Sand-based lithium ion batteries that outperform standard by three times

Jul 08, 2014 by Sean Nealon
Researchers have developed a lithium ion battery made of sand that outperforms the current standard by three times. Credit: UC Riverside

(Phys.org) —Researchers at the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering have created a lithium ion battery that outperforms the current industry standard by three times. The key material: sand. Yes, sand.

"This is the holy grail – a low cost, non-toxic, environmentally friendly way to produce high performance anodes," said Zachary Favors, a graduate student working with Cengiz and Mihri Ozkan, both engineering professors at UC Riverside.

The idea came to Favors six months ago. He was relaxing on the beach after surfing in San Clemente, Calif. when he picked up some sand, took a close look at it and saw it was made up primarily of quartz, or .

His research is centered on building better batteries, primarily for personal electronics and electric vehicles. He is focused on the anode, or negative side of the . Graphite is the current standard material for the anode, but as electronics have become more powerful graphite's ability to be improved has been virtually tapped out.

Researchers are now focused on using silicon at the nanoscale, or billionths of a meter, level as a replacement for graphite. The problem with nanoscale silicon is that it degrades quickly and is hard to produce in large quantities.

A schematic showing how sand is turned into pure nano-silicon. Credit: UC Riverside

Favors set out to solve both these problems. He researched sand to find a spot in the United States where it is found with a high percentage of quartz. That took him to the Cedar Creek Reservoir, east of Dallas, where he grew up.

Sand in hand, he came back to the lab at UC Riverside and milled it down to the nanometer scale, followed by a series of purification steps changing its color from brown to bright white, similar in color and texture to powdered sugar.

After that, he ground salt and magnesium, both very common elements found dissolved in sea water into the purified quartz. The resulting powder was then heated. With the salt acting as a heat absorber, the magnesium worked to remove the oxygen from the quartz, resulting in pure silicon.

The Ozkan team was pleased with how the process went. And they also encountered an added positive surprise. The pure nano-silicon formed in a very porous 3-D silicon sponge like consistency. That porosity has proved to be the key to improving the performance of the batteries built with the nano-silicon.

Using sand to improve battery performance
From left, (b) unpurified sand, (c) purified sand, and (d) vials of unpurified sand, purified sand, and nano silicon. Credit: UC Riverside

The improved performance could mean expanding the expected lifespan of silicon-based electric vehicle batteries up to 3 times or more, which would be significant for consumers, considering replacement batteries cost thousands of dollars. For cell phones or tablets, it could mean having to recharge every three days, instead of every day.

The findings were just published in a paper, "Scalable Synthesis of Nano-Silicon from Beach Sand for Long Cycle Life Li-ion Batteries," in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. In addition to Favors and the Ozkan's, authors were: Wei Wang, Hamed Hosseini Bay, Zafer Mutlu, Kazi Ahmed and Chueh Liu. All five are graduate students working in the Ozkan's labs.

Now, the Ozkan team is trying to produce larger quantities of the nano-silicon beach sand and is planning to move from coin-size batteries to pouch-size batteries that are used in cell phones.

Explore further: Silly Putty material inspires better batteries

More information: Scientific Reports, www.nature.com/srep/2014/14070… /full/srep05623.html

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KBK
2.8 / 5 (10) Jul 08, 2014
now, like the past 50 years..all they have to do is actually apply any of these things. Just one, and then the future would be better. soon, not 'forever -- tomorrow'... which is the norm.

Reports are nice but it does not benefit anyone until it is actually real and in use.

Fast-track into a year or less into actual finished application (and it is possible, and has been done before!), and maybe I'll give a damn.
rick_cavaretti
5 / 5 (6) Jul 08, 2014
All of the chemistries and configurations currently being looked at will result in a few application-specific battery standards. Patience. It will come.
tekram
4 / 5 (3) Jul 08, 2014
... standards. Patience. It will come.
Usually comes after long days of relaxing at the beach: "The idea came to Favors six months ago. He was relaxing on the beach after surfing in San Clemente, Calif. "

... and a little bit of PAA (poly acrylic acid).
http://www.nature...5623.pdf
hurricane25
2.7 / 5 (6) Jul 08, 2014
now, like the past 50 years..all they have to do is actually apply any of these things. Just one, and then the future would be better. soon, not 'forever -- tomorrow'... which is the norm.

Reports are nice but it does not benefit anyone until it is actually real and in use.

Fast-track into a year or less into actual finished application (and it is possible, and has been done before!), and maybe I'll give a damn.


Believe me, If they wanted to do it. They would.

This becomes kind of dumb with these stories of advancement just to never hear about it again.
Dr_toad
Jul 08, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
HeloMenelo
3.3 / 5 (6) Jul 09, 2014
I don't buy the best product and lower price part, the Trolling oil gnomes are smearing their filthy wells all over us and have been getting away with it for longer than i exist, they ask what they want, they do what they want to always be the supreme filthy supplier, and get away with it always. This sand based lithium advance is yet another pipe dream going down the BLFBT list of oblivion which is exactly here: (big list of forgotten battery technologies for those still wondering)

http://www.rcgrou...=1188429
dirk_bruere
5 / 5 (8) Jul 09, 2014
"This becomes kind of dumb with these stories of advancement just to never hear about it again."

