License will lead to faster-charging batteries for phones, electric vehicles

January 31, 2013 by Greg Koller & Frances White, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

License will lead to faster-charging batteries for phones, electric vehicles
Vorbeck Materials has licensed an enhanced battery technology that was developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and could reduce the time it takes to charge cell phones and other battery-powered devices from hours to minutes. Pictured here is a PNNL lab test for lithium ion batteries.
(—An enhanced battery technology that can potentially reduce the time it takes to charge cell phones, electric vehicles and other battery-powered devices from hours to minutes is the subject of a commercial license agreement between Battelle and Vorbeck Materials Corp. of Jessup, Md.  Battelle operates the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. 

The agreement will allow Vorbeck to bring incorporating Vor-X graphene technology to market for use in consumer portable electronic and medical devices, tools and . Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable and are widely used in electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones, and to power electric cars and trucks.

"Today, a typical cell phone takes between two and five hours to fully recharge, and an electric vehicle has to be plugged in most of the night to recharge," explained John Lettow, president of Vorbeck Materials. "The pioneering work done by Vorbeck, Princeton University, and PNNL is leading to the development of batteries that recharge quickly, reducing the time it takes to charge a smartphone to minutes and an electric vehicle to just a couple of hours." 

Lettow noted the research effort also could lead to the development of batteries that are more stable, have a longer life and store larger amounts of energy.

"We are very pleased to add this substantial portfolio of graphene-based , developed with PNNL and Princeton, to our already very strong graphene patent portfolios in conductive inks, printed electronics, composite materials, and ," added Lettow.

"This license is the culmination of a substantial investment of laboratory-directed research and development funds, innovative work by our researchers and a proactive patenting strategy recently deployed at PNNL," said Cheryl Cejka, the national laboratory's director of technology commercialization. "PNNL is a leader in linking research to real-world impact, so we are thrilled to see a company like Vorbeck bring our technology to US consumers."

Electronics and auto manufacturers would like to develop the next generation of batteries using low-cost materials such as titanium dioxide to replace the more expensive materials used today. But titanium dioxide on its own doesn't perform well enough to serve as a replacement.

Recently, PNNL researchers collaborated with Vorbeck to develop a method for building tiny titanium oxide and carbon structures and then demonstrated that small quantities of Vor-X graphene—a good electronic conductor made from ultra-thin sheets of carbon atoms—can dramatically improve the performance of the batteries, especially with respect to how rapidly the batteries can be charged. 

Structural analysis studies of the material were conducted with scientists at EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE national user facility located at PNNL. When they compared how well the new combination of electrode materials charged and discharged electric current, the electrodes containing graphene outperformed the standard by up to three times. 

Lettow noted the Vorbeck-PNNL team recently received a grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, to develop advanced battery chemistries, and has contracts with major manufacturers for graphene-based printed electronics and battery systems. "As a result, Vorbeck anticipates continued breakthroughs, new patents and rapid commercialization of the new technology in consumer goods," he said. "Prototypes of Vorbeck's battery technologies were already on display earlier this month at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas."

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not rated yet Jan 31, 2013
In this article it is suggested that
"an electric vehicle has to be plugged in most of the night to recharge"

This is simply not true. If one reads the quarterly reports produced by the EVProject study of vehicle infrastructure and charging habits. LEAF fully electric vehicles actively charge for about 7% of the day/night.

Fast charging batteries will be a great advance for sure, but don't present false reasons to adopt them.

1 / 5 (2) Feb 01, 2013
I don't think we want fast charging batteries just yet. Just think of how much electricity demand that will place on the grid all at once.
1 / 5 (1) Feb 01, 2013
Just think of how much electricity demand that will place on the grid all at once.

Exactly as much as slow charging batteries would - because it's the total energy that goes through the grid - not when you charge.

Such a technology would actually help REDUCE the variable load in the grid, as you could easily outfit it with tech that would not instantly start charging - but only when the total load is low (or electricity price drops during the night).

And not everyone will change over to EVs right away. The transition will take a decade at least (more than enough time to install additional windmills/PV)

Right now you don't have that option because most EVs charge a long time (I may go for a Brammo Empulse motorcycle...but that sucker takes 8 hours to charge and an additional 3.5 hours for level 2 charging on top of that)
not rated yet Feb 02, 2013
Faster charging batteries would be cool. Like in the situation of Hurricane Sandy when most people lost power and ad-hoc cell charging sites popped up, it would have been great if it only took minutes for a full charge. I can't wait to see the powermat for vehicles, so when you pull into a power-charged parking space at the mall your car can wirelessly charge. The future is bringing exciting times. #
1 / 5 (3) Feb 05, 2013
When will someone propose standards for battery interchangability? So that new tech can be fitted on existing EV's for better performance and longer life. Surely someone in California must have the inclination to do for batteries what "plug and play" did for PC's.

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