Why ‘nuclear batteries’ offer a new approach to carbon-free energy

By David L. Chandler , Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This cut-away rendering of the MIT nuclear battery concept shows important components such as the instrumentation and control module, the reactor, and the power module. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

We may be on the brink of a new paradigm for nuclear power, a group of nuclear specialists suggested recently in The Bridge, the journal of the National Academy of Engineering. Much as large, expensive, and centralized computers gave way to the widely distributed PCs of today, a new generation of relatively tiny and inexpensive factory-built reactors, designed for autonomous plug-and-play operation similar to plugging in an oversized battery, is on the horizon, they say.

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‘HOLY GRAIL’ BATTERY BREAKTHROUGH SEES SCIENTISTS SOLVE 40-YEAR PROBLEM

Lithium-metal batteries hold far more energy and charge in a fraction of the time compared to those used in smartphones and electric cars

By Anthony Cuthbertson

Researchers have demonstrated a solution to a 40-year problem regarding the creation of a “holy grail” battery that could radically transform the electric car industry.

The breakthrough involves harnessing the power of lithium-metal batteries, which are capable of holding substantially more energy and charge in a fraction of the time compared to lithium-ion batteries that are currently used in everything from smartphones to Tesla vehicles.

Until now, scientists have been unable to create a lithium-metal battery stable enough to be used in commercial applications.

The development, made by a team at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), allows this next-generation batter to be charged and discharge at least 10,000 times, which would increase the lifetime of electric vehicles to that of of their gasoline counterparts – while simultaneously increasing their range and reducing their charge time.

“A lithium-metal battery is considered the holy grail for battery chemistry because of its high capacity and energy density,” said Xin Li, an associate professor at SEAS.

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The Battery That Will Finally Unlock Massless Energy Storage

It could revolutionize electric vehicles and aircraft.

By Caroline Delbert 

  • Scientists have made a massless structural battery 10 times better than before.
  • The battery cell performs well in structural and energy tests, with planned further improvements.
  • Structural batteries reduce weight and could revolutionize electric cars and planes.

In groundbreaking new research, scientists have made a structural battery 10 times better than in any previous experiment. 

What’s a structural battery, and why is it such a big deal? The term refers to an energy storage device that can also bear weight as part of a structure—like if the studs in your home were all batteries, or if an electric fence also held up a wall.

In the new paper, researchers from Chalmers University of Technology and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden reveal how their “massless” structural battery works.RELATED STORYIs the World Ready for the EV Battery Boom?

The main use case is for electric cars, where a literally massive amount of batteries take up a ton of room and don’t contribute to the actual structure of the car. In fact, these cars must be specially designed to carry the mass of the batteries. But what if the frame of the car could hold energy? “Due to their multifunctionality, structural battery composites are often referred to as ‘massless energy storage’ and have the potential to revolutionize the future design of electric vehicles and devices,” the researchers explain. 

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NREL looks at barriers to lithium-ion battery recycling and sees opportunities

The analysts assessed the current state of reuse and recycling of large-format lithium-ion batteries used in EVs and battery energy storage and found there is plenty of room for improvement.

By  DAVID WAGMAN

Recycling lithium-ion batteries could create a new market for U.S. companies, an NREL report said.

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a report detailing the technological, market, and regulatory hurdles to creating a circular economy for lithium-ion batteries.

The battery technology is increasingly in demand for energy storage and use in electric vehicles (EVs). But its current lifecycle is almost entirely one-way, from manufacture to consumption to disposal, with little thought given to reuse or recycling. Only one U.S. lithium-ion battery recycling facility exists today, the analysts said.

To start to rethink the one-way lifecycle, the NREL team assessed the current state of reuse and recycling of large-format lithium-ion batteries used in EVs and battery energy storage. They found that reusing and recycling the batteries could create U.S. market opportunities, stabilize the supply chain, reduce environmental impacts, and ease resource constraints.

And they found that a circular economy would derive more value from battery energy storage systems. Materials would be reused, recycled, or refurbished for multiple lifetimes rather than one-and-done, which uses up finite resources and creates waste.

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Battery startup Ample announces autonomous swapping stations

By Scooter Doll 

EV startup Ample today announced the rollout of its new modular battery swapping technology. A fully autonomous station deploys robots to remove and replace modules from an electric vehicle containing Ample’s modular battery architecture. These swapping stations are currently operational in California’s Bay Area.

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Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Finally Takes Off in North America and Europe


Later this year, 
the Canadian firm Li-Cyclewill begin constructing a US $175 million plant in Rochester, N.Y., on the grounds of what used to be the  Eastman Kodak complex. When completed, it will be the largest lithium-ion battery-recycling plant in North America.

The plant will have an eventual capacity of 25 metric kilotons of input material, recovering 95 percent or more of the cobalt, nickel, lithium, and other valuable elements through the company’s zero-wastewater, zero-emissions process. “We’ll be one of the largest domestic sources of nickel and lithium, as well as the only source of cobalt in the United States,” says Ajay Kochhar, Li-Cycle’s cofounder and CEO.

Founded in late 2016, the company is part of a booming industry focused on preventing tens of thousands of tons of lithium-ion batteries from entering landfills. Of the 180,000 metric tons of Li-ion batteries available for recycling worldwide in 2019, just a little over half were recycled. As lithium-ion battery production soars, so does interest in recycling. 

