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Creators of the lithium ion battery awarded 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Creators of the lithium-ion battery awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, Akira Yoshino by the Royal Swedish Academy for developing lithium-ion batteries. 

The Nobel committee has stressed the importance of this technology which has given us the freedom to use and enjoy portable devices such as laptops, mobile phones to even electric cars and spacecraft. The lithium-ion batteries can be easily recharged by plugging them into the mains power supply. 

To perfect such technology, there were many challenges. Lithium can release electrons easily, thus making it suitable to store and conduct electricity. However, since it is quite reactive, it has to be adjusted for making it functional inside a battery. 

A battery comprises the cathode(positive side) and anode(negative side). Dr. Whittingham was working on energy technologies that are free from fossil fuel in the 1970s, which is when he discovered a method to make cathode for a lithium battery made from titanium disulfide. It was good however the anode was made from metallic lithium making it quite explosive to work with. Dr. Goodenough improved on this in 1980, using cobalt oxide to prepare the cathode. This increased battery voltage. 

The anode in previous batteries was made from lithium metals making it not so safe to work with as it was highly reactive. Dr. Yoshino focused on this problem as he created an anode from petroleum coke where the carbon layers allowed the lithium ions to be present between them. Ions moved across batteries as electrons moved in the circuits thereby powering the devices. This whole process is reversible hence this can be repeated many times. So the battery can be charged as many times as possible before it started deteriorating. The first lithium-ion battery that was commercially viable was created by Yoshino in 1985.  

Dr. Goodenough is now the oldest person to win a Nobel Prize at 97 years of age as he surpassed Dr. Arthur Ashkin who won the Nobel Prize for Physics last year. Yoshino mentioned during the announcement of the award that the prime motivation for continuing the research was simply their curiosity. 

Only five women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry out of 203 Chemistry Nobel Laureates since 1901. 89 of these recipients were awarded for carrying out work in the United States while only 60 were actually born. 

Check out the Nobel Prize winners from the field of Medicine and their discovery.

Researchers come up with battery models powering more than a million miles

Researchers come up with battery models powering more than a million miles

Jeffrey Dahn and his research group from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia has filed for a new patent on lithium battery technology which can power more than a million miles. Dahn holds an exclusive agreement with Tesla and his team has published the testing results on new batteries which according to them can be used as benchmarks for other scientists dealing with similar technologies. The report can be found in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

The most innovative section of the battery used by Dahn’s team is the cathode. Different batteries use different types of lithium compounds for achieving good characteristics. Dahn’s team has been investigating on NMC –  lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide. This material has been used by several other electric vehicle makers in the past such as Nissan and Chevrolet but not Tesla. Dahn uses synthetic graphite for anode with the electrode being a blend of lithium salts and several other ionic compounds. These components do not differ much in compositions used by other makers however Dahn’s team used a different technique for the NMC cathode’s structure. The team used large single crystals replacing smaller ones which would develop lesser cracks as the battery goes through charged and discharged states. 

Battery research has been mostly focused on increasing the range that can be powered in a single charge. Dahn, on the other hand, has focused on improving the battery’s overall lifetime making it suitable for self-driving taxis and electric trucks that are expected to go through several charges and discharge cycles. The current Tesla battery pack lasts for 300,000 to 500,000 miles which is not enough. On the other hand, batteries in this paper are expected to last 4000 charges – four times more than the present commercial batteries. 

Since the paper has been categorized for “benchmarking”, it implies that the batteries mentioned in the paper would not be used by Tesla in its vehicles. Dahn mentioned that these batteries are capable of powering an electric vehicle for more than a million miles while lasting two decades in grid energy storage. 

Tesla and Dahn were awarded the patent for a single crystal NMC battery with an additive named ODTO, similar to the description in the paper, which has been described by Dahn’s team in another paper last year. There is still room for improvement in the batteries described in the current paper as the specific energy density of mentioned batteries is lesser than the maximum ability of advanced Li-ion batteries. There is a possibility of Li-ion batteries powering more than 500kms in a single charge.

Reference: Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

new battery technology

Accidentally created new battery technology can last 400 times longer

Researchers in the US have created a battery capable of being recharged hundreds of thousands of times without showing signs of wear, spelling a potential end to electronics rendered useless by dead cells.

The batteries of today are mainly lithium, and over time that lithium corrodes inside the battery.
Instead of lithium, researchers at UC Irvine have used gold nanowires to store electricity, and have found that their system is able to far outlast traditional lithium battery construction. The Irvine team’s system cycled through 200,000 recharges without significant corrosion or decline.

The original aim of the experiment was simply to make a solid-state battery that used an electrolyte gel rather than a liquid to hold its charge – lithium batteries contain liquid, which makes them extremely combustible and also sensitive to temperature.

But when they started experimenting with gold nanowires suspended in this electrolyte gel, they found that the system was incredibly resilient. In fact, it was way, way more resilient than any other battery system.

Watch: How batteries work

The use of nanowires, which are thousands of times thinner than human hair, highly conductive and have a large surface area, in batteries is not new.

Lithium-ion batteries, used in most smartphones, are also made up of nanowires, but they are fragile and prone to breaking after repeated charges.

As such, batteries are currently designed to withstand a certain number of “cycles” – the equivalent of a battery fully draining.

By coating the nanowires in both a shell and the gel, the US researchers managed to prevent the nanowires from growing brittle.

During testing, it withstood 200,000 charges over three months. In that time the researchers failed to notice any decline in charge capacity or damage within the battery. Regular batteries currently on the market normally die after 7,000 charges at most, the study claimed.

The study was published in the American Chemical Society’s Energy Letters on April 20.