July 25, 2010
Planar Energy Roll-To-Roll Solid Lithium Battery Process
Technology Review has an article about an approach that might substantially boost the density of lithium batteries while also lowering their cost.
Planar Energy has developed a roll-to-roll process for making larger solid lithium-ion batteries. The company, which received $4 million in funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency Energy program this spring, says it can print solid batteries that offer three times more storage than liquid lithium-ion batteries of the same size. This boost in energy storage is possible primarily because the company's all-solid batteries don't require many of the support structures and materials that take up space in conventional batteries, making more space for energy storage.
In the comments section John Pitts of Planar says the prototype Planar cell offers "substantial improvements over current, high-end Li-ion cells." He expects this prototype to enter durability testing in less than a year.
The design point for the prototype Planar cell, fully packaged, with a capacity of 5 Ah, is a specific energy of a little over 400 Wh/kg. The energy density of this cell is a little over 1200 Wh/l.
Since 2005's yearly oil production peak probably won't be surpassed in 2010 we might already be past the final world peak in oil production. So a lot is riding on efforts to cut the cost and boost the energy density of batteries. Electrification of more parts of our economies would do the most to insulate us from the effects of Peak Oil.
It's a miracle that even with such infinitesimal few millions of dollars there is such great progress. If we spend only half of the money we are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan on such projects, then within less than a decade 90 % of the cars would become electric in the US.
GM is already getting ready to build its own batteries just like engines, so that if the Planar batteries turn out to be feasible, the one way or another the money would be found to mass-produce these batteries.
@Wolf-Dog - The US invaded Iraq to keep the oil flowing for current technology, and Afghanistan to provide Lithium for the next technology. (tongue-in-cheek)
I wonder if this Roll-to-Roll process will produce more rugged/durable batteries as well. One of the major problems with current Li-ion batteries is that a tiny crack can compromise a whole battery due to reaction with water vapor in the air.
@random - The US invaded Iraq to keep the oil flowing for current technology, and Afghanistan to provide Lithium for the next technology. (tongue-in-cheek)
This might very well be the intention, but given our track record that so far we have not managed to take just one drop of oil from Iraq, which is a country that we invaded with overwhelming force (not only did all Iraqi oil development contracts go to other rival nations, but even most of the infrastructure development contracts were given to other countries), it is very unlikely that we will get one gram of free lithium from Afghanistan.
But on the bright side, lithium is recyclable from batteries, and in the world there is plenty of lithium for everybody for a thousand years. Only the price of lithium is the issue due to the fact that most of the lithium reserves are very sparse and expensive to mine. But again, most of the price of a lithium-based battery would be the manufacturing costs, not so much the raw materials, and the lithium does get recycled well from used batteries just as lead is 100 % recycled from car batteries. However, the rare earth metals are extensively used to manufacture the high performance magnets that are used in electric motors of electric vehicles, as well as the dynamos of wind turbines, and although these soc-called "rare earth" metals are not so rare considering that there are a lot of sparse reserves that can be exploited for the right price, we need to make the quick decision to develop these mines in North America and elsewhere.
In retrospect, by 2020 both Denmark and Israel will have closed most of their gas stations because by 2012 they will have completed the infrastructure to put charging pods in every street, as well as battery swapping stations near most gas stations. It is well known that it would cost the US only one year of imported oil to put charging pods in every street. Both Japan and China are committed to adopting this business model of Better Place company to make batteries swappable and easy to recharge in every street: