buildings? That's the kind of perspective she has and it's what battery research really needs."
In the past year, Takeuchi been awarded more than $1 million in funding by several federal agencies to develop better materials for batteries and ways to prevent their degradation.
With a new project recently funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Takeuchi and her husband, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Kenneth Takeuchi, are developing new, low-cost materials for rechargeable batteries.
The focus is on developing a distributed grid where renewable power is generated closer to where it's needed, rather than in a central place and transmitted long distances, the way the current grid operates.
"One of the key challenges in moving from our fossil-fuel based system to greener, renewable forms of energy is that whether you're talking about solar or wind power, these forms of energy are intermittent," says Takeuchi.
And even though the sun may be shining or the wind may be blowing, it's unlikely that either phenomenon will occur at a constant rate over time.
"There will be fairly large fluctuations in the amount of power being generated," she says.
That makes a robust, reliable method of storing energy absolutely critical. And it's a feature that has been essential in the life-saving biomedical devices Takeuchi has worked on in the past.
"To generate energy at a usable, consistent level, we will need to couple a dependable, energy-storage system with renewable power sources," she says.
Takeuchi's work on biomedical devices has provided her with an unusual appreciation for the properties of batteries that have exceptional longevity. The typical lifetime of a battery in an implantable device is 5-10 years and Takeuchi is one of those leading the push to increase that for both biomedical and utility applications.
"Whether you're talking about the power grid, electrical vehicles or biomedical devices the quest is for low cost, longer life and rechargeability," she says.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.
Enhancing the power of batteries
From left, students Betar Gallant and Seung Woo Lee and professors Yang Shao-Horn and Paula Hammond, in one of the labs where the use of carbon nanotubes in lithium batteries was researched.
MIT team finds that using carbon nanotubes in a lithium battery can dramatically improve its energy capacity.
Batteries might gain a boost in power capacity as a result of a new finding from researchers at MIT. They found that using carbon nanotubes for one of the battery’s electrodes produced a significant increase — up to tenfold — in the amount of power it could deliver from a given weight of material, compared to a conventional lithium-ion battery. Such electrodes might find applications in small portable devices, and with further research might also lead to improved batteries for larger, more power-hungry applications.
To produce the powerful new electrode material, the team used a layer-by-layer fabrication method, in which a base material is alternately dipped in solutions containing carbon nanotubes that have been treated with simple organic compounds that give them either a positive or negative net charge. When these layers are alternated on a surface, they bond tightly together because of the complementary charges, making a stable and durable film.
The findings, by a team led by Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering Yang Shao-Horn, in collaboration with Bayer Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering Paula Hammond, are reported in a paper published June 20 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The lead authors are chemical engineering student Seung Woo Lee PhD ’10 and postdoctoral researcher Naoaki Yabuuchi.
Batteries, such as the lithium-ion batteries widely used in portable electronics, are made up of three basic components: two electrodes (called the anode, or negative electrode, and the cathode, or positive electrode) separated by an electrolyte, an electrically conductive material through which charged particles, or ions, can move easily. When these batteries are in use, positively charged lithium ions travel across the electrolyte to the cathode, producing an electric current; when they are recharged, an external current causes these ions to move the opposite way, so they become embedded in the spaces in the porous material of the anode.
In the new battery electrode, carbon nanotubes — a form of pure carbon in which sheets of carbon atoms are rolled up into tiny tubes — “self-assemble” into a tightly bound structure that is porous at the nanometer scale (billionths of a meter). In addition, the carbon nanotubes have many oxygen groups on their surfaces, which can store a large number of lithium ions; this enables carbon nanotubes for the first time to serve as the positive electrode in lithium batteries, instead of just the negative electrode.
This “electrostatic self-assembly” process is important, Hammond explains, because ordinarily carbon nanotubes on a surface tend to clump together in bundles, leaving fewer exposed surfaces to undergo reactions. By incorporating organic molecules on the nanotubes, they assemble in a way that “has a high degree of porosity while having a great number of nanotubes present,” she says.
Powerful and stable
Lithium batteries with the new material demonstrate some of the advantages of both capacitors, which can produce very high power outputs in short bursts, and lithium batteries, which can provide lower power steadily for long periods, Lee says. The energy output for a given weight of this new electrode material was shown to be five times greater than for conventional capacitors, and the total power delivery rate was 10 times that of lithium-ion batteries, the team says. This performance can be attributed to good conduction of ions and electrons in the electrode, and efficient lithium storage on the surface of the nanotubes.
In addition to their high power output, the carbon-nanotube electrodes showed very good stability over time. After 1,000 cycles of charging and discharging a test battery, there was no detectable change in the material’s performance.
The electrodes the team produced had thicknesses up to a few microns, and the improvements in energy delivery only were seen at high-power output levels. In future work, the team aims to produce thicker electrodes and extend the improved performance to low-power outputs as well, they say. In its present form, the material might have applications for small, portable electronic devices, says Shao-Horn, but if the reported high-power capability were demonstrated in a much thicker form — with thicknesses of hundreds of microns rather than just a few — it might eventually be suitable for other applications such as hybrid cars.
While the electrode material was produced by alternately dipping a substrate into two different solutions — a relatively time-consuming process — Hammond suggests that the process could be modified by instead spraying the alternate layers onto a moving ribbon of material, a technique now being developed in her lab. This could eventually open the possibility of a continuous manufacturing process that could be scaled up to high volumes for commercial production, and could also be used to produce thicker electrodes with a greater power capacity. “There isn’t a real limit” on the potential thickness, Hammond says. “The only limit is the time it takes to make the layers,” and the spraying technique can be up to 100 times faster than dipping, she says.
Lee says that while carbon nanotubes have been produced in limited quantities so far, a number of companies are currently gearing up for mass production of the material, which could help to make it viable for large-scale battery manufacturing.
Yury Gogotsi, professor of materials science at Drexel University, says, “This is an important achievement, because there is a need for energy storage in a thin-film format for powering portable electronic devices and for flexible, wearable electronics. Bridging the performance gap between batteries and electrochemical capacitors is an important task, and the MIT group has made an important step in this direction.”
Some uncertainties remain, however. “The electrochemical performance data presented in the article may only be valid for relatively thin films with no packaging,” Gogotsi says, pointing out that the measured results were for just the individual electrode, and results might be different for a whole battery with its multiple parts and outer container. “The question remains whether the proposed approach will work for much thicker conventional electrodes, used in devices that are used in hybrid and electric cars, wind power generators, etc.” But, he adds, if it does turn out that this new system works for such thicker electrodes, “the significance of this work will increase dramatically.”
SAE International Vehicle Battery Summit
1-3 September 2010
Shanghai Marriott Hongqiao Hotel
Shanghai, China, PRC
The engineering, the people — the business — of the rapidly evolving, large-format lithium-ion battery industry
This unique, executive-level event brings together the world's most highly regarded engineers, scientists, and corporate decision makers from the battery, automotive, power storage, and lithium mining industries to present assessments of current and near-term Li-ion battery systems capabilities, alternatives, and their market/supply chain implications.
Chaired by distinguished battery expert Dr. Menahem Anderman and supported by the Promotion Office of New Energy Automotive, Shanghai Municipal People's Government, the program discusses technological advances occurring worldwide including developments in Europe, North America, Asia, and in particular, China. Battery reliability, safety, cost, performance, and standardization, as well as many other issues the industry faces will be addressed.
The following topics will be addressed by a roster of highly regarded Li-ion battery specialists:
- Electrified Vehicle Market Development
- Battery Requirements for Mild, Moderate, and Strong HEV's
- Battery Cell & Pack Requirements; Integration for EVs & PHEVs
- Light EVs and their Battery Systems
- Life, Reliability and Safety of Li-Ion Batteries in Automotive Applications
Event highlights include:
Andrew Brown Jr., Ph.D., P.E., FESD, NAE, SAE International 2010 President, Executive Director & Chief Technologist, Innovation & Technology Office, Delphi Corporation
China's EV/PHEV Battery Perspective
Zhao Hang, President, China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC)
Fu Yuwu, Executive Vice President and Secretary General, Society of Automotive Engineers of China (SAE-China)
China Keynote: Overview of China's National 863 New Energy Vehicle Key Projects
Ouyang Minggao, Ph.D., Director, Energy Saving and New Energy Vehicles, State 863 Plan and Director, State Key Laboratory of Automotive Safety and Energy, Tsinghua University
International Keynote: Overview of EV/PHEV and HEV World Vehicles and Battery Market
Menahem Anderman, Ph.D., President, Advanced Automotive Batteries USA and founder of Total Battery Consulting, Inc., Summit Chair
Attend this event if you...
- want to interact with international representatives from the global vehicle battery industry
- are interested in comparing the most recent innovations and learning of China's important role in the development of Li-ion batteries
- are responsible for near-term production decisions regarding the most cost-effective, safe and reliable battery system based on vehicle requirements
- wish to claim, reinforce your market position, or promote your company to a world-class audience of experts and buyers
- are an executive, senior manager, engineer or technical manager in the battery components, lithium mining, EV/PHEV or supplier industries are from the utility, government, industrial, financial, technology, or material sector supporting EV infrastructure
For more information about this event, download the brochure or visit www.sae.org/events/battery
|Exhibit and sponsorship opportunities are available to profile your company to this influential audience. For more information about maximizing your marketing dollars or discussing a customized solution, contact the following individuals:|
Global Sales: Arlene DiSilvio at 1-724-772-4060 or disilvio@...
China Sales: Billy Xu at 86-021-61001016; fax 86-021-61001015; or billyxu@...
Register early. Limited capacity! Save $100 USD — register by 10 August!
SAE is an international body of engineers and practitioners dedicated to the advancement of mobility technology. Based on the fundamental of providing a neutral platform for collaboration and informed dialogue, SAE has been providing the common engineering requirements for new vehicles, advanced technologies, and applications since 1905.
SAE International • 400 Commonwealth Drive • Warrendale, PA 15096-0001 USA
Total Battery Consulting, Inc. | 9204 Citron Way | Oregon House | CA | 95962
What can you do in three minutes? Boil a egg? Buy a Coffee? Check your Mail? Visit the bathroom?
Thanks to Japanese based JFE Engineering, you can now add half-charging your EV to the list, courtesy of its ultra-fast charge station.
Designed to comply with the CHAdeMo standard developed by Tokyo Electric Power Company, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Toyota, the system is capable of charging a 2011 Mistubishi i-Miev from empty to 50% full in just three minutes.
Even just three minutes plugged into the fast-charge station was enough to enable a standard 2011 Mitsubishi i-Miev to travel a further 50 miles before further charging was required.
Mitsubishi's own fast charger, as illustrated at the end of this article by EV advocate, actor and TV presenter Robert Llewellyn, takes between 15 and 30 minutes to fill up an empty i-Miev to full.
The cheapest version of the JFE Engineering charger costs a massive $60,000 so it's highly unlikely they will be purchased in large numbers for private use. However, with a 0-50% recharge taking three minutes and a 0-70% recharge taking five minutes the charging station may well be fast enough to be utilized at conventional gas stations, where a five minute refill time is in line with any gas car on the market today.
For gas stations placed in prime EV markets such as the Washington DC to New York Corridor, a $60,000 investment could pay for itself very quickly as EV drivers willingly pay to enable them to drive several hundred mile trips in one day.
While there are as yet no plans to bring the charger to the U.S. market, JFE Engineering plans to install its ultra-fast charging stations at gas stations and convenience stores all over Japan by the end of March 2011.
Fast, high power charging, or Level III Fast DC charging as it is known, has yet to be defined as part of the SAE J1772 electric vehicle charging standard adopted by U.S. automakers. However, the 2011 Nissan Leaf will ship with support for both CHAdeMo and J1772 charging stations.
