back to article Boffins triple battery life with metal foam

Japanese researchers have developed a new material they estimate can triple the capacity of lithium-ion batteries. The breakthrough comes courtesy of Sumitomo Electric Industries, which has set up a "small-scale production line" at its Osaka Works R&D center to produce the battery-boosting material, which they call "Aluminum- …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm

    Wop these into Electric cars and like the tesla and the currently meh "150-200ish" miles becomes something a lot more respectable.

    1. mike 32
      Alert

      Is there a drop in charge time?

      ...because that'd remove the need to plan overnigt stops on a (long) journey .

      1. chr0m4t1c

        I wouldn't think so

        You'll be storing more charge, so there's be a corresponding increase in charge time unless you beef up the chargers.

        That's not possible if you're using an ordinary domestic 13 Amp socket, so if your vehicle stores twice as much charge it'll take twice as long to get full.

        It does change the dynamics of the who e-car thing, though. If your e-car can now store enough power to get you backwards and forwards to work every day for a week before needing to be put on charge for 24 hours instead of needing 4-5 hours every day then that might be more convenient for you.

        Certainly, it would be for me as I use my car each week for one long business trip and the rest of the time it sits in the garage, so if I had sufficient range to do the whole trip the car could spend the remainder of the time on charge and would (in fact) be more convenient for me than my current fossil burner as I could cut out the detour to the filling station.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I remember

          "You'll be storing more charge, so there's be a corresponding increase in charge time unless you beef up the chargers."

          I remember seeing a story about a new battery technology that can charge in seconds, supposedly:

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7938001.stm

          "A new manufacturing method for lithium-ion batteries could lead to smaller, lighter batteries that can be charged in just seconds." ... "The approach only requires simple changes to the production process of a well-known material."

          I wonder what ever happened to it, combining the two sounds like a good plan.

          1. Nigel 11
            Facepalm

            Sixty seconds at 4680 Amps??

            A car battery that can recharge in seconds?

            If 6 hours at 240V 13 amps is the right amount of charge, then that would be 6 minutes at 13 x 60 amps, or 60 seconds at 13 x 60 x 6 = 4680 Amps. About 1100 kilowatts, or 400 kettles.

            Think about what a 4680 Amp plug might look like. Think about a tiny fraction of that current going into resistive heating somewhere it shouldn't. File under cloud cuckoo.

            Oh, raise the voltage, I hear? 46 Amps at 25 kilovolts. Yes, that might be manageable on the connector front, but could it ever be made available to Joe Public? File this one under carbonized squirrel.

  2. karl 15
    Thumb Up

    About Time

    Seeing as I've had to replace all my lithium-ion batteries in my mini video camera's with AA rechargeable battery packs (using the power jack)

    using HYBRIO NiMH low self discharge batteries, this is good news

    With lithium-ion i got 45 minutes video time, with 2 AA i get 5 hrs, plus they cost £££'s less

    3x the life is a step in the right direction, but i bet the cost of a good lithium-ion or pol will go up

  3. Martijn Otto

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    The real questions of course are:

    - Will it be affordable

    - How long will it take to be commercially available

    1. Ru

      Well,

      - Will it be affordable

      Just about. I doubt it will be any more expensive than li-poly, but that isn't exactly cheap.

      - How long will it take to be commercially available

      Give it a few years. We haven't got good market penetration of the last load of fancy lithium substrates yet.

  4. Bunker_Monkey
    Thumb Up

    At last!

    A battery which will allow a car to have a decent 350-450 mile range?

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      And

      And take two days to charge....

    2. John Robson Silver badge
      Stop

      I can barely recall

      the last time I drive more than 80 miles in a day.

      I used to have a nasty commute - 140 miles round trip. However I could have charged at work (or left an e-car at home and used a fossil burner)

      Other than that commute - I took a road trip round America, but I hired a car for that...

      Erm... Before that???

      I know - I manage a bit more than that going to a retreat centre every so often - but I can hire a car for holidays on the savings made from driving battery powered the rest of the year and still have money over to buy the holiday (well I could have done, I tend to cycle rather alot now)

  5. Dave Bell

    Does it make sense for capacitors?

    We've basically got a very bumpy surface, and one of the critical features of a capacitor is the thickness of the dialectric layer between two conductors. It might work for an electrolytic capacitor, and it might be usable where the precise capacitance doesn't matter so much, but that last paragraph does seem odd. And the uneven surface could have all sorts of charge distribution effects: it all seems to go in the wrong direction.

    1. The First Dave
      Boffin

      untitled

      Absolutely - the classic design of a capacitor involves two very large and very thin, parallel plates, usually wrapped into a cylinder to reduce overall size. None of those features seem like a good fit with a three-dimensional matrix of random bubbles.

  6. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
    Flame

    Cool...

    How flammable is it?

