Tag: electric car

German boffins come up with ultra long-life batteries

A team of researchers from the Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg, which roughly translates as the centre for solar and hydrogen development, has come up with a new Li-Ion battery technology that could bring affordable electric cars a step closer.

The new batteries retain most of their capacity even after 10,000 recharge cycles, which means they should be good for 25 years, or more.

One of the biggest teething problems facing electric cars is the relatively short lifespan of their battery packs. Many experts claim the batteries have to be replaced every five to seven years, and they are pretty pricey, too.

The team claims their new power pack retains more than 85 percent of the initial capacity even after 10,000 cycles. That means they will probably never have to be replaced – the rest of the car will fail before they do.

As with most battery breakthroughs, there’s a catch. The technology is still not ready for mass adoption and it needs tweaking. It is unclear when, if ever, it will be employed commercially, reports Hothardware

'Activated graphene' provides supercapacitor energy storage boost

Another day, another fascinating use for super-material graphene.

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and University of Texas – Austin have devised a method of using the atom thin carbon sheets that is a massive boost in the search for practical supercapacitor materials.

The new form of carbon can be incorporated into supercapacitor devices that are able to store massive amounts of energy while also being able to release it at a quick rate, as well as offering quick recharge time and 10,000 charge/discharge lifecycle.

Basically this is everything that is desirable in a battery, but which is difficult to do with traditional batteries as they store energy through chemical reactions which take considerably more time to react than supercapacitors which rely on charges stored in the form of ions on the surface of electrodes.

According to one researcher,  such properties make the new form of carbon highly useful for energy requirements where a substantial amount is needed at a quick rate, giving electric cars as an example.

So far applications of supercapacitors have been limited to smaller devices such as mobile electronics, though the new form of carbon apparently means that higher energy storage comparable to a battery is possible while still retaining the attributes of supercapacitors, and essentially offering the best of both storage types.

The discovery was made by the team at the University of Texas which had originally attempted to create a porous form of carbon by restructuring “graphene platelets”  and were able to correctly hypothesise the structure of three dimensional networks of atom-thick walls that are able to make the material act like a sponge in soaking up electrical current much more effectively.

The scientists are now looking at how they can manipulate the material to form into structures for specificed functions such as fuel cells, and though this is certainly at the development stage at the moment the team appear confident that they will be able to upscale to industrial production.

Gallium nitride semiconductors can withstand high voltage

Scientists have developed a method which allows gallium nitride (GaN) to be practically implemented to allow high-powered and energy efficient devices in the future, allowing 10 times as much power to flow through the material.

In order to produce future renewable technologies such as smart grids or electric cars it is necessary to develop need high-power semiconductor devices, and gallium nitride offers a much more efficient energy usage than current technologies, say the researchers.

However while gallium nitride hold many properties that lends itself to such usages, it is unable to withstand large voltages that are necessary in certain functions

“Power-handling capacity is important for the development of those devices,” said Merve Ozbek, a researcher at North Carolina State University.

Research previously undertaken into the use of high power GaN devices has encountered problems due to large electric fields being created at specific points located at the edge of devices, when high voltage currents were applied, effectively frying the device.

However the researchers at NC have looked toward solving this problem by implanting a buffer made of argon around the edges that can handle around 10 times as much power pulsing through it.

This buffer then works by spreading out the electric field away from just small areas, thus avoiding the destruction of the device.

When testing the new method on common electronic components known as Schottky diodes, it was shown that the argon implant allowed the breaking point to be raised from 250 volts without to 1,650 with the added material.

“By improving the breakdown voltage from 250 volts to 1,650 volts, we can reduce the electrical resistance of these devices a hundredfold,” says Dr. Jay Baliga, a professor at NC State and co-author of the paper. “That reduction in resistance means that these devices can handle ten times as much power.”

Japanese firms to start making superconducting wire

Sumitomo Electric Industries and SWCC Showa Holdings will steal a march on foreign competitors by beginning production of superconducting wire to be used in electric car motors and smart grids.

It is hoped that by switching from standard copper wire before rival companies from the US and South Korea the two Japanese firms will gain an edge in the global market.

The use of superconducting wire will mean significant reduction in power loss by conserving electricity and improving mechanical performance, which can mean in the region of 20 percent energy savings for a large factory.  For the motors of electric vehicles the wire will be able to increase driving range by around 25 percent, which could assist in the take-up of environmentally friendly transportation.

Sumitomo Electric seeks to become the world’s largest superconductor wire manufacturer next year by increasing capacity next year by double to 1,000km at its Osaka plant.  Its increased output of bismuth-based wire will see it overtaking US firm American Superconductor Corp.  The wire costs twice as much as copper, though volume production will lower this cost by 30 percent.

One of Sumitomo Electric’s customers will be Tokyo Electric Power, which will be purchasing superconducting wire for installation at a transformer station in Yokohama, making it the first utility in Japan to use the wire in commercial power transmission.  Further orders have been received including one for 40km from China, and an order for more than 100km from an unspecified buyer, according to Nikkei (subscription needed)

SWCC Showa, meanwhile, will begin the mass production of an yttrium-based superconducting wire this year for use in high-output motors, with needed plant investments to total $12 million.

Overall the domestic market for superconducting wire used in power cables will measure about $589 million in 2030, according to the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization.  It is also expected that US will increase demand as it replaces its aging power grid infrastructure.