At 24kWh the 2011 Nissan Leaf has a much larger battery pack than the 16kWh battery pack of the Mitsubishi i-Miev, so just like filling two cars with different sizes of gas tank, expect the larger capacity pack to take longer to refill, even on the ultra-fast charging station.
Public Charging Station for electric cars, courtesy Mitsubishi MotorsEnlarge Photo
Basic math would indicate it is quite feasible to expect a 0-50% recharge time of a Leaf-sized battery pack to take between five and six minutes at a similar charge rate.
While fast charge stations will not require anywhere near the expanses of land battery swap stations like those being tested by Better Place need in order to store and charge the huge number of batteries the system requires, consideration will have to be given to the massive high-voltage power lines needed to power a charger capable of recharging an EV so quickly.
But for retail locations and gas stations, the 62.5 kW power requirements of each charger should not be impossible to accommodate in all but the remotest of locations.
Lithium One and Korea Resources Corporation Announce Development JV
04 June, 2010 by NewsWireNow
Lithium One and Korea Resources Corporation Announce Development Joint Venture at Sal de Vida Lithium Brine Project, Argentina
KORES to earn 30% project interest by funding up to US $15 million towards a resource development program and delivering a Definitive Feasibility Study.
KORES to provide Project Completion Guarantee.
KORES to purchase up to 50% of lithium and to have certain marketing rights for lithium in China, Japan and Korea.
Lithium One retains rights to market 100% of the future potash production.
KORES signs MOU with GS Caltex and LG International to complete a consortium.
Seoul, Korea, June 4, 2010 (NewsWireNow) Lithium One Inc. (the "Company") (TSX-V: LI), is pleased to announce that it has executed an Evaluation Option and Joint Venture Company Agreement (the "Agreement") establishing an earn-in joint venture with Korea Resource Corporation ("KORES") to develop the Company's Sal de Vida Lithium Brine Project in Argentina (the "Project"). KORES is the Korean government-owned mining company. Its strategic vision is to become a global top 20 mining company by 2020 through overseas expansion.
KORES has the option to earn a 30% interest in the Sal de Vida Project (the "Option") by funding and delivering a Definitive Feasibility Study and funding other pre-development Exploration and Prefeasibility activities totalling up to US $15 million. KORES has also agreed, upon exercise of the Option, to provide a Project Completion Guarantee, securing the debt portion of Lithium One's 70% share of Project development costs. The Agreement provides for the parties entering into a marketing agreement pursuant to which KORES may market lithium products produced from the Project in China, Japan and Korea on behalf of the joint venture and Lithium One may market potash products produced from the Project worldwide. The Agreement also contemplates that the parties will negotiate an off-take agreement that will grant KORES rights to purchase up to 50% of the lithium products at market prices.
KORES has the right to assign any or all of its interest in the joint venture to GS Caltex Corporation ("GS Caltex") and/or LG International Corp. ("LG International"). In this regard, KORES has entered into a memorandum of understanding with GS Caltex and LG International setting out the terms pursuant to which KORES, GS Caltex, and LG International will each hold a 10% interest in the joint venture company to be formed upon exercise of the Option. GS Caltex is one of the largest energy companies in Korea and is jointly owned by GS Holdings and Chevron. LG International is a trading company and also specializes in natural resources exploration and development projects. The addition of GS Caltex and LG International to the joint venture is subject to the parties executing a binding agreement.
Martin Rowley, Chairman of Lithium One commented on the implications of the arrangement: "This is a landmark agreement for Lithium One that confirms Sal de Vida as a world-leading lithium and potash brine project. KORES have completed extensive due diligence before entering into this arrangement, confirming the quality of the Project and our management team. A key component of our strategy has been to secure a major joint venture partner with the financial, technical and commercial strength and expertise to work with us to jointly develop Sal de Vida. The Korean consortium of KORES, GS Caltex, and LG International far exceeds our expectations in this regard. This consortium will yield significant dividends during the feasibility stage by providing expertise and input into our further understanding of end-user demand and product specification requirements of the high quality lithium market. With our Korean partners, our team now has all the resources necessary to ensure delivery of an outstanding new operation that can supply a low-cost product to the global battery market in a timeframe to meet the rapidly growing demand for lithium battery packs for electric and hybrid vehicles."
South Korea imports 97% of its energy and mineral resources, therefore the development of stable long-term supplies is a key strategy for the nation's economic development. A key component of KORES's vision to become a global top 20 mining company by 2020 is participation in world class overseas resource development projects with suitably qualified strategic partners. Korea has designated lithium as a strategic raw material for its economic growth and is home to numerous multi-national companies that require lithium, many of which are involved in its rapidly growing automotive sector and newly emerging electric and hybrid vehicles.
Lithium One President and CEO Patrick Highsmith summarized the benefits of working with KORES: "This Agreement with KORES is part of Lithium One's strategy to target top-tier projects, de-risk them with first class execution in the field and define a clear path to production. A key component of that strategy was to secure a major partner and our Board is pleased to be working with the Korean government and its end user and technology partners. KORES is a well-respected mining group with extensive relationships in Korea and globally. We look forward to working with them to build Sal de Vida into a new customer-focused and low-cost lithium producer. This contract gives KORES direct exposure to what we expect will be a reliable, low- cost and high quality source of lithium and it provides Lithium One with access to world class lithium battery manufacturers and the credibility of a long term supply relationship between the Company and its joint venture partners."
Lithium One and KORES will seek to jointly develop the Sal de Vida Lithium Brine Project. Lithium One will operate the joint venture. KORES will fund 100% of the budget for exploration, prefeasibility and feasibility studies up to US $15 million. The earn-in period spans the forecast budget timeline of approximately 15 months required to deliver the feasibility study and is retroactive to project expenditures incurred by Lithium One since May 7, 2010.
Upon delivery of the Definitive Feasibility Study, the parties will form a joint venture through an Argentina company (the "JV Company") with equity interests of 70% Lithium One, 30% KORES. As noted above KORES may assign 10% of its equity interests to each of GS Caltex and LG International. The JV Company will have a mandate to develop and operate a new lithium and potash mine at the Sal de Vida. The operation of the JV Company will be governed by the terms of a shareholder agreement (the "Shareholder Agreement") that has been negotiated between the parties. KORES will provide a Completion Guarantee for Lithium One's share of the debt portion of the capital development costs.
KORES has agreed to fund expenditures retroactively to May 7, 2010 once the registration of Lithium One's shareholding in its Argentina subsidiary has been completed.
OFFTAKE AND MARKETING
KORES will have the right and obligation to purchase 30% of the lithium products produced from the Project at market prices. KORES will also have a right of first offer to purchase an additional 20% of the lithium products from the Project.
Marketing of the lithium, potash and boron products from Sal de Vida will be undertaken by the JV Company under a sales agency agreement. KORES will have the right to become the sole sales agent for lithium products in the Chinese, Japanese and Korean markets, while Lithium One will have the right to become the sole sales agent for potash and boron products worldwide.
The transactions contemplated by the Agreement, including a finder's fee payable by Lithium One, are subject to customary conditions including, without limitation, the approval of the TSX Venture Exchange.
Harp Capital, based in Toronto, Canada, is an advisor to Lithium One on this transaction.
About Korea Resources Corporation
KORES, a state-owned corporation of the Government of the Republic of Korea, has a mandate to pursue resource development opportunities to supply Korea's expanding industrial economy.
About Lithium One:
Lithium One Inc. is a Canadian-based explorer and developer of mineral properties with a specific focus on lithium. The Company has two major lithium projects: the brownfields Sal de Vida lithium brine project in Argentina and the James Bay bulk tonnage spodumene project in Quebec. The Company continues to advance both projects toward resource definition, expecting NI 43-101 compliant resource estimates near the middle of 2010. Lithium One believes that lithium demand will grow as its value as a preferred battery material is fully realized. The Company's strategy is to draw upon its quality team and employ best-practice to develop its portfolio of top-tier lithium assets.
ON BEHALF OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS,
Patrick Highsmith, M.Sc.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Lithium One Inc.
1238-200 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 1S4 Canada
Email: info @ lithium1.com
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT
Email: ro @ lithium1.com
Email: media @ lithium1.com
Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.
This document may contain "forward-looking information" within the meaning of Canadian securities legislation (hereinafter referred to as "forward-looking statements"). All statements, other than statements of historical fact, included herein including, without limitation statements relating to; the completion of a Feasibility Study, the entering into of marketing and off-take agreement, the timing for completion of the equity quota registration, the satisfaction of conditions of the Agreement, the provision of a Completion Guarantee , and other matters related to the exploration and development of the Project, are forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this document and the Company does not intend, and does not assume any obligation, to update these forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements relate to future events or future performance and reflect management's expectations or beliefs regarding future events. By their very nature forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of the Company to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in forward-looking statements include unsuccessful exploration results, changes in metals prices, changes in the availability of funding for mineral exploration, unanticipated changes in key management personnel and general economic conditions, title disputes as well as those factors detailed from time to time in the Company's interim and annual financial statements and management's discussion and analysis of those statements, all of which are filed and available for review on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. In certain cases, forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of words such as "plans", "expects" or "does not expect", "is expected", "budget", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "intends", "anticipates" or "does not anticipate", or "believes", or variations of such words and phrases or statements that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will be taken", "occur" or "be achieved" or the negative of these terms or comparable terminology. Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual actions, events or results to differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements, there may be other factors that cause actions, events or results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended. There can be no assurance that forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward looking statements.
Net Shares Out: 45,524,310
June 3, 2010 Close: C$ 1.40
Bye-Bye Batteries: Radio Waves as a Low-Power Source
By ANNE EISENBERG
MATT REYNOLDS, an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Duke University, wears other hats, too — including that of co-founder of two companies. These days, his interest is in a real hat now in prototype: a hard hat with a tiny microprocessor and beeper that sound a warning when dangerous equipment is nearby on a construction site.
What’s unusual, however, is that the hat’s beeper and microprocessor work without batteries. They use so little power that they can harvest all they need from radio waves in the air.
The waves come from wireless network transmitters on backhoes and bulldozers, installed to keep track of their locations. The microprocessor monitors the strength and direction of the radio signal from the construction equipment to determine if the hat’s wearer is too close.
Dr. Reynolds designed this low-power hat, called the SmartHat, with Jochen Teizer, an assistant professor in the school of civil and environmental engineering at Georgia Tech. They are among several people devising devices and systems that consume so little power that it can be drawn from ambient radio waves, reducing or even eliminating the need for batteries. Their work has been funded in part by the National Science Foundation.
Powercast, based in Pittsburgh, sells radio wave transmitters and receivers that use those waves to power wireless sensors and other devices. The sensors, for example, monitor room temperature in automatic systems that control heating and air-conditioning in office buildings, said Harry Ostaffe, director of marketing and business development.
The company recently introduced a receiver for charging battery-free wireless sensors, the P2110 Powerharvester Receiver, and demonstrated it in modules that sense temperature, light level and humidity data, he said. The modules include microcontrollers from Microchip Technology, in Chandler, Ariz.
Until recently, the use of radio waves to power wireless electronic devices was largely untapped because the waves dilute quickly as they spread, said Joshua R. Smith, a principal engineer at Intel’s research center in Seattle and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington.
“That’s changing,” said Dr. Smith, who explores the use of electromagnetic radiation. “Silicon technology has advanced to the point where even tiny amounts of energy can do useful work.”
Two types of research groups are extending the boundaries of low-power wireless devices, said Brian Otis, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington. Some researchers are working to reduce the power required by the devices; others are learning how to harvest power from the environment. “One day,” Professor Otis said, “those two camps will meet, and then we will have devices that can run indefinitely.”
Professor Otis, who designs and deploys integrated circuits for wireless sensing, is in the first group. Dr. Smith of Intel is one of the harvesters, gathering radio power that is now going to waste. And there are plenty of radio waves in the air to provide fodder for him as they spread from Wi-Fi transmitters, cellphone antennas, TV towers and radio stations.
