Doe Science news source
The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2012-10-18 14:30:00
  • Article ID: 595085

Salt Power: Watt's Next in Rechargeable Batteries?

  • Credit: Michigan Technological University

    Reza Shahbazian-Yassar with students in his laboratory. He is conducting basic research aimed at making an inexpensive, sodium-based battery that could make electric vehicles more affordable.

Marcia Goodrich, mtunews@mtu.edu, 906-487-2343, cell 906-281-1826

Reza Shahbazian-Yassar, reza@mtu.edu, 906-487-3581

Reza Shahbazian-Yassar thinks sodium might be the next big thing in rechargeable batteries.

Now, the gold standard in the industry is the lithium ion battery, which can be recharged hundreds of times and works really well. Its only problem is that it is made with lithium, which is not cheap. It could get even more expensive if more electric vehicles powered with lithium ion batteries hit the road and drive up demand.

“Some people think lithium will be the next oil,” says Shahbazian-Yassar, an associate professor of mechanical engineering–engineering mechanics at Michigan Technological University.

Sodium may be a good alternative. “After lithium, it’s the most attractive element to be used in batteries,” Shahbazian-Yassar said. It’s also cheap and abundant; seawater is full of it.

It has just one drawback: sodium atoms are big, about 70 percent larger in size than lithium atoms. “When the atoms are too big, that’s problematic,” says Shahbazian-Yassar, because they can cause a battery’s electrodes to wear out faster. “Imagine bringing an elephant through the door into my office. It’s going to break down the walls.”

Before a long-lasting rechargeable sodium battery can be developed, scientists need to better understand these challenges and develop solutions. With a $417,000 National Science Foundation grant, Shahbazian-Yassar is leading that effort at Michigan Tech. “We have an opportunity to tackle some of the fundamental issues relating to charging and discharging of batteries right here,” he said. “We have a unique tool that lets us observe the inside of a battery.”

Using a transmission electron microscope, Shahbazian-Yassar and his team can peer inside and see how a battery is charging and discharging at the atomic level. “We will study these fundamental reactions and find out what materials and electrodes will do a better job hosting the sodium.”

Sodium ion batteries would not have to be as good as lithium ion batteries to be competitive, Shahbazian-Yassar notes. They would just need to be good enough to satisfy the consumer. And they could make electric cars more affordable, and thus more attractive. Plus, they could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, particularly if the batteries were charged using renewable energy sources. That would lead to two laudable goals: greater energy independence and less pollution worldwide.

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Columbia Engineers Develop Floating Solar Fuels Rig for Seawater Electrolysis

Chemical Engineering Prof Daniel Esposito has developed a novel photovoltaic-powered electrolysis device that can operate as a stand-alone platform that floats on open water. His floating PV-electrolyzer can be thought of as a "solar fuels rig" that bears some resemblance to deep-sea oil rigs--but it would produce hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water instead of extracting petroleum from beneath the sea floor. (International Journal of Hydrogen Energy)

National MagLab's Latest Magnet Snags World Record, Marks New Era of Scientific Discovery

The Florida State University-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has shattered another world record with the testing of a 32-tesla magnet -- 33 percent stronger than what had previously been the world's strongest superconducting magnet used for research and more than 3,000 times stronger than a small refrigerator magnet.

Clearing the Air

A greater understanding of the dynamics of chemical reactions is leading to better models of atmospheric chemistry. Through this work, scientists are gaining insight into a key chemical able to break down some major air pollutants.

The Wet Road to Fast and Stable Batteries

An international team of scientists --- including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory -- - has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation over many thousands of cycles.

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Advance in Light Filtering Technology Has Implications for LCD Screens, Lasers and Beyond

Vector polarizers are a light filtering technology hidden behind the operation of many optical systems. They can be found, for instance, in sunglasses, LCD screens, microscopes, microprocessors, laser machining and more. Optical physicists published details of their new vector polarizer design this week in APL Photonics. The newly proposed design is a major advance in polarization technology because it enables flexible filtering of a wide range of light sources and generation of new light states.

Accelerating the Self-Assembly of Nanoscale Patterns for Next-Generation Materials

Scientists have come up with a way to massively speed up the ordering process for self-assembling materials. The resulting ultra-small, well-ordered patterns could be used in the fabrication of microelectronics, antireflective surfaces, magnetic data storage systems, and fluid-flow devices.