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This super-energy-dense battery could nearly double the range of electric vehicles

James Temple

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QuantumScape’s single-layer, solid-state lithium-metal battery cell.COURTESY: QUANTUMSCAPE

But some observers aren’t convinced that QuantumScape’s lithium-metal batteries will power cars and trucks on the road as soon as the company claims.

Scientists have long seen lithium-metal batteries as an ideal technology for energy storage, leveraging the lightest metal on the periodic table to deliver cells jam-packed with energy.

But researchers and companies have tried and failed for decades to produce affordable, rechargeable versions that didn’t have a nasty habit of catching on fire.

Then earlier this year Jagdeep Singh, the chief executive of QuantumScape, claimed in an interview with The Mobilist that the heavily funded, stealth Silicon Valley company had cracked the key technical challenges. He added that VW expects to have the batteries in its cars and trucks by 2025, promising to slash the cost and boost the range of its electric vehicles.

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Tesla expanding into solar microgrids and virtual power plants

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Elon Musk says he expects Tesla’s energy business will one day be equal to or exceed its automotive business. That day may be some time in the future but the company is clearly expanding its solar and battery operations rapidly, both for grid scale and residential applications.

Last week, Michael Snyder, Tesla’s director of engineering and construction for energy projects posted on Linked In, “If you like solving problems at the nexus of power systems interactions, protection coordination, system and product level controls, and DERs (Powerpacks, Megapacks, solar, and generators), check out the link below for a microgrid-focused product engineer. We have 120+ operational microgrids around the world with high impact to a variety of communities/customers. This is a unique and rewarding role.” That post was followed by a link to apply for a position with Tesla Energy.

According to E&E News, a microgrid is a cluster of energy generators — whether diesel or solar or wind powered — that serves nearby users such as a building or a campus. That cluster “islands” and keeps the lights on even if the regular grid around it blacks out, something that is happening more frequently because of severe storms, wildfires and floods associated with a warming climate. “If you look at the performance of the U.S. grid, it just gets worse and worse and worse,” says Peter Asmus, who studies microgrids as a research director at Guidehouse Insights.

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Tesla battery researcher shows new test results pointing to batteries lasting over 2 million miles

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A Tesla battery researcher showed updated test results pointing to batteries lasting over 15,000 cycles or the equivalent of over 2 million miles (3.5 million km) in an electric car.

Last year, we reported on Jeff Dahn and his lab, who is under contract to do battery research for Tesla, releasing a paper that shows how the latest Li-ion battery technology can produce batteries that would last 1 million miles in electric vehicles.

In a new presentation, Dahn discussed updated test results from this new battery, which he hopes becomes the new standard Li-ion battery against which new battery technologies benchmark themselves.

The scientist, who is widely recognized as a pioneer in Li-ion batteries, referenced our article from last year about their paper and said that it sparked a massive interest in this new battery chemistry and battery longevity.

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Battery Breakthrough enables ‘Holy Grail’ of super fast-charging electric cars

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Tesla vehicles and other electric cars have a range of around 500km but the battery takes around an hour to charge

Recharging a car could be almost as quick as refueling.

Engineers say they are close to achieving the “holy grail” of batteries after a major breakthrough brought forward the possibility of charging electric vehicles in mere minutes.

The advance could provide electric cars with 500km of range from just 10 minutes of charging, researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) said.

“The combination of high energy, high [charging] rate, and long cycle life is the holy grail of battery research, which is determined by one of the key components of the battery: the electrode materials,” said USTC professor Hengxing Ji.

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We are approaching the fastest, deepest, most consequential technological disruption in history

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We are approaching the fastest, deepest, most consequential technological disruption in history

 In the next 10 years, key technologies will converge to completely disrupt the five foundational sectors—information, energy, food, transportation, and materials—that underpin our global economy. We need to make sure the disruption benefits everyone.

Suppose we told you that solutions to the world’s most intractable problems are possible in the next decade. Poverty. Inequality. Climate change. You’d probably say impossible, preposterous, unthinkable. We’ve heard that about our predictions before. But we have been proven right.

Now, we are predicting the fastest, deepest, most consequential technological disruption in history and with it, a moment civilization has never encountered before. In the next 10 years, key technologies will converge to completely disrupt the five foundational sectors—information, energy, food, transportation, and materials—that underpin our global economy, and with them every major industry in the world today. Costs will fall by 10 times or more, while production processes become an order of magnitude (10x) more efficient, using 90% fewer natural resources and producing 10 times to 100 times less waste.

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Tesla aims to mine its own lithium in Nevada after dropping plan to buy miner

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But so far no company has been able to mine lithium from clay commercially

Elon Musk told investors last week that Tesla has secured access to 10,000 acres of lithium-rich clay deposits in Nevada and planned to use a new, “very sustainable way” of extracting the metal.

Tesla Inc. secured its own lithium mining rights in Nevada after dropping a plan to buy a company there, according to people familiar with the matter.

The automaker held discussions in recent months with Cypress Development Corp., which is seeking to extract lithium from clay deposits in southwest Nevada, but the parties didn’t reach a deal, the people said, asking not to be named because the information isn’t public. The electric car maker, which has vowed to slash its battery costs by 50 per cent, instead focused on the plan that chief executive Elon Musk outlined last week to dig for lithium on its own in the state.

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