Some of the waves travel to living-room televisions, for example. But others, which would otherwise be wasted as they rise through the atmosphere into space or are absorbed in the ground, can be exploited, he said. “Ambient radio waves,” he said, “can already provide enough energy to substitute for AAA batteries in some calculators, temperature and humidity sensors, and clocks.”
At Intel, Dr. Smith, working with the researcher Alanson Sample of the University of Washington, created an electronic “harvester” of ambient radio waves. It collects enough energy from a TV station broadcasting about 2.5 miles from the lab to run a temperature and humidity sensor.
The device collects enough power to produce about 50 microwatts of DC power, Dr. Smith said. That is enough for many sensing and computing jobs, said Professor Otis. The power consumption of a typical solar-powered calculator, for example, is only about 5 microwatts, he said, and that of a typical digital thermometer with a liquid crystal display is one microwatt.
DR. SMITH and his colleagues have built a second device, powered by radio waves, that collects signals from an outdoor weather station and transmits them to an indoor display. The unit can accumulate enough energy to send an updated temperature every five seconds.
Dr. Reynolds of Duke has long been interested in electronics and wireless equipment. One company he helped found, Zensi, developed a system to sense the amount of electricity used by home appliances; Zensi was bought by Belkin, an electronics concern.
Many electronic devices are limited by batteries that fade away or can’t survive temperature extremes, he said. But, he added, “we are on the cusp of an explosion in small wireless devices” than can run on alternatives to battery power. “Devices like this can live on and on,” he said.
Wax, soap clean up obstacles to better batteries
August 12, 2010
Mary Beckman, PNNL, (509) 375-3688
Paraffin and surfactant oleic acid improve synthesis of lithium manganese phosphate electrodes
Made with a one-step method, these flakes of lithium manganese phosphate can serve as electrodes for batteries.
RICHLAND, Washington – A little wax and soap can help build electrodes for cheaper lithium ion batteries, according to a study in August 11 issue of Nano Letters. The one-step method will allow battery developers to explore lower-priced alternatives to the lithium ion-metal oxide batteries currently on the market.
"Paraffin provides a medium in which to grow good electrode materials," said materials scientist Daiwon Choi of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "This method will help researchers investigate cathode materials based on cheaper transition metals such as manganese or iron."
Consumers use long-lasting rechargeable lithium ion batteries in everything from cell phones to the latest portable gadget. Some carmakers want to use them in vehicles. Most lithium ion batteries available today are designed with an oxide of metal such as cobalt, nickel, or manganese. Choi and colleagues at PNNL and State University of New York at Binghamton wanted to explore both cheaper metals and the more stable phosphate in place of oxide.
The Recharge Tale
These rechargeable batteries work because lithium is selfish and wants its own electron. Positively charged lithium ions normally hang out in metal oxide, the stable, positive electrode in batteries. Metal oxide generously shares its electrons with the lithium ions.
Charging with electricity pumps electrons into the negative electrode, and when the lithium ions see the free-floating negative charges across the battery, they become attracted to life away from the metal oxide cage. So off the lithium ions go, abandoning the metal oxide and its shared electrons to spend time enjoying their own private ones.
But the affair doesn't last — using the battery in an electronic device creates a conduit through which the slippery electrons can flow. Losing their electrons, the lithium ions slink back to the ever-waiting metal oxide. Recharging starts the whole sordid process over.
While cobalt oxide performs well in lithium batteries, cobalt and nickel are more expensive than manganese or iron. In addition, substituting phosphate for oxide provides a more stable structure for lithium.
Lithium iron phosphate batteries are commercially available in some power tools and solar products, but synthesis of the electrode material is complicated. Choi and colleagues wanted to develop a simple method to turn lithium metal phosphate into a good electrode.
Lithium manganese phosphate — LMP — can theoretically store some of the highest amounts of energy of the rechargeable batteries, weighing in at 171 milliAmp hours per gram of material. High storage capacity allows the batteries to be light. But other investigators working with LMP have not even been able to eek out 120 milliAmp hours per gram so far from the material they've synthesized.
Choi reasoned the 30 percent loss in capacity could be due to lithium and electrons having to battle their way through the metal oxide, a property called resistance. The less distance lithium and electrons have to travel out of the cathode, he thought, the less resistance and the more electricity could be stored. A smaller particle would decrease that distance.
But growing smaller particles requires lower temperatures. Unfortunately, lower temperatures means the metal oxide molecules fail to line up well in the crystals. Randomness is unsuitable for cathode materials, so the researchers needed a framework in which the ingredients — lithium, manganese and phosphate — could arrange themselves into neat crystals.
Wax On, Wax Off
Paraffin wax is made up of long straight molecules that don't react with much, and the long molecules might help line things up. Soap — a surfactant called oleic acid — might help the growing crystals disperse evenly.
So, Choi and colleagues mixed the electrode ingredients with melted paraffin and oleic acid and let the crystals grow as they slowly raised the temperature. By 400 Celsius (four times the temperature of boiling water), crystals had formed and the wax and soap had boiled off. Materials scientists generally strengthen metals by subjecting them to high heat, so the team raised the temperature even more to meld the crystals into a plate.
"This method is a lot simpler than other ways of making lithium manganese phosphate cathodes," said Choi. "Other groups have a complicated, multi-step process. We mix all the components and heat it up."
To measure the size of the miniscule plates, the team used a transmission electron microscope in EMSL, DOE's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the PNNL campus. Up close, tiny, thin rectangles poked every which way. The nanoplates measured about 50 nanometers thick -- about a thousand times thinner than a human hair -- and up to 2000 nanometers on a side. Other analyses showed the crystal growth was suitable for electrodes.
To test LMP, the team shook the nanoplates free from one another and added a conductive carbon backing, which serves as the positive electrode. The team tested how much electricity the material could store after charging and discharging fast or slowly.
When the researchers charged the nanoplates slowly over a day and then discharged them just as slowly, the LMP mini battery held a little more than 150 milliAmp hours per gram of material, higher than other researchers had been able to attain. But when the battery was discharged fast -- say, within an hour, that dropped to about 117, comparable to other material.
Its best performance knocked at the theoretical maximum at 168 milliAmp hours per gram, when it was slowly charged and discharged over two days. Charging and discharging in an hour — a reasonable goal for use in consumer electronics — allowed it to store a measly 54 milliAmp hours per gram.
Although this version of an LMP battery charges slower than other cathode materials, Choi said the real advantage to this work is that the easy, one-step method will let them explore a wide variety of cheap materials that have traditionally been difficult to work with in developing lithium ion rechargeable batteries.
In the future, the team will change how they incorporate the carbon coating on the LMP nanoplates, which might improve their charge and discharge rates.
Reference: Daiwon Choi, Donghai Wang, In-Tae Bae, Jie Xiao, Zimin Nie, Wei Wang, Vilayanur V. Viswanathan, Yun Jung Lee, Ji-Guang Zhang, Gordon L. Graff, Zhenguo Yang, and Jun Liu, LiMnPO4 nanoplate grown via solid-state reaction in molten hydrocarbon for li-ion battery cathode, Nano Letters, DOI 10.1021/nl1007085 (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl1007085).
This work was supported by PNNL and DOE's Offices of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.
EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, is a national scientific user facility sponsored by the Department of Energy's Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research program that is located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. EMSL offers an open, collaborative environment for scientific discovery to researchers around the world. EMSL's technical experts and suite of custom and advanced instruments are unmatched. Its integrated computational and experimental capabilities enable researchers to realize fundamental scientific insights and create new technologies. Follow EMSL on Facebook.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory where interdisciplinary teams advance science and technology and deliver solutions to America's most intractable problems in energy, the environment and national security. PNNL employs 4,700 staff, has an annual budget of nearly $1.1 billion, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle since the lab's inception in 1965. Follow PNNL on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
MAY 26, 2009
Obama Administration Sparks Battery Gold Rush
Companies, States Vie for $2.4 Billion in Funding to Turn U.S. Into Top Maker of Electric Car Systems
By WILLIAM M. BULKELEY
The Obama administration has set off a gold rush to power new environmentally friendly cars.
In one of the government's biggest efforts at shaping industrial policy, the Energy Department has been soliciting applications for $2.4 billion in funding aimed at turning the U.S. into a battery-manufacturing powerhouse. At the deadline last week, the department said it had received 165 applications.
Companies vying for the federal money include General Motors Corp., Dow Chemical Co., Johnson Controls Inc. and A123 Systems, a closely held battery maker backed by General Electric Co. and others. States including Michigan, Kentucky and Massachusetts are also weighing in with applications, usually in alliance with their favored battery makers.
GM approached a Korean firm about batteries for the Chevrolet Volt, above, but U.S. firms are keen to join the business.
When the winners are decided, as soon as the end of July, the Energy Department may anoint Livonia, Mich., or Indianapolis or Glendale, Ky., as the future U.S. hub of car batteries. A 2008 study by researchers at Alliance Bernstein forecast the current $9 billion-a-year auto-battery market, based on lead-acid batteries, could reach more than $150 billion by 2030.
The companies and state governments are proposing sites for plants that will make lithium-ion batteries, the technology that has emerged as the leading choice to power future electric cars.
The world-wide market for these types of power cells is now dominated by four big Japanese and Korean companies -- including Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp. -- but their batteries are chiefly small ones used in laptops and cellphones.
Car makers currently use another technology -- nickel-metal-hydride batteries -- in hybrid vehicles such as Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius because they aren't as prone to fire as lithium-ion batteries are.
Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and more powerful than lead or nickel-metal hydride batteries. Several American companies have demonstrated technological improvements that make big versions safe and practical for use in cars and trucks.
While mass production of such batteries hasn't been demonstrated, U.S. companies "seem close to building a facility and getting a product out there," said Kent Furst, battery analyst for Freedonia Group, a market-research firm in Cleveland.
States are desperate to attract manufacturing plants that would boost employment while reducing greenhouse gases. Some officials argue a big battery factory will attract or preserve job-heavy auto assembly plants.
"If you're the place where the batteries are made, there's an opportunity to spin it into other things as well," said D. Gregory Main, president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., a state agency that has committed up to $400 million in incentives for battery manufacturers.
Kentucky is promising $110 million in aid and a 1,550-acre site, in Glendale, that it assembled in an unsuccessful effort to land a Hyundai plant several years ago.
"We're not in that financial league," said Ian Bowles, the Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs. But Mr. Bowles said Massachusetts has a chance of landing federal funding because it has several in-state battery makers such as Boston Power Co.
Manufacturers are proposing to build four plants in Michigan that would require a total capital investment of $1.7 billion, though not all are likely to be funded.
Among them is A123, a Massachusetts company that makes batteries in China for Black & Decker power tools. It wants to build a $600 million lithium-ion plant in Livonia, outside Detroit. GM said it was working with A123 on batteries for the planned Volt electric vehicle, raising the small company's profile. But earlier this year GM said it was working exclusively with LG Chemicals, a Korean battery maker.
A123 now says it has an agreement to supply batteries for future Chrysler cars.
"We think they're qualified, if you get past the notion of bankruptcy" for Chrysler and focus on its plan to be acquired by Fiat, said Michigan's Mr. Main. A123, which recently raised $70 million from GE and other investors, declined comment.
Meanwhile, Johnson Controls, the Wisconsin auto supplier that is currently the industry's leading lead-acid battery supplier, has allied with Saft LLC, a French battery maker, with plans to build lithium batteries in an existing plant in Holland, Mich.
In Kentucky, part of the proposed 1,550-acre site, in Glendale site will be occupied by the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries, a 51-company consortium, which plans a research campus.
"It's been a strategic decision to move in the direction of creating Kentucky as what we hope will be the epicenter of battery development," said Larry Hayes, the state's economic development secretary.
