Japanese scientists have synthesized two crystal materials that show great promise as solid electrolytes. All-solid-state batteries built using the solid electrolytes exhibit excellent properties, including high power and high energy densities, and could be used in long-distance electric vehicles.
High power batteries are desirable for numerous applications, including the electric vehicles of the future. These batteries must be rechargeable, remain safe to store and use at variable temperatures, and retain charge for a considerable length of time. Now, Yuki Kato and Ryoji Kanno in collaboration with colleagues from Toyota Motor Corporation, Tokyo Institute of Technology and High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Japan, have successfully designed and conducted trials on novel, high power all-solid-state batteries with promising results.
Most traditional batteries rely on the flow of ions through a liquid electrolyte between two electrodes; lithium-ion batteries used in mobile phones would be one example of this type of battery. However, batteries incorporating a liquid electrolyte are prone to problems, including low charge retention and difficulties in operating at high and low temperature. Previous designs for solid electrolytes have shown promise, but have proven expensive and some have exhibited problems with electrochemical stability.
Kato and his team synthesized two new lithium-based ‘superionic’ materials based on the same crystal structure previously discovered by the same team. They studied these crystal structures using Synchrotron X-ray diffractometer, BL02B2, at SPring-8 and neutron diffractometer iMATERIA(BL20) at J-PARC. Superionic materials are solid crystal structures through which ions can ‘hop’ easily, essentially maintaining a flow of ions similar to that which occurs inside a liquid electrolyte. They showed how the lithium ions move fast in the structure of their compounds even at room temperature.
Both superionic materials developed by the team showed extremely high ionic conductivity and high stability. The researchers used their two new solid electrolytes to create two battery cell types; one high-voltage cell and one cell designed to work under large currents. Both all-solid-state cell types exhibited superior performance compared with lithium ion batteries, operating very well at temperatures between -30 and 100°C. Kato’s team found that the cells provided high power density, with ultrafast charging capabilities and a longer lifespan than existing battery types.
Although the technology requires further development before it is commercially available, these promising results indicate that all-solid-state batteries may soon provide a much-needed boost to applications requiring stable, long-life energy storage.
A need for solid electrolytes
Most batteries and capacitors we use in daily life are powered by liquid electrolytes. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries, for example, work by maintaining a flow of ions from the negative electrode to the positive electrode during use, and the ion flow is reversed during charging. Although lithium ion batteries are useful for these purposes, there is still strong demand for new devices with higher power and energy densities. All-solid-state batteries are the most promising candidates for future battery systems, due to the high energy density attainable by direct-series-stacking of battery cells. However, the low power characteristics of all-solid-state batteries, due to their higher solid electrolyte-resistivity than conventional liquid electrolyte, still remain unsolved.
The search for materials suitable for creating solid electrolytes has already produced some prototypes. So far, these ‘superionic’ materials, which allow ions to move quickly and freely through their crystal structure, have been developed using the expensive element germanium – researchers are therefore keen to find alternative superionic conductors that could provide the basis for all-solid-state batteries.
The development of two new lithium-based superionic conductor materials (structures: Li9.54Si1.74P1.44S11.7Cl0.3 and Li9.6P3S12 ) by Yuki Kato and his team represents a leap forward in the creation of useable solid-state batteries. Their two cells based on the novel solid electrolytes performed very well in trials in comparison with lithium ion batteries. The cells remained stable and operated consistently at a range of temperatures between -30 and 100°C. They exhibited high energy and high power densities, and very small internal resistance levels. Their properties would allow the cells to be stacked close together without interference.
Further, the cells exhibited ultrafast charging, retained their charge for lengthy periods, and appeared to have a long lifespan with excellent cycling ability (after over 500 cycles, the cells retained around 75% of their initial discharge capacity).
These promising results require further investigation prior to commercialization. The addition of high energy electrodes into the solid-state cells could enhance the power of the batteries still further. Also, processing technology to complement the batteries that would allow for battery stacking is required before such configurations could be fully tested. Kato and his team are hopeful that their new materials will pave the way for all-solid-state batteries for multiple applications, including long-distance electric vehicles, in future.
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!