I remember when Li-ion batteries were just a research concept. Maybe you should give up reading research data and just stick to the Walmart catalog
mb9
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 09, 2014
"Sand-based lithium ion batteries that outperform standard by three times"

To be implemented no sooner than the year 2100, I'm sure. I'm getting sick of the weekly reports on new, revolutionary battery tech never to be heard from again.
Technico
4.2 / 5 (13) Jul 09, 2014
The problem generally is, more porous batteries tend to be more unstable and prone to self-ignition. Also their capacity degrades faster during discharge cycles. So that when some battery outperforms the others three times, we should always ask: at the price of what?
philippekerdilles
Jul 09, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
HeloMenelo
3.4 / 5 (8) Jul 09, 2014
The problem generally is, more porous batteries tend to be more unstable and prone to self-ignition. Also their capacity degrades faster during discharge cycles. So that when some battery outperforms the others three times, we should always ask: at the price of what?


The problem is none of these 100s of new battery technologies are given 1. Enough Funding and two, Time and research to mature due to the fact i stated a few posts above. And to add nr 3, they are choked before they become too good to produce and change the world for the better because of chest thumping oil monkeys ruling the earth. they've got a their own world view of dumbness and capatalism.

Many new advances that have been presented here could have made it to reality, reliably. it takes time and money to perfect a technology, however instead it mysteriously dissapears and all that is heard once in a while is an echo from all the previous mentioned battery technologies in a dreaded abyss
fay
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 09, 2014


Fast-track into a year or less into actual finished application (and it is possible, and has been done before!), and maybe I'll give a damn.

spot on. Almost every day we can read about a breakthrough in battery tech at physorg (even now there are 2 such articles in "popular") but we are still stuck with the same s****y bateries and it looks like we still are going to be for a considerable time
tekram
5 / 5 (2) Jul 09, 2014
... but we are still stuck with the same s****y bateries and it looks like we still are going to be for a considerable time
No we are not. Amprius is already providing lithium ion batteries with silicone electrodes at 40% higher energy density to phone manufacturers. See the new phone with 5300 mAh battery (compared to 1550 mAh of the iphone).
http://bgr.com/20...battery/
Flaure
2 / 5 (4) Jul 09, 2014
A well-written and interesting article about the creation of a lithium-ion battery. Indeed, man is an avid knowledge being and never ceased to invent to promise a better world. I look forward to reading your future articles. Thanks for sharing this intersting discussion. http://www.stores-reflexsol.fr

FMA
2.7 / 5 (3) Jul 09, 2014
I think the cost of reducing SiO2 to Si is not cheap at all.
FastEddy
5 / 5 (1) Jul 09, 2014
... now, like the past 50 years..all they have to do is actually apply any of these things. Just one, and then the future would be better. ... Believe me, If they wanted to do it. They would. ...


In this case it will surly happen much quicker than "normal". Since Tesla has a fast track for battery development, you can bet it will happen if the processes are viable and cost effective (which should be the case).

Information of interest: Ordinary but relatively pure quartz beach sand, with the addition of a bit of clean water will pop just like popcorn over a gas flame. (A factory in Graton California has performed this technic for decades on an industrial scale resulting in quite pure powdered Silicon Dioxide ... for use in "diet" cake mixes.)
FastEddy
5 / 5 (1) Jul 09, 2014
... The problem is none of these 100s of new battery technologies are given 1. Enough Funding and two, Time and research to mature due to the fact i stated a few posts above. And to add nr 3, they are choked before they become too good to produce and change the world for the better because of chest thumping oil monkeys ruling the earth. they've got a their own world view of dumbness and capatalism. ...


Me thinks there is a place for this kind of discussion: Is capitalism good? ... but not here.
HeloMenelo
3.6 / 5 (5) Jul 10, 2014
... The problem is none of these 100s of new battery technologies are given 1. Enough Funding and two, Time and research to mature due to the fact i stated a few posts above. And to add nr 3, they are choked before they become too good to produce and change the world for the better because of chest thumping oil monkeys ruling the earth. they've got a their own world view of dumbness and capatalism. ...


Me thinks there is a place for this kind of discussion: Is capitalism good? ... but not here.


No here is good, because this is where it gets listed and this is where everyone gets to read it !

The monkey that rated me 1 above is clearly an oil supporter and to prove they are will rate this one the same, makes one wonder how deep they've got their hands in this site which is sad really, because the news are good, and the bad guys needs to be exposed time after time after time !
Franck
1 / 5 (3) Jul 11, 2014
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Burnerjack
2 / 5 (1) Jul 11, 2014
So why didn't the chest thumping oil monkeys defeat the deployment of present tech li-ion batteries? Instead of some global conspiracy, maybe its just difficult and very expensive to satisfy the performance/safety/cost/environmental impact envelope.
Should the "ultimate battery" tech be discovered, one that is safe, cost effective, energy dense equal or better than present fuels AND be available for mass production AND be environmentally sound AND have a reasonable lifespan, well, the payoff would (will?) be nearly beyond comprehension. Instead of defeating this innovation, those in such positions would embrace it, get out in front of it, invest in it and profit from it.
Egleton
5 / 5 (1) Jul 14, 2014
So why didn't the chest thumping oil monkeys defeat the deployment of present tech li-ion batteries? Instead of some global conspiracy, .

Perhaps because your illustrious leaders are as thick as too short planks and would prefer to spend your tax money in murderous wars in foreign countries.
All of which you have lost, by the way.
EDIT: Sorry. I forgot Grenada. You certainly wupped ass in Grenada.
Burnerjack
not rated yet Jul 14, 2014
So why didn't the chest thumping oil monkeys defeat the deployment of present tech li-ion batteries? Instead of some global conspiracy, .

Perhaps because your illustrious leaders are as thick as too short planks and would prefer to spend your tax money in murderous wars in foreign countries.
All of which you have lost, by the way.
EDIT: Sorry. I forgot Grenada. You certainly wupped ass in Grenada.

So, I guess your point is oil companies are only American and disruptive technologies are only developed in America. OK got it, thanks.

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