November 20, 2010 01:40 by Jeremy
Everyone is well aware of the common types of batteries we have floating around in today's electronics: Li-Ion, NiMH, Ni-Cad, Li-Poly, Alkaline...just to name a few. However, there is another contender that we don't see around today's electronics too often, called "NaS" (Sodium Sulfur).
NaS batteries have been around for a while now, especially in Japan. Only recently, however, has Korean steel-making company POSCO succeeded in developing an NaS battery for storing large amounts of energy. Now, we're not talking about as much energy needed to power hybrid cars (according to the chart below), but we are still talking about a fairly lengthy period of time.
While NaS batteries aren't new, POSCO claims that it's NaS batteries have a lifespan of more than 15 years. If this sort of technology were to expand, and if both NaS batteries and POSCO live up to the expectations this news may bring about, then perhaps the idea of very-long-lasting-batteries in handheld electronic devices, or any electronic really, will be achieved sooner rather than later.
November 13, 2010 00:45 by Jeremy
It sounds ridiculous, we know, but hear us out. Apparently, the company Ioxus, whose focus is around ultracapacitors and alternative means of energy, is on the road to create an ultracapacitor-battery. But to understand what that means, let's go back to the basics. What is an ultracapacitor?
Simply put, an ultracapacitor is a way of storing energy via electric charges inside of an electrical field. Even simpler than that: it's pretty much like a battery, but the insides work differently, and it lasts longer. Much longer. In fact, that's one of the main perks of the ultracapacitor (I wonder if that's why the word ultra is in there).
So, what happens when you have a battery pack with the attributes of an ultracapacitor? You'd get an item that, according to Ioxus, can charge power tools, handheld medicals devices, and other electronics. Not only that, but it can charge fully in under 2 minutes (even just a 20-second charge will get you pretty far). Ioxus CEO Mark McGough, had this to say about the ultracapacitor-battery-hybrid: "What we've been able to do is take the fast charge/discharge of ultracapacitors and improve the energy density by designing in a lithium ion electrode and putting it all in the same device."
Perhaps the first- and second-generation ultracapacitor-batteries won't be as popular or as strong as we'd like them to be (it won't be able to power your car just yet), but this definitely opens up interesting prospects for the future of batteries.
Sources: cnet, Ioxus
November 5, 2010 01:20 by Jeremy
This week, we've seen two new additions to our list of "Ways To Remove Batteries From Our Lives".
The first was Logitech's new wireless solar-powered keyboard, as seen above. The "K750" boasts the ability to not only charge up using sunlight, but also indoors with artificial light. A Logitech Solar App also shows how much battery life you have left, and how much power you're gaining from nearby light-sources.
Meanwhile, thanks to Taiwan-based AU Optronics, we're seeing Logitech's solar keyboard idea being taken to the extreme. AUO is planning to release a solar-powered keyboard embedded into laptops that acts as a secondary laptop battery. It has the same ability as the K750 to charge from both indoor and outdoor light-sources. As seen on the picture to the right, the keyboard looks somewhat reflective like a solar panel, but with the letters showing as mere outlines. This touch-panel may require some getting used to, as conventional buttons are being replaced.
Although the solar-power should only act as a back-up battery, many consumers are still wondering if, and when, solar power will completely replace normal lithium-ion (and other materials) batteries that serve as today's backbone for electronics.
Source: Logitech's K750, AUO's solar keyboard
November 2, 2010 20:41 by Ty
Researchers at Ohio State University are studying why aged batteries don’t maintain their full charging capacity and lose their charge as they get older. Lithium-ion batteries are being focused on because they have been the best choice for use in electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles. The Li-ion batteries are being tested in various conditions ranging from hot desert temperatures to cold sub zero temperatures. Different battery loads of charge / discharge rates are also being tested. All battery tests are being done to mock real world situations with temperatures and load in a controlled environment.
Chevy Volt Lithium-Ion Battery Pack - GM
After extensive testing and battery aging was completed and battery capacity began to drop, the Li-ion batteries were then opened up and researched at a microscopic level.
When the batteries died, the scientists dissected them and used a technique called infrared thermal imaging to search for problem areas in each electrode, a 1.5-meter-long strip of metal tape coated with oxide and rolled up like a jelly roll. They then took a closer look at these problem areas using a variety of techniques with different length scale resolutions (e.g. scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscope, scanning spreading resistance microscopy, Kelvin probe microscopy, transmission electron microscopy) and discovered that the finely-structured nanomaterials on these electrodes that allow the battery rapidly charge and discharge had coarsened in size.
Additional studies of the aged batteries, using neutron depth profiling, revealed that a fraction of the lithium that is responsible, in ion form, for shuttling electric charge between electrodes during charging and discharging, was no longer available for charge transfer, but was irreversibly lost from the cathode to the anode.
"We can clearly see that an aged sample versus and unaged sample has much lower lithium concentration in the cathode," said Rizzoni, director of the Center for Automotive Research at OSU. "It has essentially combined with anode material in an irreversible way." (Source: How Batteries Grow Old)
Discovering why there is a lower lithium concentration and preserving or reversing the natural reaction could be the key in future Li-ion battery manufacturing to produce longer lasting and more power batteries.
October 28, 2010 21:03 by Ty
Lithium-ion batteries have been known to catch fire and explode in rare cases and have caught the attention of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). The FAA has issued carriers a warning that fire suppressants carried on aircraft are ineffective of extinguishing lithium-metal battery fires and are not foolproof in Lithium-ion battery fires.
Lithium-metal batteries are highly flammable and fire ignition can occur if the battery short-circuits, overheats, is overcharged, is mishandled or is defective. In a rare event that the lithium batteries ignite from overheating or short-circuiting, thermal runaway could occur from self-heating and release of the batteries’ stored energy. Other batteries within the cargo area could also ignite and cause a further catastrophic event, depending on the total number and type of batteries. Halon 1301 fire extinguisher effectiveness is not 100% with lithium-metal battery fires can result in the fire to spread within the cargo area. Lithium-metal batteries are currently prohibited as bulk cargo shipments on passenger-carrying aircraft.
If you are traveling, make sure you keep your batteries and electronics with you or in carry-on baggage. Avoid putting batteries in checked baggage so the flight crew can monitor any type of hazardous activity in the cabin area. TSA security might not allow the batteries to be stored in checked baggage. “As of January 1, 2008, the Department of Transportation (DOT) through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) no longer allows loose lithium batteries in checked baggage. The FAA also no longer allows large, palletized shipments of these batteries to be transported as cargo on passenger aircraft.”
TSA – Safe Travel with Batteries http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/batteries.shtm
FAA - Fighting Fires Caused By Lithium Type Batteries in Portable Electronic Devices - PDF File