IBM Research has unveiled its latest discovery in the battery segment. This new research could help eliminate the need for heavy metals in battery production and transform the long-term sustainability of many elements of our energy infrastructure.
With exploring battery-powered alternatives from vehicles to smart power grids, many still worry about the sustainability of battery technologies available today.
New Batteries Use AquaPIM Membranes
Many materials used in batteries, including heavy metals such as nickel and cobalt, pose a great environmental and humanitarian risk. Cobalt in particular, which is widely available in Central Africa, has come under fire for careless and exploitative extraction practices.
Using three different new proprietary materials that had never been combined for use in batteries, the IBM Research team discovered the chemistry for a new battery that uses no heavy metals or other substances from worrying sources.
This discovery has significant potential for electric vehicle batteries, for example, where flammability, cost and charging time come into play.
Battery materials developed by IBM Research could be extracted from seawater, paving the way for less invasive extraction techniques than today's mining techniques.
As promising as the composition of this new battery is its performance potential. In initial testing, it has proven that it can be optimized to exceed the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries in several individual categories, including lower costs, faster charging times, higher power and energy density, strong energy efficiency and low flammability.
Discovered in IBM Research's Battery Lab, the new design uses a nickel-free cobalt cathode material as well as a safe liquid electrolyte with a high flash point. This unique combination of cathode and electrolyte has demonstrated an ability to suppress lithium metal dendrites during charging, thus reducing flammability, which is widely considered a significant disadvantage for the use of lithium metal as an anode material.
This discovery has significant potential for electric vehicle batteries, for example, where flammability, cost and charging time come into play. Current tests show that less than five minutes are required for the battery – set to high power – to reach a charge state of 80%. Combined with the relatively low cost of obtaining materials, the goal of having a low-cost electric vehicle with charging may become a reality in the near future.
Current tests show that less than five minutes are required for the battery – set to high power – to reach a charge state of 80%.
In the ever-evolving segment of flying vehicles and electric aircraft, having access to high-power density batteries that can scale an energy charge quickly is critical. When optimized for this factor, this new battery design exceeds more than 10,000 W / L, surpassing the most powerful lithium-ion batteries available today.
In addition, IBM Rasearch tests have shown that this battery can be designed for a long life cycle, making it an option for smart power grid systems and new power infrastructures where longevity and stability are paramount.
Overall, this battery has shown the ability to outperform existing lithium-ion batteries not only in the above listed applications, but can also be optimized for a number of specific benefits including:
– Lower Cost: Active cathode materials tend to cost less because they are free of cobalt, nickel and other heavy metals.
– Faster Charging: Less than five minutes required to achieve 80% charge state without compromising specific discharge capacity.
– High power density: Over 10,000 W / L, exceeding the power level that lithium-ion battery technology can achieve.
– High energy density: More than 800 Wh / L, comparable to the latest generation lithium-ion battery.
– Excellent energy efficiency: More than 90%. Calculated from the energy ratio for discharging the battery over the energy for charging the battery.
– Low flammability of electrolytes.
To move this new battery from the exploratory research stage to the commercial development stage, IBM Research has teamed up with Mercedes-Benz Research, Development North America, Central Glass, one of the world's leading battery electrolyte suppliers, and Sidus, a battery manufacturer to create a new state-of-the-art battery development ecosystem.
Although plans for further development of this battery are still in the exploratory phase, the hope of IBM Research is that this early ecosystem will help make these batteries a reality.