    (Maybe I'm paranoid but these days I don't ever leave a lappie charging anywhere where I can't respond to the unlikely event of a fire).

  7. jungle_jim

    i wonder

    what the charge and discharge rates are

  8. Dave 62

    so...

    What about charge rate?

    Anywho, I'll just sit here and twiddle my thumbs while we wait for this to maybe come to market.

  9. Gordon Henderson
    Meh

    A down-side ... ?

    Three times the capacity... Three times the weight?

    It's a good move, but I think all it's doing it taking the pressure off the chip makers to produce lower power devices in the long-run.

    1. Ragarath

      Read the article?

      It will be lighter due to being 98% porous.

      1. Peter Kay

        Read it again yourself..

        'that porosity allows for the battery to contain a significantly larger amount of the lithium compound'

        Sounds to me like it will potentially weigh more depending on how dense the lithium compound and the aluminium foil are

        1. Christoph

          Lithium is light

          Lithium is atomic number 3 - it's really, really light.

        2. h4rm0ny
          Headmaster

          Re: Read it again yourself..

          Lithium is considerably lighter than Aluminium. If you increase the ratio of Lithium to Aluminium in the battery then it becomes lighter. So it should weigh considerably less for the same volume.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Meanwhile, in a Real Hot and Sunny Mountain View was the picture altogether different......

      "A down-side ... ? Three times the capacity... Three times the weight?" .... Gordon Henderson Posted Wednesday 29th June 2011 08:59 GMT

      Three times the capacity also cubes its potential energy, GH, creating novel impacts elsewhere.

  10. Christoph
    Mushroom

    Bigger bang?

    There's been lots of reports of lithium batteries going bang - these would presumably produce a 3 times bigger bang? Are they more likely or less likely to explode than the existing types?

  11. Mage Silver badge

    triple battery life?

    That would be more useful than x3 capacity.

    Far too many battery packs are down to 50% in a year and useless in 2 years and then cost £70 to replace.

    The headline should have been "triple battery capacity"

    I'd like a 5 to 6 year life minimum battery.

    On a car, x3 capacity is x3 longer to charge. Even existing electric cars need silly charging points or 8 hrs and unsupportable by local substation even if only 1 in 5 bought one. Forget electric cars. Use the electricity to make synthetic liquid fuel if it's so cheap. 600miles range added to tank in minutes.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Synthifuel doesn't have the economy to support it yet.

      First off, the tech is experimental: not yet ready for full-scale production. Second, it only makes sense in an environment where the cost of the electricity usage outweighs the cost of extracting more of the regular stuff out of the ground. Right now, the only environment that supports this scenario is a nuclear aircraft carrier. They have power to spare, an insatiable demand for jet fuel, and few places to tap. But mention nuclear anywhere in civvie land, and you'll get a visit from ol' NIMBY.

  12. Neill Mitchell

    Breakdown

    This was in New Scientist a little while back. The problem they has was the material degraded during the recharge cycle. Perhaps they have sorted it now.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Li-anything

    Tend to break after a few (dozen/hundred, depnding on abuse) charge cycles because the anodes swell when charged and shrink when discharged (which causes them to fracture or flake.)

    Nanowires were touted for a while as the solution for this but I haven't seen them in production yet....

    No idea if this new tech is more immune to the phenomenon.

  15. Naughtyhorse
    Trollface

    Am I the only one to think that...

    The name is a bit clumsy?

    won't people mix it up with Aluminium?

    How disapponted would you be if you thought that you had purchased some fine wonder material Aluminum, only to find when you got home that it was plain old Aluminuim... and even worse this ali is full of bleedin holes!

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Boffin

    A quick check on the reltavie densities of Lithium and aluminium gives..

    0.53 Vs 2.8 g/cm^3.

    So roughly speaking the volume of lithium would weigh 1/5 (actually slightly less) the same volume of aluminium.

    I'd say the battery weight is going *down* by quite a lot.

  17. cs94njw
    Thumb Up

    Someone please forward to Google phone manufacturers!

    Nothing to see here, move along please.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iPad 3 or 4 you reckon...

    Wehey, 20 hour iPads on the horizon... ;)

  19. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Capacitors

    Electrolytics only have one solid plate. The other one *is* the electrolyte. There is an oxide layer on the anode to form the insulator, and manufacturers already try to make the anode as bumpy as possible to increase the surface area.

    Now if you can be sure of getting a suitable oxide layer on this porous surface, that it might well work, so long as that doesn't result in local hot-spots where the electrolyte path is long and relatively 'thin'.

  20. Mips
    Childcatcher

    Plenty of power-packing pores (click to enlarge)

    "click to enlarge"

    Whoa, hang on that is quite close enough, thank you.

  21. Martin Budden Bronze badge
    Headmaster

    "mash-up"

    The word you are looking for is "portmanteau".

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