Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Engineer Works to Develop Better Batteries for Energy Alternatives

27.01.2010
Get Steve Martin going on the science and technology of batteries and he'll reach for a sheet of graph paper.

Martin, an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering in Iowa State University's department of materials science and engineering and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, will fill that sheet with the chemical formulas of various lithium compounds and materials. He'll add a few sketches of carbon atoms forming layers of hexagons. He'll even jot down some lithium-silicon formulas.

It's his way of explaining the electrochemical reactions that make batteries work and how new materials could be used to make better, safer batteries. And that's something that could make a big difference for all of us as the world pursues alternatives to fossil fuels.

Just consider the 2,140 wind turbines spinning across Iowa. They're generating 3,053 megawatts of electricity, making Iowa the second-ranked state in wind power output. Their energy production, of course, varies with the wind. And as long as production of wind energy is relatively small, the existing electricity grid can accommodate the ups and the downs. But, if wind energy climbs above 25 percent of electricity production, Martin said the grid won't be able to handle the power swings.

¡°We need to store that extra energy when it's generated and we're not using it, like at night,¡± Martin said. ¡°And so we're working on electrochemical energy storage mechanisms.¡±

Martin has several battery projects in the works:

¡ñ As part of a Materials World Network, Martin is working to develop better and safer lithium batteries. Network researchers are looking at replacing the liquid electrolyte that separates a battery's electron-producing anode from its electron-accepting cathode. The liquid electrolyte sometimes fails and catches fire. It also reduces battery power at cold temperatures.

Martin and his collaborators are looking at a solid electrolyte made of glass. Martin's role in the project is to prepare various glasses and study their structures and conductivity.

The network's project is supported by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

¡ñ Martin is also collaborating with Iver Anderson, a senior metallurgist for the Ames Laboratory and an adjunct professor of materials science and engineering, and Emma White, a graduate student in materials science and engineering, to develop new materials for a battery's electron-producing anode.

Rather than using lithium and carbon, they're studying how lithium-silicon compounds could be used. A lithium-silicon battery could hold a lot more charge, but so far the silicon anode material expands to sizes that are impractical.

¡°I get excited about this,¡± Martin said. ¡°The problem isn't the chemistry. It's can we create new structures or types of lithium-silicon phases so when the lithium comes in, the volume of the anode doesn't change?¡±

The project is supported by a seed grant of $50,000 from the Ames Laboratory.

Martin's interest in the world's energy problems goes back to the 1979 oil crisis. He was just graduating from college at the time and took note of the long lines at gas stations and the calls for energy efficiency and conservation. That got him thinking about alternatives to imported oil. And that led him to study the electrochemistry of glass and begin his own research program at Iowa State in 1986.

He's been working with researchers around the world ever since. And Martin is confident that engineers and scientists doing fundamental research to characterize and understand materials will find ways to make better batteries for a cleaner energy future.

¡°We will solve these problems ¨C we have to,¡± he said. ¡°Probably in my lifetime, we'll have major discoveries that will start to steer us away from burning fossil fuels.¡±

Contacts:
Steve Martin, Materials Science and Engineering, U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, (515) 294-0745, swmartin@iastate.edu

Mike Krapfl | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer IFAM

nachricht IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world
05.12.2016 | IHP - Leibniz-Institut für innovative Mikroelektronik

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>