The consortium was started by Chicago lawyer James J. Greenberger, the head of the energy and project-finance team at Reed Smith LLP. He calls the venture a "law-firm-marketing exercise that got out of control."
After he ran a conference last year, companies signed up to form a group that would develop tools and manufacturing expertise to be ready when the technology is. He said the federal funding is "almost too much money," considering the early stage of the market. But he said winning a DOE grant is crucial to the prospects of building the research center
In Indiana, battery maker Ener1 Inc. has applied for a grant to expand a lithium car-battery plant it already operates in Indianapolis. The company has an agreement to supply batteries to closely held Fisker Automotive, a California company with plans to build and sell $88,000 luxury-hybrid cars in 2010.
Ener1 Chairman Charles Gassenheimer said the Energy Department grants would help it expand, but "it's not life or death," for the company, which has raised some $250 million on its own. He said the grants can "accelerate the industry to develop two or three years faster" than it would on its own.
Write to William M. Bulkeley at bill.bulkeley @ wsj.com
Lithium-Ion Battery Oversupply to Drive Prices Down Around 20%
by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada on 08.31.10
A Significant Drop Predicted
It's all about supply and demand: According to Hideo Takeshita, an analyst at the Institute of Information Technology Ltd. in Tokyo, the price of lithium-ion batteries could drop by about 19% in 2010, while another analyst, Shiro Mikoshiba of Nomura Holdings, said that the worsening oversupply may push prices down as much as 25%. While it's always important to take market predictions with a grain of salt, if lithium-ion battery prices drop by anywhere near 1/5th, it's going to have a positive impact on the electrification of transportation. Read on for more details about the price war.
The price drops highlight how battery makers in Japan and South Korea, accounting for 75 percent of global production, may be sacrificing profit for market share as automobiles with no gas tanks are projected to help triple sales of lithium-ion cells in six years. Cheaper batteries may lead to lower costs at carmakers such as Nissan Motor Co., whose all-electric $32,780 Leaf sedan is scheduled to go on sale in November. (source)
From Boom to Bust
This isn't too different from what recently happened with the supply of silicon for solar panels. For a while the supply was constrained, which made prices go up. This encouraged more producers to join that market because profit margins were high, but after a while all these new entrants created a glut and prices went down. The least efficient companies got out of that market, leaving behind lower prices and more efficient producers.
The big winners were consumers, with access to cheaper solar panels and a faster rate of innovation because of the increased competition. I wouldn't be surprised if the same happened with lithium-ion batteries. These booms in various industry sectors can be bad for the losing companies and their shareholders, but they are usually good for consumers.
See also: Life Cycle Analysis of Electric Car Shows Battery Has Only Minor Impact
Hands Down, Lithium-Ion Batteries are Better than Gas
At worse, the batteries are a moderate environmental burden.
Tue Sep 7, 2010
Content provided by Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, AllCarsElectric.com
- Some have argued that mining metals for batteries is worse than drilling for oil.
- But calculations show that, overall, the batteries use fewer natural resources.
A team of Swiss researchers has released conclusive data showing that the environmental impact of an electric vehicle is much less than previously thought.
As any EV advocate will tell you that electric vehicles are extremely green when fueled from renewable energy such as solar or wind power. And even those fueled from non-clean power sources, such as gas, oil and coal are less polluting than gasoline cars.
But EVs have a sinful side that cannot be ignored. Batteries.
Some of the most vocal anti-EV spokespersons say that mining the minerals and metals used in electric car batteries is much more damaging to the planet than drilling for the oil that fuels gasoline cars.
Thankfully, it turns out they are wrong. According to a study from the Swiss-based EMPA institute, which focuses on material sciences and technology development, li-ion batteries for electric vehicles are greener than expected.
The team, lead by Dominic Notter, calculated the ecological footprints of electric cars fitted with li-ion batteries, taking into account many factors all the way from its production through its operation to its disposal, and then compared that information with that of gasoline cars. Overall, EVs use fewer natural resources.
For example, when they compared electric cars similar in size and performance to the 2010 VW Golf, the researchers discovered that only 15 percent of the total environmental impact of building the car could be attributed to the battery pack. Of that, only 2.3 percent came from mining and processing raw lithium.
Other materials used in lithium-ion batteries such as copper and aluminum, attributed 7.5 percent of the environmental burden.
But don’t think for one second that the researchers were giving EV batteries an easy time.
The researchers note that batteries have to be recharged, and if the electricity is sourced nuclear, coal-fired and hydroelectric power stations -- a standard electricity generation mix in Europe -- a battery used for 100,000 miles produces three times as much pollution as that from manufacturing.
Using power exclusively from coal-fired stations worsens the impact of an EV by more than 13 percent.
But if the electricity comes from a renewable energy source such as hydroelectric, the number improves by no less than 40 percent.
The takeaway message being that sources of electricity need to be renewable.
The researchers concluded that to be more environmentally friendly than an EV a gasoline car would need to have a fuel efficiency of more than 59 miles per U.S. gallon.
The message from Switzerland is clear. Even when fueled by dirty sources, EVs with lithium-ion batteries have less environmental impact than their gasoline-powered counterparts.
Charge from a renewable source, and gasoline cars simply cannot compete.
Stanford's nanowire battery holds 10 times the charge of existing ones
PALO ALTO, CA | Posted on December 18th, 2007
The new version, developed through research led by Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. A laptop that now runs on battery for two hours could operate for 20 hours, a boon to ocean-hopping business travelers.
"It's not a small improvement," Cui said. "It's a revolutionary development."
The breakthrough is described in a paper, "High-performance lithium battery anodes using silicon nanowires," published online Dec. 16 in Nature Nanotechnology, written by Cui, his graduate chemistry student Candace Chan and five others.
The greatly expanded storage capacity could make Li-ion batteries attractive to electric car manufacturers. Cui suggested that they could also be used in homes or offices to store electricity generated by rooftop solar panels.
"Given the mature infrastructure behind silicon, this new technology can be pushed to real life quickly," Cui said.
The electrical storage capacity of a Li-ion battery is limited by how much lithium can be held in the battery's anode, which is typically made of carbon. Silicon has a much higher capacity than carbon, but also has a drawback.
Silicon placed in a battery swells as it absorbs positively charged lithium atoms during charging, then shrinks during use (i.e., when playing your iPod) as the lithium is drawn out of the silicon. This expand/shrink cycle typically causes the silicon (often in the form of particles or a thin film) to pulverize, degrading the performance of the battery.
Cui's battery gets around this problem with nanotechnology. The lithium is stored in a forest of tiny silicon nanowires, each with a diameter one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper. The nanowires inflate four times their normal size as they soak up lithium. But, unlike other silicon shapes, they do not fracture.
Research on silicon in batteries began three decades ago. Chan explained: "The people kind of gave up on it because the capacity wasn't high enough and the cycle life wasn't good enough. And it was just because of the shape they were using. It was just too big, and they couldn't undergo the volume changes."
Then, along came silicon nanowires. "We just kind of put them together," Chan said.
For their experiments, Chan grew the nanowires on a stainless steel substrate, providing an excellent electrical connection. "It was a fantastic moment when Candace told me it was working," Cui said.
Cui said that a patent application has been filed. He is considering formation of a company or an agreement with a battery manufacturer. Manufacturing the nanowire batteries would require "one or two different steps, but the process can certainly be scaled up," he added. "It's a well understood process."
Also contributing to the paper in Nature Nanotechnology were Halin Peng and Robert A. Huggins of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford, Gao Liu of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Kevin McIlwrath and Xiao Feng Zhang of the electron microscope division of Hitachi High Technologies in Pleasanton, Calif.
For more information, please click here
Stanford News Service:
dstober @ stanford.edu
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
yicui @ stanford.edu
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Stanford professor receives $10 million grant
University faculty members depend on grants to fund their research projects, but Stanford's Yi Cui, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, just got a larger-than-usual grant: $10 million from a Saudi university.
He will begin hiring students and staff for his lab in McCullough Building when the grant begins in May, figuring out how to spend $10 million.
"The money will allow me to explore a lot of exciting ideas which are not otherwise possible," Cui said. "Very crazy ideas but potentially very high impact projects that could change the whole world if successful."
Cui, 32, specializes in nanotechnology.
The $10 million grant is from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, which is in the process of being built.
Both Stanford and UC-Berkeley have established ties to help recruit world-class faculty members. Stanford will advise KAUST on hiring faculty and creating curricula in mathematics and computer science.
Cui is one of a dozen scientists internationally chosen by KAUST as "global research partnership investigators" who will be expected to spend between three weeks and three months a year on the new Saudi campus once it is built.
Others selected were from UC-Berkeley, MIT, Penn State, the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Oxford, University of Tokyo, University of Cambridge, Chalmers Institute of Technology in Sweden, University of Toronto and the University of Rome.
Cui was in the news recently for his work on producing rechargeable batteries for laptops and iPods that would hold a charge much longer than current batteries.
Cui is a native of Guangxi Province in China, holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Science and Technology in China and a doctorate in chemistry from Harvard. He was recently named an "outstanding young investigator" by the U.S. Office of Naval Research.
-- Don Kazak
Battery Director Denise Gray Leaving GM For Stealth Battery Startup
February 24, 2010
Denise Gray is GM’s director of global battery systems. She has been instrumental in the development of the Volt having started in the program in 2006. She was there when the first lithium-ion Volt prototype pack arrived from Compact Power in October 2007 as has been in charge of developing all of GM’s EREV and plugin batteries as well as acting as strategic leader for the next generation Volt.
Today she announced to a small group of reporters including myself that she is leaving GM.
She will be joining a new stealth-mode start-up battery company in California. She will not say at this point which company she is going to, but notes her last day at GM is March 5th and will start with the new company in the next couple of weeks.
She describes the new position as a “great opportunity” for her and is “an opportunity to continue on with clean technology and battery technology.”
She says it is a small company and she will be able to play a larger business and leadership role there where she can “create and shape, and plant seeds,” which she said is similar to what she did with GM originally in the Volt program. The new company is venture-capital funded.
Gray said there have been no negative surprises in the Volt program, and that program’s success is what made the decision to leave extremely hard for her. She is not leaving for lack of success but for new opportunity. She was very satisfied to see the first battery roll of the line on January 7th at GM’s new dedicated battery assembly plant, “is rooting for the Volt” and feels comfortable leaving “her baby” in others’ hands. Under Gray’s leadership the Volt battery program went from 25 to 200 employees over the past 3 years. She’s been a GM employee for more than 25 years.
Ronn Jamieson has been director of Global Battery Systems Engineering, and will temporarily assume all reporting responsibilities for her staff while Bill Wallace, current Volt Battery System Engineering Group Manager, will assume all technical and program management responsibilities relative to the Volt battery and its launch.
Gray said she learned at GM “not to turn a blind eye to new opportunity,” something she’s exercising in taking this new position.
In a limitation for her GM, she said, is focused on on their own portfolio of vehicles but her new assignment will allow her to see other types of applications of electrification of the automobile
The Volt battery program she notes is right on schedule and GM has been building production packs since January 7. Gray notes there are multiple packs from the plant that are now in the lab undergoing tests.
When the first production pack came to the lab for testing earlier this year, one of Gray’s colleagues noted it was “the best battery we’ve seen so far.”
Gray notes at this point “the heavy lifting is over” and for the Volt program only the finishing touches remain.
And no, Gray will not be joining EEStor. I would speculate it is possible she could be joining Stanford silicon nanowire battery expert Yi Cui in his start-up company, Amprius.
Good luck and farewell Denise, and thanks for all the education you have provided me and the GM-Volt.com readership. It is likely we’ll be hearing from you again very soon.