Beta of Neurodata Without Borders Software Now Available

Neuroscientists can now explore a beta version of the new Neurodata Without Borders: Neurophysiology (NWB:N 2.0) software and offer input to developers before it is fully released next year.

Scientists Discover Path to Improving Game-Changing Battery Electrode

Researchers from Stanford University, two Department of Energy national labs and the battery manufacturer Samsung created a comprehensive picture of how the same chemical processes that give cathodes their high capacity are also linked to changes in atomic structure that sap performance.

ESnet's Petascale DTN Project Speeds up Data Transfers between Leading HPC Centers

A new Petascale Data Transfer Node project aims to to achieve regular disk-to-disk, end-to-end transfer rates of one petabyte per week between major supercomputing facilities, which translates to achievable throughput rates of about 15 Gbps on real world science data sets.


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LLNL Releases Newly Declassified Nuclear Test Videos

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) released 62 newly declassified videos today of atmospheric nuclear tests films that have never before been seen by the public.

NAU Researchers Join DOE Project to Study the Soil Microbiome and Its Effect on Carbon Persistence

NAU Regents' Professor Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss), recently joined a new initiative lead by LLNL to study how the soil microbiome controls the mechanisms that regulate the stabilization of the organic matter in soil.

Four Scientists Win the Los Alamos Medal

Los Alamos National Laboratory will award four former researchers with the Los Alamos Medal for their scientific contributions.

Stewart Prager Honored with FPA Distinguished Career Award

Announcement of Fusion Power Associates career award for Stewart Prager

WVU Physicists Among Collaborators Granted $7 Million to Form U.S. Department of Energy Center of Excellence

Scientists pause each afternoon at Kirtland Air Force Base in Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, awaiting the daily lightning flash and unmistakable floor jolt that accompanies a Z shot

US Dept. Of Energy Grant to Advance Combined Heat and Power Systems in the Midwest

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a five-year, $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help industrial, commercial, institutional and utility entities evaluate and install highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) technologies.CHP, also known as cogeneration, is a single system that produces both thermal energy and electricity.

Applications Open: ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship 2018-2019

ECS, in a continued partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), is requesting proposals from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

Successful Startup Founder to Lead Entrepreneurship Program at Argonne

John Carlisle has been named the director of Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI), a program aimed at accelerating job creation through innovation, based at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

Department of Energy Supports Argonne Nuclear Technologies

This fall, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced nearly $4.7 million in funding for the department's Argonne National Laboratory across 16 projects in three divisions. Four of those TCF awards, representing more than $1 million in funds, are slated for Argonne's Nuclear Engineering division.

Southern Research Develops Gasifier Technology to Unlock Coal's Potential

Southern Research has been selected to receive nearly $1.7 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding to develop a new, cost-efficient gasifier capable of converting low-grade coal into synthesis gas (syngas) that can be used in a number of applications.


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Molecular Mousetraps Capture More Nuclear Waste

Cage-like molecules with internal chemical hooks remove three times more hazardous radioactive iodine compounds than current methods.

New Quantum Liquid Crystal--In the Driver's Seat

Lasers reveal a new state of matter--the first 3-D quantum liquid crystal.

Chemical "Pressure" Tuning Magnetic Properties

Unexpectedly, a little chemical substitution stabilizes unusual magnetic phase of vortexes called skyrmions.

Stirring up a Quantum Spin Liquid with Disorder

New, unexpected paradigm discovered: Disorder may actually promote an exotic quantum state, with potential for ultrafast computing.

Light Perfects Interfaces

Shining light on a growing semiconductor modifies its interface with the surface and could improve the optical properties of each.

Underappreciated Microbes Now Get Credit for Holding Down Two Jobs in Soil

Soil microbes work as both decomposers and synthesizers of carbon compounds in soil, offering new answers with impacts to crops and eco-health.

Energy, Economy, and the Earth: The Benefits of Creating Feedback Loops

Scientists reduce uncertainties in future climate prediction by directly coupling an energy-economy model to an Earth system model.

How Grasslands Regulate Their Productivity in Response to Droughts

Scientists show that grasslands are more sensitive to changes in the amount of moisture in the air than to changes in precipitation.

Building Confidence in Hydrologic Models

Scientists evaluate seven hydrologic models to understand how each model agrees and differs.

El Nino and Liquid Water Clouds Contribute to Antarctic Melt in 2015-2016

Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) observations provide clues on atmospheric contributions to an Antarctic melt event.


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