New, high-energy rechargeable batteries

Jun 30, 2014
Researchers have created molten air batteries using iron, carbon and vanadium boride because of their ability to transfer multiple electrons. These batteries can store three, four and 11 electrons per molecule respectively, giving them 20 to 50 times the storage capacity of a lithium battery, which can only store one electron per molecule of lithium. Credit: William Atkins, the George Washington University

While electric vehicles offer many advantages—including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the country's dependence on imported petroleum—at least one barrier stands in the way of their large-scale adoption: "range anxiety."

The current 2014 electric Nissan Leaf, for example, has a range of just 84 miles on a fully charged battery.

With support from the National Science Foundation, researchers at George Washington University, led by Stuart Licht, think they have developed a novel solution, and they're calling it the "molten air battery."

These new rechargeable batteries, which use molten electrolytes, oxygen from air, and special "multiple electron" storage electrodes, have the highest intrinsic electric energy storage capacities of any other batteries to date. Their energy density, durability and cost effectiveness give them the potential to replace conventional electric car batteries, said Licht, a professor in GWU's Columbian College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Chemistry.

The researchers started with iron, carbon or vanadium boride for their ability to transfer multiple electrons. Molten air batteries made with iron, carbon or vanadium boride can store three, four and 11 electrons per molecule respectively, giving them 20 to 50 times the storage capacity of a lithium-ion battery, which is only able to store one electron per molecule of lithium.

"Molten air introduces an entirely new class of batteries," Licht said.

A molten air battery configuration: The air electrode (circle, left) and the metal electrode (right) are lowered into the crucible (white cup), then covered with electrolyte, which is then heated until it is molten. Molten air batteries have the highest intrinsic electric energy storage capacities of any other batteries to date. Credit: William Atkins, the George Washington University

Other multiple-electron-per-molecule batteries the Licht group has introduced, such as the super-iron or coated vanadium boride air battery, also have high storage capacities. But they had one serious drawback: They were not rechargeable. Rechargeable molten batteries (without air), such as a molten sulfur battery, have been previously investigated, but are limited by a low storage capacity.

The new molten air batteries, by contrast, offer the best of both worlds: a combination of high storage capacity and reversibility. As the name implies, air acts as one of the battery electrodes, while simple nickel or iron electrodes can serve as the other. "Molten" refers to the electrolyte, which is mixed with reactants for iron, carbon or vanadium boride, then heated until the mixture becomes liquid. The liquid electrolyte covers the metal electrode and is also exposed to the air electrode.

The batteries are able to recharge by electrochemically reinserting a large number of electrons. The uses oxygen directly from the air, not stored, to yield high . The high activity of molten electrolytes is what allows this charging to occur, according to Licht.

The are all melted to a liquid by temperatures between 700 and 800 degrees Celsius. This high-temperature requirement is challenging to operate inside a vehicle, but such temperatures are also reached in conventional internal combustion engines.

The researchers continue to work on their model to make the batteries viable candidates for extending electric cars' driving range. In the Licht group's latest study, the molten air battery operating temperature has been lowered to 600 degrees Celsius or less. The new class of molten-air batteries could also be used for large-scale energy storage for electric grids.

"A high-temperature battery is unusual for a vehicle, but we know it has feasibility," Licht said. "It presents an interesting engineering question."

Explore further: Molten-air battery's storage capacity among the highest of any battery type

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zorro6204
2.3 / 5 (7) Jun 30, 2014
Yeah, such temperatures are reached in engines . . . briefly, enclosed in a solid metal chamber. These guys are talking about carrying around a tank of explosive lava. I mean, get real, no one is going to buy a car with molten metal inside. Back to the drawing board.
Egleton
4 / 5 (2) Jun 30, 2014
Heat loss has got to lower the efficiency and hence range.
FMA
5 / 5 (2) Jun 30, 2014
I know there is a molten salt batteries, if I remember correctly it is iron sulphur battery and was used in the moon's vehicle in 1969.
Shootist
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 30, 2014
if I had a nickle for every "New, high-energy rechargeable batteries" that made the news then disappeared from the face of the planet never to be heard from again, I'd be the next Sultan of Brunei.
eric_in_chicago
3 / 5 (1) Jun 30, 2014
Gee, Zorro,

How hot is the motor oil in a I.C. engine? Hot!

It's not fun to get in a catastrophic accident and end up encased in the wreckage with the engine above oneself, dripping engine oil onto one's flesh.

Rolling down the highway carries risk.
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (2) Jun 30, 2014
I don't think the temperature is much of an issue.

We can make extremely safe and durable containers...look at a youtube video of a freight train hitting a nuclear waste container....I think it makes a scratch on it or something.

In any case the possibility of energy densities even ten times higher than they are now would be AMAZING...to get them 50 times higher is, quite frankly, game changing.

It would do away with gasoline stations if they can charge them quickly.

(on edit), actually if they get the densities up to 20-30 times higher it wouldn't matter on the charge times (within reason) because that's such a looooong distance.

84*25=2,100 miles!
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Jun 30, 2014
Speaking of high-intensity energy sources, here is the second half (with all the fireworks) of Blacklight Powers latest public demo of their hydrino tech.
https://www.youtu...youtu.be
http://www.blackl...wer.com/

-He recommends that elon musk might want to wait on spending billions on his battery factory until after he sees the hydrino generator currently being engineered, which should be operational within months.

I KNOW it seems far-fetched but it LOOKS feasible. His youtube page has more vids on the auger-fed apparatus w/o the pv shield.
EWH
4.5 / 5 (2) Jun 30, 2014
Electrodes need lots of area exposed to electrolyte to provide enough current. When the electrolyte is very hot and must have a large area constantly exposed to fresh air, even with good heat exchangers, huge amounts of energy will be lost.

Also the volume of air will be huge after it is heated by the electrolyte, about triple or more the volume of intake air, which may make it worth running a heat engine / generator off the battery exhaust. The temperature difference of the electrolyte and the outside air here is higher than the difference between the hot and cold side of many practical heat engines.
Eikka
not rated yet Jul 01, 2014
How hot is the motor oil in a I.C. engine? Hot!


Less than 100 C.

We can make extremely safe and durable containers


Which are also heavy and use a lot of material. You cannot realize the energy density if you have to encase the battery in three feet of metal and insulation.
HeloMenelo
5 / 5 (1) Jul 02, 2014
if I had a nickle for every "New, high-energy rechargeable batteries" that made the news then disappeared from the face of the planet never to be heard from again, I'd be the next Sultan of Brunei.


On the flip side of the nickle, if i had a nickle for every new battery technology announced, i would have had enough molten nickle to supply our universe, but hey at least it's another one we can add to the BLFBT (Big list of forgotten battery technologies)

http://www.rcgrou...28804646

Does it bring comfort to some to at least see it on a list, i think not but none the less it 's there !

casual
not rated yet Aug 03, 2014
Yeah, such temperatures are reached in engines . . . briefly, enclosed in a solid metal chamber. These guys are talking about carrying around a tank of explosive lava. I mean, get real, no one is going to buy a car with molten metal inside. Back to the drawing board.


and how is that temperature higher than in conventional I.C.E. vehicles we use right now?