1430 O'Brien Dr, Suite C
Menlo Park, CA 94025
press @ amprius.com
Friday, November 06, 2009
More Energy in Batteries
Nanowire anodes could let lithium-ion batteries run twice as long.
By Katherine Bourzac
A start-up based in Menlo Park, CA, plans to sell a new type of anode for lithium-ion batteries that, the company says, will let electric vehicles travel farther and mobile devices last longer without a recharge. Amprius' lithium-ion anodes are made of silicon nanowires, which can store 10 times more charge than graphite, the material used for today's lithium-ion battery anodes. According to the company, electric vehicles that run 200 miles between charges could go 380 miles on its batteries, and laptops that have four hours of run time could last for seven hours between charges.
While other advanced battery companies are focused on power, which makes for fast charging and zippy acceleration, Amprius is trying to improve energy density, which enables longer run times. The more total energy a battery can store, the longer it can power a car or a phone between charges. As vehicle manufacturers look toward electric cars, and as mobile devices like iPhones run more energy-intensive applications, a battery's energy density, and thus the time it can go without a recharge, becomes a more pressing issue.
When lithium-ion batteries are charged, lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode, while electrons flow in through an external electrical circuit; the process is reversed during discharge. Silicon has shown promise as an anode material because it can take up much more lithium than the carbon materials now used. Indeed, the theoretical maximum energy density of silicon is 10 times greater than carbon's. But silicon is fragile and tends to swell and crack after just one charge cycle.
However, battery anodes made from silicon nanowires can be cycled over and over again without damage. This fall, Yi Cui, Amprius founder and assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford, demonstrated nanostructured silicon anodes that meet silicon's theoretical charge storage capacity without breaking. Mats of long, thin nanowires are pliable, which relieves the strain when the battery is charged and discharged. And collections of nanowires have a very high surface area, which means more sites for interacting with lithium.
Ryan Kottenstette, Amprius' director of business development, says the company has made a number of improvements in the nanowire growth process to make it compatible with large-scale manufacturing. The nanowires are grown from a gas on a metal substrate coated with a catalyst. The company would not detail how the anodes are made, but it has developed a process that uses a more conductive substrate and a cheaper catalyst. "The anodes can be grown on a large scale at a fast speed in large areas on foil and with lower materials costs," says Cui.
Amprius is in talks with vehicle and electronics manufacturers, and raised its first round of venture funding in March. The company hopes to raise more funds next summer to build a pilot manufacturing line.
No matter how good the anode is, the overall charge capacity of a battery depends on the cathode, too. The performance of today's lithium-ion cathodes isn't as good as that of the anodes Amprius is developing. The company's initial battery designs make up for this mismatch by pairing a thin anode with a thick cathode. Compared to a conventional lithium-ion battery of equal size, this design stores 40 percent more charge. In order to further increase the energy density, however, the company will need new cathode materials.
Copyright Technology Review 2009.
Rechargeable Fabric Batteries to Charge the Army of the Future
By GreenBiz Staff at Greener World Media
Tue Aug 24, 2010
A team working on lithium-ion battery technologies that can be poured into any shape or woven into fabrics reported progress on their work at the American Chemical Society's National Meeting this week.
Mark Allen, a Ph.D. in Angela Belcher's research group at MIT, presented a report showing that the group has begun developing new materials for a battery's positive electrone, using a common -- but non-harmful -- virus called M13 bacteriophage to develop the battery rather than harmful chemicals.
"Using M13 bacteriophage as a template is an example of green chemistry, an environmentally friendly method of producing the battery," Allen said in a statement. "It enables the processing of all materials at room temperature and in water." And these materials, he said, should be less dangerous than those used in current lithium-ion batteries because they produce less heat, which reduces flammability risks.
The end goal of the project is to create lightweight, long-lasting and rechargeable batteries that can be woven into fabrics, poured into any shape, or sprayed on any containers. Among the first projected uses for the batteries, as part of the testing phase, is to power unmanned aerial surveillance drones.
But other uses -- military and otherwise -- include the development of "rechargeable clothing" that can lighten the load of overburdened soldiers and power the high-tech military and civilian populations of the future.
"Typical soldiers have to carry several pounds of batteries. But if you could turn their clothing into a battery pack, they could drop a lot of weight," Allen said. "The same could be true for frequent business travellers -- the road warriors -- who lug around batteries and separate rechargers for laptop computers, cell phones, and other devices. They could shed some weight."
The U.S. military is pioneering the future of battery technology, as it has with any number of technologies in the past, perhaps most notably the internet. In 2009, the Department of Defense enlisted GE to create a smart grid on the Twentynine Palms military base in the California desert.
Panasonic talking to 20 car makers on lithium cells
Tue Aug 3, 2010
* Panasonic in battery talks with about 20 car makers
* No date for expanding battery production at fourth factory
* Panasonic exceeds developing market targets in April-June
* Pushing ahead with plans for Indian industrial park
By Isabel Reynolds and Reiji Murai
OSAKA, Japan, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Panasonic Corp (6752.T) is in talks with about 20 carmakers about using its lithium battery cells in electric vehicles, but is cautious about expanding production as it battles with low-cost Asian competitors, an executive said.
The company, which vies with Sony Corp (6758.T) for the title of the world's biggest consumer electronics maker, is also making progress on plans to open a white goods production site in the Indian state of Haryana, a second executive said.
Fresh from announcing its buyout of the world's top rechargeable battery maker, Sanyo Electric (6764.T), [ID:nSGE66S08Q], Panasonic is touting its own battery modules for the nascent electric vehicle market.
Packaged from standard-sized cylindrical lithium cells known as "18650" after their 18 mm by 650 mm dimensions, the company says they offer a cheap and flexible option for electric cars and the home energy storage markets.
Panasonic's cells already power niche U.S. carmaker Tesla Motors' roadster sports model.
Their adoption in a mass-production vehicle would trigger an explosion in demand, Naoto Noguchi, head of the company's batteries division, told Reuters in one of a series of media interviews in Osaka this week.
"We're busy," he said, adding that the company was talking to about 20 car firms, both Japanese and foreign, with a view to supplying cells. "A lot of makers are showing interest, which is gratifying," he said.
Part of the attraction is the cost, which Noguchi says works out at less than half that of conventional lithium batteries.
Panasonic's cells feature nickel-based positive electrodes, which makes for a lighter, more durable battery compared with other options, but also requires safety features to eliminate the risk of explosion.
The car battery modules will not be ready for the mass market for about four years and no date has been fixed for a delayed expansion at a fourth lithium cell factory in the western city of Osaka, which would increase its capacity to 600 million units a year, Noguchi said.
The global lithium battery market actually shrank slightly in revenue terms in the financial year that ended in March, due to the weak global economy and fierce price competition from the likes of Samsung SDI (006400.KS) and BYD Co (1211.HK) of China.
But research firm Japan Economic Centre expects demand to more than double in worth to 1.5 trillion yen by 2015, thanks to the expected take-up of environmentally friendly plug-in cars.
"If electric vehicles take off we are talking about huge numbers," Noguchi said, noting about 2,000 cells would be needed for a compact electric vehicle.
Separately, Panasonic is pushing ahead with plans for consumer goods production in an industrial park in India's Haryana state, Hitoshi Otsuki, managing director in charge of overseas markets said in an interview.
No contract has been signed, but Panasonic hopes to secure efficiencies by basing all new Indian production, including a planned air-conditioner factory in one area, as it aims for developing market sales of 770 billion yen by 2013.
Sales of consumer goods in the target developing markets grew by 30 percent in the April-June quarter, exceeding expectations, the company said.
In Europe, Panasonic's Chinese-based factories are having trouble keeping up with booming demand for low-energy consumption refrigerators and washing machines, Otsuki said, adding that the company was still considering how to localise production.
"At this point in particular, environmental rules are becoming stricter, and that is an opportunity for us," Otsuki said, but noted that the region's economic woes were also a factor in the decision. (Editing by Greg Mahlich)
September 23, 2010
Amid Tension, China Blocks Crucial Exports to Japan
By KEITH BRADSHER
HONG KONG — Sharply raising the stakes in a dispute over Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain, the Chinese government has blocked exports to Japan of a crucial category of minerals used in products like hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles.
Chinese customs officials are halting shipments to Japan of so-called rare earth elements, preventing them from being loaded aboard ships this week at Chinese ports, three industry officials said Thursday.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao personally called for Japan’s release of the captain, who was detained after his vessel collided with two Japanese Coast Guard ships about 40 minutes apart as he tried to fish in waters controlled by Japan but long claimed by China. Mr. Wen threatened unspecified further actions if Japan did not comply.
A spokesman for the Chinese commerce ministry declined Thursday morning to discuss the country’s trade policy on rare earths, saying only that Mr. Wen’s comments remained the government’s position. News agencies later reported that Chen Rongkai, another ministry spokesman, had denied that any embargo had been imposed.
Any publication of government regulations or other official pronouncements barring exports would allow Japan to file an immediate complaint with the World Trade Organization, claiming a violation of free trade rules. But an administrative halt to exports, by preventing the loading of rare earths on ships bound for Japan, is much harder to challenge at the W.T.O.
The United States, the European Union and Mexico brought W.T.O. complaints against China in November after it issued regulations limiting the export of yellow phosphorus and eight other industrial materials. American trade officials have been considering for months whether to challenge China’s longstanding and increasingly tight quotas on rare earth exports as well.
China mines 93 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, and more than 99 percent of the world’s supply of some of the most prized rare earths, which sell for several hundred dollars a pound.
Dudley Kingsnorth, the executive director of the Industrial Minerals Company of Australia, a rare earth consulting company, said that several industry executives had already expressed worries about the export ban. The executives have been told that the initial ban would last through the end of the month and that Beijing would reassess then whether to extend the ban if the fishing captain still has not been released, Mr. Kingsnorth said.
“By stopping the shipments, they’re disrupting commercial contracts, which is regrettable and will only emphasize the need for geographic diversity of supply,” he said. He added that in addition to telling companies to halt exports, the Chinese government had also instructed customs officials to stop any exports of rare earth minerals to Japan.
Industry officials said that mainland China’s customs agency had notified companies that they were not allowed to ship to Japan any rare earth oxides, rare earth salts or pure rare earth metals, although the shipments are still allowed to go to Hong Kong, Singapore and other destinations. But no ban has been imposed on the export to Japan of semi-processed alloys that combine rare earths with other materials, the officials said. China has been trying to expand its alloy industry to create higher-paying jobs in mining areas, instead of exporting raw materials for initial processing.
A senior Japanese foreign ministry official, who declined to be named, said that the Japanese government had not yet received any notice from China regarding the suspension. The official said, however, that the government had repeatedly asked China to not restrict its exports of rare earth elements, citing the severe consequences such a move would have on global production and trade.
Toyota, which makes the Prius hybrid car, had not yet received any information on an embargo and was unable to comment, a spokesman for Toyota in Tokyo, Masami Doi, said.
Japan has been the main buyer of Chinese rare earths for many years, using them for a wide range of industrial purposes, like making glass for solar panels. They are also used in small steering-control motors in conventional gasoline-powered cars as well as in motors that help propel hybrid cars like the Prius.
American companies rely mostly on Japan for magnets and other components using rare earth elements, as the United States’ manufacturing capacity in the industry became uncompetitive and mostly closed over the last two decades.
The Chinese halt to exports is likely to have immediate repercussions in Washington. The Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives was scheduled Thursday to review a detailed bill to subsidize the revival of the American rare earths industry. The main American rare earth mine, in Mountain Pass, Calif., closed in 2002, but efforts are under way to reopen it.
The House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing Oct. 5 to review the American military dependence on Chinese rare earth elements.
The Defense Department has a separate review under way on whether the United States should develop its own sources of supply for rare earths, which are used in equipment including range finders on the Army’s tanks, sonar systems aboard Navy vessels and the control vanes on the Air Force’s smart bombs.
Jeff Green, a Washington lobbyist for rare earth processors in the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia, said that China and Japan were the only two sources for the initial, semi-processed blocks of rare earth magnetic material. If Japan runs out of rare earths from China — and Japanese companies have been stockpiling in the last two years — then the United States will have to buy the blocks directly from China, he said.
“We are going to be 100 percent reliant on the Chinese to make the components for the defense supply chain,” Mr. Green said.
The Chinese export halt is likely to prompt particular alarm in Japan, which has few natural resources and has long worried about its dependence on imports. The United States was the main supplier of oil to Japan in the 1930s, and the imposition of an American oil embargo on Japan in 1941, in an effort to curb Japanese military expansionism, has been cited by some historians as one of the reasons for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
Japanese companies are setting up rare earth processing factories in northern Vietnam, partly to use small reserves of rare earth elements found there but also to process rare earths smuggled across the border from southern China. But the Chinese government has been tightening controls rapidly on the industry in the last four months to try to limit smuggling.
Rare earth elements are already in short supply, and prices are soaring, after the Chinese government announced in July that it was cutting export quotas by 72 percent for the remainder of the year. A delegation of Japanese business leaders met with Chinese officials in Beijing on Sept. 7 to protest the sharp reduction in quotas.
The price of samarium, crucial to high-temperature military applications like missile guidance motors, has more than tripled since July, to $32 a pound, Mr. Green said.
Deng Xiaoping, the late leader of China, is widely reported to have said that while the Middle East has oil, China dominates rare earth elements.
But while Arab states used restrictions on oil exports as a political weapon in 1956, 1967 and 1973, China has refrained until now from using its near monopoly on rare earth elements as a form of leverage on other governments.
China tried to position itself instead as a reliable supplier, partly to discourage other nations from digging their own rare earth mines.
Despite the name, rare earths are actually fairly common; they are expensive and seldom mined elsewhere because the processing equipment to separate them from the ore is costly and because rare earths almost always occur naturally in deposits mixed with radioactive thorium and uranium.
Processing runs the risk of radiation leaks — a small leak was one reason the last American mine was unable to renew its operating license and closed in 2002 — and disposing of the radioactive thorium is difficult.
Hiroko Tabuchi contributed reporting from Tokyo.
Japan Pioneers Two Good Ideas: Fast Charging and Battery Swapping
By Jim Motavalli | September 21, 2010
REYKJAVIK, ICELAND -– In an interesting twist, Japanese companies are leading the way on two diametrically opposed EV charging techniques, 480-volt DC fast charging and battery swapping. One of them is likely to fall by the wayside, but there’s no harm in pioneering both.
Fast-charging advocates say that if you can fully charge a battery electric car in 30 minutes, then you may not need swap stations – whose primary virtue is speed (automated, in the Better Place model demonstrated in Tokyo, it takes less than a minute. The program was so successful, it was extended). But 30 minutes is still a long time compared to the three to five minutes we spend at gas station pumps. What do you do at a gas station for half an hour?
My own take is that fast charging may triumph for consumer cars, but battery swapping could win out for fleets, which could swap at central depots and use standardized batteries. That’s why Better Place’s Tokyo taxi program makes eminent sense. It’s far more challenging to keep a huge stock of incompatible batteries on hand to swap whatever comes by at highway stations.
Ichiro Fukue, senior executive vice president at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, said at the Driving Sustainability 2010 conference in Iceland last week that the company will roll out a test fleet of EV buses in Kyoto next February, followed by mass production in 2013.
The 65-person buses have 160-kilowatt motors, and 60-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion batteries. They have a range of just 16 miles, followed by a quick swap at the battery station. Fukue said that swapping batteries makes sense for bus fleets, because even half an hour is too long to keep the buses out of service.
There are some big advantages to zero-emission buses: Mitsubishi’s concept designs included the buses arriving inside the terminal like trains, instead of outside it as polluting buses normally do. In the illustration, a string quartet was providing music. The concept also included using the buses to send power back into the office tower to which they’re connected.
Mitsubishi also produces the I-MiEV battery car, which is making inroads into the Japanese market. Fukue said the company’s business model includes the concept of “co-ownership” of expensive lithium-ion battery packs, with the cost spread across two consecutive owners before a resale to utilities for stationary power. Fukue didn’t explain how the “two-owner” concept would work, but it might be predictive of a secondary market for used batteries comparable to the way people save money today by buying used cars.
The i-MiEV doesn’t swap batteries, but it is fully compatible with the CHAdeMO fast charging standard created by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO). The CHAdeMO standard was first out of the gate, and governments and trade associations in Europe and the U.S. are haggling over whether to adopt it or develop their own version. If they do develop their own protocol, the “not invented here” principle will be at work, since CHAdeMO is very workable internationally.
In Iceland, Hiroaki Takatsu, executive director of TEPCO, said the company was moved to act on EVs by the stark fact that it produces 10 percent of the carbon emissions in Japan. Takatsu said the company has put in place a dramatic emissions reduction target of .33 kilograms of carbon dioxide per generated kilowatt hour of electricity by 2020. “Achieving a low CO2 target from the current fuel mix is very challenging,” he said. “It’s hard to get there on the supply side, so we’re looking more on the demand side.”
EVs are an answer, and CHAdeMO makes them work better, Takatsu said. “Your charging will be complete while you have tea,” he said. Takatsu also chided the lack of standardization among charging companies, which included the use of incompatible conductive and inductive plugs on an earlier generation of U.S. EVs. “It wasn’t useful for EV drivers, and it did not remove range anxiety,” he said.
CHAdeMO has won some prominent partners, including Think (the Norwegian EV maker), Bosch, utilities in Italy and Ireland, and charging companies Aker Wade (which makes fast chargers for forklifts and airport vehicles) and AeroVironment. Takatsu said that modern batteries were in some cases “overdesigned,” and there are no cases I Japan of packs being damaged by fast charging.
There has been some speculation that Mitsubishi was working with Better Place on battery swapping, but Takatsu denied it in Iceland.
Takatsu said that 50-kilowatt DC fast chargers could cost $25,000, which is half of the figure I’ve seen quoted from western companies.
The TEPCO standard has gotten off to a fast start. There are 153 DC fast chargers in TEPCO’s service area, and 254 in Japan. The company is gaining valuable fast charging experience, and it has already reached some interesting conclusions. According to TEPCO, many EV drivers have depended less on public fast charging after they got over their “range anxiety.” Once drivers realize they can make it home on the charge they got overnight, they’re less likely to stop at a public station for a top-off. That could happen in the U.S., too, especially since public charging is likely to be more expensive than charging at home.
Both fast charging and battery swapping have roles to play, and those roles will become clear very quickly now that the cars are finally rolling out.
Strong Magnets With Printed Poles Have Endless Engineering Applications
The Brilliant Idea: Magnets printed with multiple poles, opening the door to myriad applications.
By Logan Ward and the Editors of Popular Mechanics
October 1, 2010
Two magnets tightly attract when aligned but repel when twisted more than 45 degrees, easily clicking on and off. Other apps: cycling cleats, pick-proof locks, standard prosthetic-limb fittings.
Magnetic discs attract and repel simultaneously, offering friction-free cushioning for bones of the spine. Other apps: bearings for energy-storing flywheels, assembly-line arms.
Magnets on the joints of furniture or toys click together only when correctly aligned, making Christmas Eve easier for dads everywhere. Other apps: car parts, aircraft machinery.
(Icons by Dogo)
Innovator: Larry Fullerton, Correlated Magnetics Research
Larry Fullerton set out to invent a self-assembling magnetic toy that would fuel his grandchildren’s passion for science. Instead, he invented a way to manipulate magnetic fields that redefines one of the fundamental forces of nature.
Fullerton’s breakthrough tramples the long-held assumption that magnets have two opposing poles, one on each side. He found that if he used heat to erase a magnetic field, he could then reprogram material to have multiple north and south poles of differing strengths. “People look at magnets as having a north pole and a south pole. That limits your thinking,” he says. “I came along from the field of radar and said, ‘Hey, that’s not a magnet—it’s a vector field!’”
To program the magnets, Fullerton invented a device—picture a printer whose head emits 200,000-amp bursts of electricity rather than ink—that creates magnetic pixels he calls “maxels.” Using the printer and some vector math, Fullerton is now learning how to produce magnets that exhibit different behaviors. The practical applications appear limitless: from precision switches and a new generation of fasteners to robots that can scale walls without touching them.
Silicon Nanopores Breakthrough Could Boost Lithium-Ion Battery Anode Capacity by 10x
by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada on 10.20.10
Science & Technology
Photo: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University
Nanotubes, Nanopores... The Future's Happening on a Small Scale
Last year, I wrote about a battery tech breakthrough by researchers at Stanford and Hanyang University in Ansan, South-Korea. By using silicon nanotubes, they boosted the capacity of a lithium-ion battery's anode by a factor of about 10. Building on that work, a team of Rice University and Lockheed Martin scientists has done something that similar, but they instead used silicon nanopores. Their solution could actually be easier to implement and more robust, potentially changing the portable electronics and electric vehicle landscape! Read on for more details.
Photo: Biswal Lab/Rice University
"The anode, or negative, side of today's batteries is made of graphite, which works. It's everywhere," Wong said. "But it's maxed out. You can't stuff any more lithium into graphite than we already have."
Silicon has the highest theoretical capacity of any material for storing lithium, but there's a serious drawback to its use. "It can sop up a lot of lithium, about 10 times more than carbon, which seems fantastic," Wong said. "But after a couple of cycles of swelling and shrinking, it's going to crack."
Other labs have tried to solve the problem with carpets of silicon nanowires that absorb lithium like a mop soaks up water, but the Rice team took a different tack.
They found that adding micron-sized pores ("nanopores") to the surface of a silicon wafer gives the material sufficient room to expand. While common lithium-ion batteries hold about "300 milliamp hours per gram of carbon-based anode material, they determined the treated silicon could theoretically store more than 10 times that amount."
Quite a big step forward if it can be commercialized. Even without improvements on the same scale in the cathode, it would increase the total capacity of lithium-ion batteries significantly.
Photo: Biswal Lab/Rice University
Nanopores are simpler to create than silicon nanowires, Biswal said. The pores, a micron wide and from 10 to 50 microns long, form when positive and negative charge is applied to the sides of a silicon wafer, which is then bathed in a hydrofluoric solvent. "The hydrogen and fluoride atoms separate," she said. "The fluorine attacks one side of the silicon, forming the pores. They form vertically because of the positive and negative bias."
The straightforward process makes it highly adaptable for manufacturing, she said. "We don't require some of the difficult processing steps they do -- the high vacuums and having to wash the nanotubes. Bulk etching is much simpler to process.
This also increases the lifetime of the batteries compared to nanowire ones, which is also important for portable electronics and electric vehicles (you can extend the life of batteries by managing their cycles in clever ways, but it's always better to have a long-lived battery to start with).
Via EurekAlert, Futurepundit
Toyota is Turning Old NiMH Batteries Into New Batteries
by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada on 10.28.10
The Circle of Battery-Life
The more hybrid cars and battery electric cars are on the road, the more battery pack we'll eventually have to deal with. It's still a better problem to have than to have to deal with vehicles that burn significantly more non-renewable fossil fuels, with the waste products going straight in the atmosphere. At least the batteries are recycled, and consumers are being paid for their old batteries (which usually can still hold a lot of charge, so some might be used for other things before final recycling). But so far recycled batteries weren't always turned into new battery. That might change in the future...
Toyota Motor Corporation, along with Toyota Chemical Engineering, Sumitomo Metal Mining, and Primearth EV Energy, have partnered to recycle nickel in used hybrid-vehicle nickel-metal-hydride batteries for use in new nickel-metal-hydride batteries. The new facilities are only in Japan for now.
