Scientists reveal lithium-ion secrets

Physicists at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and collaborating institutions have developed methods of examining lithium-ion reactions in real-time to a nanoscale (billionths-of-a-metre) precision, offering unprecedented insights into processes that are vital to battery technology, reports NanoWerk.

“(L)ive, nanoscale imaging may help pave the way for developing longer-lasting, higher-capacity lithium-ion batteries. That means better consumer electronics and the potential for large-scale, emission-free energy storage,” commented Feng Wang, one of the key researchers on the project.

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Mitsubishi to demonstrate energy storage

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and SSE (formerly Scottish and Southern Energy) are planning a 2MW lithium-ion energy storage system project in the Orkney Islands. The project aims at demonstrating power supply stabilisation in the region, which currently enjoys a large but variable quantity of wind-produced renewable energy.

It will be conducted with the support of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation of Japan and should go live in early 2013.

Electric car batteries enjoy life after death

They may add thousands of dollars to the purchase price of the vehicle itself, but now it looks like used Chevrolet Volt batteries will extend their usefulness in the greening of society beyond their use on the road.

ABB and GM have announced that the lithium-ion packs that power the Chevy Volt have been successfully re-used in a prototype unit that provides 25kW of power and 50kWh of energy for the home, enough to electrify three to five average US homes for two hours, say ABB.

The back-up energy storage unit repackages five used batteries, thus considerably extending their total useful lives and, perhaps, making the initial high cost of the batteries a more attractive initial investment.

Saft breaks into wind with lithium-ion battery

Advanced battery manufacturer Saft will be supplying two Intensium Max 20E lithium-ion battery containers as part of the High Wind and Storage Project near the City of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. Commissioned by Cowessess First Nation to design, produce and install the complete battery-based energy storage system, the project is Saft’s first foray into wind power in North America.

Each of the two Li-ion units includes a 400kW power conditioning system for use in conjunction with a 800kW turbine, and Saft’s complete system has been designed to smooth output and provide up to 400 kWh peak-shaving capability.

Europe’s largest battery facility under construction

Europe’s largest battery cell factory is currently being built in the German state of Saxony, reports Solar Novus. The lithium-ion batteries are destined to power the growing number of electric vehicles in Germany and Europe, currently totaling 670,000 and 1.72 million, respectively.

Its foreign trade and inward investment agency says the German government is “optimistic” that the production of high-performance lithium-based batteries could revolutionise the automotive industry.

Nanoflowers let Li-ion batteries bloom

North Carolina State University researchers have created flower-like structures out of germanium sulfide (a semiconductor material) that have extremely thin petals with an enormous surface area, which could dramatically boost the capacity of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

The “petals” are 20 to 30 nanometers thick, up to 100 micrometers long and are created by vaporising germanium sulfide (GeS) powder in a furnace, blowing it to a cooler area where it solidifies into sheets, then repeating the process to build up the final “flower”.

One of many nanotechnology projects aimed at improving the capacity of Li-ion technology, such as nanocarbon “brushes” and “foams”, this technique is both cheap and non-toxic, says the University.