"Previously, nickel-metal-hydride batteries recovered by car dealers and vehicle dismantling businesses were subjected to reduction treatment, and scrap containing nickel was recycled as a raw material for stainless-steel manufacturing. Now, with the development of high-precision nickel sorting and extraction technology, materials can be introduced directly into the nickel-refining process, thus achieving 'battery-to-battery' recycling." (source)
I'm hoping that the same will be done with lithium-ion batteries, which will no doubt be more popular than NiMH batteries in the near-future. Li-ion batteries are already being recycled, but it would be great if they were turned directly into new batteries using processes that are as green and energy-efficient as possible.
I also encourage Toyota to bring this process to other markets where they sell lots of hybrids (North-America, Europe) as soon as possible.
Via Toyota, GCC
Study Shows How Lithium-Ion Batteries Age & Degrade
by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada on 11. 1.10
Photo: GM, Chevy Volt lithium-ion battery.
Understanding Why So We Can Hopefully Do Something About It
Researchers at the Ohio State University have been testing lithium-ion batteries, the kind used in the latest electric and hybrid vehicles, to find out how and why their performance degrades with age and use. The OSU lab is set up so that the batteries can be charged and discharged many times in difference conditions (hot like Arizona, cold like Alaska) over many months, mimicking real-world usage patterns as closely are possible.
Photo: GM, Chevy Volt lithium-ion battery.
Slicing and Dicing
Once the batteries were sufficiently aged and degraded, the researchers opened them up to see what was going on inside at the microscopic level:
When the batteries died, the scientists dissected them and used a technique called infrared thermal imaging to search for problem areas in each electrode, a 1.5-meter-long strip of metal tape coated with oxide and rolled up like a jelly roll. They then took a closer look at these problem areas using a variety of techniques with different length scale resolutions (e.g. scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscope, scanning spreading resistance microscopy, Kelvin probe microscopy, transmission electron microscopy) and discovered that the finely-structured nanomaterials on these electrodes that allow the battery rapidly charge and discharge had coarsened in size.
Additional studies of the aged batteries, using neutron depth profiling, revealed that a fraction of the lithium that is responsible, in ion form, for shuttling electric charge between electrodes during charging and discharging, was no longer available for charge transfer, but was irreversibly lost from the cathode to the anode. (source)
It turns out that there is a much lower lithium concentration in the cathode after the battery has aged. The researchers think that knowing better what is happening there "could point battery manufacturers in the right direction for making durable batteries with longer lifetimes."
Via Newswise, ABG
The Path to Lithium Batteries: Friend or Foe?
by Neil Chambers, New York City on 11.16.10
Photo Credit: Argonne National Laboratory/Creative Commons
Fixing America's infrastructure (and many other countries') is high on the priority list of greenies and world leaders alike. Two solutions, smart grids and electric cars, are championed by many as the future for energy delivery and transportation. Both are innovative. Both are said to tackle problems like climate change and efficiency - and both are dependent on one technology: energy storage, or what the general public call batteries. Conventional battery technology is made of stuff too heavy for use in transportation. Lithium batteries, being lighter and having a longer charge life, are seen as the greatest option. However, how closely have scientists, engineers, businesses and the government looked at the environmental impact of producing the batteries that are at the heart of running the nation on a new grid and with a new fleet of automobiles?
Lithium is a key ingredient not only in car batteries, but also the batteries used in cell phones, computers and other electronic devices and energy storage for a smart grid. For all that they may do for society, we should not accept the technology until questions like what does it take to extract Lithium from nature, how toxic is Lithium and how toxic is the process to purify Lithium after extraction are answered. As well as what are the political implications of where it is located?
Research and Discovery
Looking into recent research and reports reveal the importance of considering such questions before large-scale production of electric cars or batteries for grid-source energy are aggressively pursued. For one, even among those studying the impact of Lithium there is not always agreement.
A recent study looked in great detail at how Lithium is used to produce batteries, and the entire life cycle of the batteries. The findings were compared to the environmental impact of conventional internal combustion cars. The study measured environmental impact in a number of ways, including global warming potential, cumulative energy demand, an Ecoindicator 99 and an Abiotic Depletion Potential that measures resource depletion. Interestingly, the study found that the environmental impact of Lithium was relatively small, but that other elements of these batteries have a higher impact. For example, lithium batteries take a tremendous amount of copper and aluminum to work properly. These metals are needed for the production of the anode & the cathode, cables and battery management systems. Copper and aluminum have to be mined, processes and manufacturing which takes lots of energy, chemicals and water which add to their environmental burden.
Photo credit: Doc Searls/Creative Commons - Lithium Operation in Nevada
The study also found that the impact of battery-operated vehicles varies according to the source of the electricity used. In some states coal is the main source of electricity while in others it is hydroelectric power. Not surprisingly, there is a significant difference in environmental impact when the source of electricity is taken into account. Overall, the study concluded that battery-powered electric cars do have a lower impact on the environment than all but the most fuel-efficient diesel-run cars.
However, a 2008 French study examines various factors regarding Lithium extraction and production and comes to a different conclusion. First of all, this study emphasizes that there would be less Lithium available than previously estimated for the global electric car market. It also states the fact that some of the largest concentrations of Lithium in the world are found in some of the most beautiful and ecologically fragile places, such as The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. The authors note:
"It would be irresponsible to despoil these regions for a material which can only ever be produced in sufficient quantities to serve a niche market of luxury vehicles for the top end of the market. We live in an age of Environmental Responsibility where the folly of the last two hundred years of despoilment of the Earth's resources are clear to see. We cannot have "Green Cars" that have been produced at the expense of some of the world's last unspoiled and irreplaceable wilderness. We have a responsibility to rectify our errors and not fall into the same traps as in the past."
Photo Credit: Juan Manurl Garcia
The report estimates that there would be less Lithium available than previously estimated for the global electric car market, as demand is rising for competing markets, such as cellular telephones and other electronic devices. At the same time, due to a great concentration of Lithium found in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina (70% of the world's deposits), the United States and other developed countries needing the material will be subject to geopolitical forces similar to those they have already encountered from the member countries of OPEC. A March 2010 article in The New Yorker goes into great detail about the complex politics of Lithium in South America and its impact on the U.S. and other countries. Do we really want to move from international relations dependent on oil from the Middle East to international relations dependent on Lithium from South America?
Before We Take the Lithium Road
There are other battery technologies in development that perhaps present lesser environmental and political challenges, such as fuel cell batteries. Wouldn't it be prudent to assess which path, or paths, allows the greatest benefit for the country and the environment before moving ahead with mass production of a technology that may ultimately not be much better than what we already have?
More on Lithium Batteries:
Study Shows How Lithium-Ion Batteries Age & Degrade
Lithium-Ion Battery Oversupply to Drive Prices Down Around 20%
Lithium-Air Battery Could Have Up to 10x Storage Capacity of Current Lithium-Ion Tech
Living With The Side Effects Of Lithium-ion Batteries
Tobacco Virus Could Be Secret to Better Batteries (Video)
by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California on 12. 7.10
Science & Technology
Image credit University of Maryland College Park
One of the first known viruses, the Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), spelled disaster for tobacco crops, but it could be the secret to success for more efficient batteries and fuel cells, according to research from University of Maryland. Researchers are learning how to exploit the virus's amazing ability to self-renew and self-assemble to improve on today's lithium ion batteries.
University of Maryland reports that the rigid, rod-shaped virus can "modify the TMV rods to bind perpendicularly to the metallic surface of a battery electrode and arrange the rods in intricate and orderly patterns on the electrode. Then, they coat the rods with a conductive thin film that acts as a current collector and finally the battery's active material that participates in the electrochemical reactions."
This helps the electrode store energy and rapidly charge and discharge, making batteries faster and more efficient, with as much as 10-fold more energy capacity over standard lithium ion batteries.
"The resulting batteries are a leap forward in many ways and will be ideal for use not only in small electronic devices but in novel applications that have been limited so far by the size of the required battery," said Professor Reza Ghodssi, director of the Institute for Systems Research and Herbert Rabin Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Clark School. "The technology that we have developed can be used to produce energy storage devices for integrated microsystems such as wireless sensors networks. These systems have to be really small in size--millimeter or sub-millimeter--so that they can be deployed in large numbers in remote environments for applications like homeland security, agriculture, environmental monitoring and more; to power these devices, equally small batteries are required, without compromising in performance."
TMV can be programmed to bind directly to metal, and because the virus is inert once it is bonded, there's no risk of the virus spreading. Additionally, it seems the TMV-improved battery building process can be scaled up to industrial production, since the process is simple and cheap.
Here's a video about the project:
US energy chief says improved car batteries 5 yrs off
Mon Dec 6, 2010
* Batteries must raise energy storage by 5 to 7 times
* Battery race between US and Asia is on
By Timothy Gardner
CANCUN, Mexico, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Cars that run on batteries will begin to be competitive with ones that burn petroleum fuels in about five years, the U.S. energy secretary said at the annual U.N. climate talks.
"It's not like it's 10 years off," Chu said at a press conference on U.S. clean energy efforts on the sidelines of the climate talks. "It's about five years and it could be sooner. Meanwhile the batteries we do have today are soon going to get better by a factor of two."
Chu is one of three Obama administration officials that will briefly visit the talks among 190 countries being held at a Mexican beach resort through Dec. 10. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Nancy Sutley, the head of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, are the other two.
Chu's Department of Energy, or DOE, is supporting several approaches seeking to improve car batteries. A battery race has developed between U.S. companies like Massachusetts-based A123 (AONE.O) and ones in Asia, like China's BYD (1211.HK), which Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway owns 10 percent of.
South Korea's LG Chem (051910.KS) is supplying General Motors GM.UL with batteries for the automaker's electric Volt car.
Petroleum-powered transportation emits about a third of the world's greenhouse gases. Scientists say battery-powered cars reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, even if they are powered by coal-burning power plants. As more natural gas-fired plants are built, they will become even cleaner.
Right now electric cars do not go as far as ones powered by internal combustion engines, which could limit sales if there are no improvements.
Even so, GM said last month it is stepping up production of the Volt to meet "huge demand," without giving details. GM had planned to build 10,00 Volts in 2011 and 45,000 in 2012.
Chu said car battery companies have to develop units that last 15 years, improve energy storage capacity by a factor of five to seven, and cut costs by about a factor of three in order to be make electric cars comparable to cars that run on gasoline and diesel.
While the technology may improve, it is not certain that there will be ample materials to build the batteries to support a massive move to such cars.
BYD is looking for new sources of lithium, an important ingredient in advanced batteries. Lithium supply is expected to be tight by 2050 if drivers give up their cars and go for battery-powered cars, according to a European Commission study of raw materials for high technology goods.
One unit of the U.S. DOE called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy is making investments in batteries and other technologies considered too risky for the private sector but that have big potential.
Chu said if one out of every 10 projects in that program, which received $400 million from President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package, made it into the market they could help the world improve energy security and cut emissions .
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
Graphene Supercapacitor Breakthrough Offers Energy Density Comparable to NiMH Battery!
by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada on 11.29.10
Photo: Wikipedia, CC
But With all the Advantages of Supercapacitors
As you can see above, graphene is a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms, very similar to carbon nanotubes, except for the "tube" part. This wonder-material has very interesting electrical properties that have allowed researchers to create a graphene-based supercapacitor that exhibits a "specific energy density of 85.6 Wh/kg at room temperature and 136 Wh/kg at 80 °C." This is similar to nickel-metal hydride batteries, the chemistry used in most current hybrid vehicles (like the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion hybrid).
The main difference is that supercapacitors can be cycled an almost unlimited number of times (they don't lose their ability to hold a charge like batteries), and they can be charged and discharged extremely quickly (as long as you have a "fat pipe" to supply the power). This would make them ideal for hybrids and electric cars if their power-density was high enough (so far it isn't) and their cost went down.
This breakthrough is bringing closer the day when the power-density part of the equation is solved, and while the cost of graphene is still high, it should go down with volume production (after all, it's only carbon).
Graphene-based supercapacitor offers energy density comparable to NiMH battery, but with rapid charge and discharge
26 November 2010
Ragone plot of graphene supercapacitor. Credit: ACS, Liu et al. Click to enlarge.
Researchers from Nanotek Instruments and Angstron Materials have developed a graphene-based supercapacitor that exhibits a specific energy density of 85.6 Wh/kg at room temperature and 136 Wh/kg at 80 °C (all based on the total electrode weight), measured at a current density of 1 A/g. These values are comparable to those of NiMH batteries, the researchers note, but the new supercapacitor offers the ability to be charged or discharged within seconds or minutes. A paper on their work was published online in the ACS journal Nano Letters.
These are the highest energy density values ever reported with carbon electrodes without the pseudocapacitance contributions from a conducting polymer or metal oxide, the authors said, further stating that “We believe that this is truly a breakthrough in energy technology.”
The group, led by Bor Jang of Nanotek Instruments, reported in 2006 that graphene can be used as a supercapacitor electrode material. Despite a number of efforts to improve the specific capacitance of graphene-based electrodes, however, results fell sort of the theoretical capacitance of 550 F/g due to the high tendency for graphene sheets to re-stack together.
The team determined that the best strategy to achieve a high capacitance in such graphene-based electrodes is to use curved graphene sheets rather than flat sheets to prevent the sheets from sticking to one another face-to-face. The curved morphology enables the formation of mesopores accessible to and wettable by environmentally benign ionic liquids capable of operating at a voltage >4 V.
With the total electrode weight of a supercapacitor system being typically one-fourth to one-half of the total system weight, the system-level specific energy of graphene-based supercapacitors can exceed 21.4-42.8 Wh/kg, which is comparable to that of a modern nickel metal hydride battery used in a hybrid vehicle. This breakthrough energy storage device is made possible by the high intrinsic capacitance and the exceptionally high specific surface area that can be readily accessed and wetted by an ionic liquid electrolyte capable of operating at a high voltage.
—Liu et al.
· Chenguang Liu, Zhenning Yu, David Neff, Aruna Zhamu, and Bor Z. Jang (2010) Graphene-Based Supercapacitor with an Ultrahigh Energy Density. Nano Letters doi: 10.1021/nl102661q
BMW, Toyota and Daimler embrace Tesla's laptop battery packs
Tesla Roadster is powered by 6,831 laptop batteries
By Business Wire
Only a couple years ago, major automakers scoffed at Tesla Motors. Make a powerplant by binding together thousands of laptop batteries? Ridiculous, if not an invitation to thermal meltdown.
Now, the big guys are embracing Tesla's solution. Toyota, Smart car parent Daimler and BMW are turning to bundles of laptop batteries as a quick, cheap way to power electric cars, Bloomberg News reports.
No surprise why. Despite dire predictions, Tesla now has had hundreds of its electric roadsters on the road for more than year running just fine. So far, no mass reports of hot spots in batteries packs -- 6,831 individual cells bound together -- that could lead to fires or other problems.
In fact, the solution costs less than the sophisticated lithium-ion battery packs developed by Nissan for the electric Leaf or General Motors for its extended-range electric Volt.
The car industry has been great for the laptop battery industry. It will more than triple sales to $60 billion in a decade, according to Sanyo Electric,the world's biggest maker. The economies of scale may drop prices.
Tesla's power packs will be used in Daimler's electric Smarts and Mercedes-Benz A-class cars in Europe. Toyota will use Tesla's packs in an electric RAV4 in 2012. BMW leased 450 Minis powered by laptop cells.
“Ultra-Battery” is World’s Most Powerful Non-Nuclear Storage Battery
by Ariel Schwartz, 07/06/10
Forget today’s primitive energy storage devices — one day we may use “ultra batteries” made out of xenon and fluoride. Currently under development at Washington State University, these ultra-batteries can store more condensed energy than any other type of battery in existence.
Researchers at Washington State developed the battery by placing xenon difluoride (a white crystal often used to etch silicon conductors) in a tiny diamond anvil cell (measuring two inches by three inches). The cell squeezed the xenon difluoride molecules to a million atmospheres of pressure — the same amount of pressure found halfway to the center of the planet — and triggered the molecules to store mechanical energy from the compression process as chemical energy that can be used in a number of applications.
If the research pans out, expect super-batteries to dominate the fuel cell market of the future.
+ Washington State University
1. Institute for Shock Physics and Department of Chemistry, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164, USA
Minseob Kim, Mathew Debessai & Choong-Shik Yoo
Via Nature Chemistry and io9
What do you get when you combine some xenon, some fluoride, and pressures similar to those found at the center of the Earth? You get an ultra-battery, capable of storing more condensed energy than any other battery ever built.
The material used to make the "battery" is xenon difluoride (XeF2), a white crystal primarily used to etch silicon conductors. The crystal was placed in a diamond anvil cell, a tiny device that measures only two inches by three inches. The cell uses two tiny diamond anvils (as you might expect, considering its name) to produce incredibly high pressures in tiny, contained spaces.
Normally, the molecules in xenon difluoride stay relatively far apart. The squeezing process the crystals underwent in the diamond anvil cell forced the molecules closer and closer together. At first, the squeezing caused the crystal to become a two-dimensional semiconductor, but then something even more remarkable happened. When the pressure reached a million atmospheres, similar to the pressure found halfway to the center of the Earth, the molecules formed 3D metallic "network structures", which forced all the mechanical energy of the compression process to be stored as chemical energy within the molecular bonds. At a million atmospheres, that's a whole lot of stored energy.
Heading up this research is Washington State chemistry professor Choong-Shik Yoo, who says this "is the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy." The possible applications of the material pretty much all include the word "super": superconductors, super-oxidizing materials that can destroy chemical and biological agents, not to mention new fuels and, most obviously, an energy storage device.
Send an email to Alasdair Wilkins, the author of this post, at alasdair@....
Hitachi Says it Can Double the Lifespan of Lithium-Ion Batteries
by Ariel Schwartz, 04/06/10
In news that could affect everyone from laptop users to electric car drivers, Hitachi announced this week that it has figured out a way to double the lifespan of lithium-ion batteries — the batteries found inside virtually all of our energy-intensive electronics. According to Hitachi, that means their lithium-ion batteries can last up to 10 years without needing to be replaced.
Hitachi’s new batteries won’t initially find their way into our iPods, however. First, the electronics manufacturer plans to focus on grid-scale storage — i.e. solar or wind power storage. If Hitachi’s upgraded li-ion batteries are affordable and reliable enough, they could allow utilities to increase the amount of renewable but intermittent energy on the grid.
Eventually, Hitachi’s batteries could end up in electric cars. Read: long-lasting, affordable car batteries that could ultimately slash the sticker price of EVs. And that’s good news for all of us.
Hello, I haven't posted here but have been following all the announcements of
new promising battery technology. I am sure we will see advancements in this
field incrementally but right now I want to let you know that LiFeBATT is
introducing a new line of LiFeP04 Prismatic Cells in our line of Plug & Play
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our cells from Taiwan, and designing, assembling, servicing, shipping and
supporting our product line here in the U.S.
This will cut shipping costs approx. 75% and offer delivery in a week compared
to 4-6 weeks previously. We think customers will find that to be refreshing.
These are true 5C Rated Prismatic Cells in a compact form factor uniquely suited
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many others do these days. We work with our customers to build a pack or system
that is truly Plug & Play including our patented BMS and Integration Module.
Our basic Skeleton Module is like a Lego building block system that allows for
small to very large battery systems with full protection and balancing functions
built into the packs. Each Pack has its own Data Ports which can be
daisy-chained to a master IM which allows full diagnostics on the whole system
by connecting to a laptop computer or with a CAN bus interface if desired.
I welcome you to visit our website for more information and complete specs on
our product line by clicking on this link: http://www.lifebatt.com/ Or you can
Google LiFeBATT and find us there.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
LiFeBATT holds an authorized License from Phostech Lithium and uses only their premium LiFeP04 powders in all of our products.
LiFeBATT is now heaquarted in Danville, VA in our new facility that houses our corporate offices, R&D operations, and prototyping / testing of large format rechargeable battery cells. Our cell manufacturing facility in Taipei, Taiwan augments technology and product development, provides direct technical support to LiFeBATT, and insures our cell production.In order to produce our battery cells in a world class ISO 9001 - certified, well established cell manufacturing plant, we have partnered with Taiwan to be our ODM manufacturer and have purchased all of their cell production capacity for the new P20 Cells through 2013. LiFeBATT will setup Battery Pack Assembly here in Danville beginning in 2011 and will do all Sales, Service, & Warranty work in this facility.
LiFeBatt is working with local community colleges to develop training programs teaching students how to assemble, troubleshoot and repair LiFeBatt batteries.
This is a quantum improvement on our original Green 10Ah cells that launched LiFeBATT three years ago. It replaces the original cells that Sandia Laboratory tested, and while it keeps the same size format, it boasts 14Ah and a Power Density of 1800 W/L (at 80% SOC, 18s peak).
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LiFeP04 Sandia Report
In this paper the performance of the LiFeBatt Li-ion cell was measured using a number of tests including capacity measurements, capacity as a function of temperature, ohmic resistance, spectral impedance, high power partial state of charge (PSOC) pulsed cycling, pulse power measurements, and an over-charge/voltage abuse test. The goal of this work was to evaluate the performance of the iron phosphate Liion battery technology for utility applications requiring frequent charges and discharges, such as voltage support, frequency regulation, and wind farm energy smoothing. Test results have indicated that the LiFeBatt battery technology can function up to a 10C1 discharge rate with minimal energy loss compared to the 1 h discharge rate (1C). The utility PSOC cycle test at up to the 4C1 pulse rate completed 8,394 PSOC pulsed cycles with a gradual loss in capacity of 10 to 15% depending on how the capacity loss is calculated. The majority of the capacity loss occurred during the initial 2,000 cycles, so it is projected that the LiFeBatt should PSOC cycle well beyond 8,394 cycles with less than 20% capacity loss. The DC ohmic resistance and AC spectral impedance measurements also indicate that there were only very small changes after cycling. Finally, at a 1C charge rate, the over charge/voltage abuse test resulted in the cell venting electrolyte at 110 °C after 30 minutes and then open-circuiting at 120 °C with no sparks, fire, or voltage across the cell.
Sanyo to Increase Automotive Li-Ion Battery Production by 150% at Kasai Plant
by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada on 01. 7.11
Sanyo's Kasai Plant in Japan. Photo: Sanyo
Sanyo Bullish on Electric Cars
Only a few months after completing its giant lithium-ion battery factory in Kasai city, Japan, Sanyo seems to think that it's still not enough. The company is investing 15 billion yen (about 180 million U.S. dollars) to increase its annual output capacity for automotive lithium-ion batteries by 150 percent. The plant already has 2 production line, and 2 new ones will be added to produce "batteries with capacities of 20 ampere-hours or higher for use in plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles."
Positioning Themselves as Lithium-Ion Leaders
Panasonic now owns a majority stake in Sanyo, and the combined Japanese giants produce about a quarter of lithium-ion batteries for cellular phones (a huge market). They seem to be positioning themselves to also dominate the EV and PHEV market, which is probably a good sign for the market (if they are optimistic enough about it to build new production capacity), and will no doubt help drive prices down.
Via Reuters, Autoblog Green
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Skype Phone Number (Worldwide)
Palm Beach Burnout!
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Plasma Charged Up!
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EV Lightning Event
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29 Oxford Homes Lane
Oxford, ME 04270
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