Tag Archives: lithium-ion

Researchers eye solid-state batteries



The relatively long life of lithium ion batteries makes them the rechargeable choice for a wide range of devices. Nevertheless, lithium ion batteries rely on liquid chemistries involving lithium salts dissolved in organic solvents, creating flame risks that would be avoided if the cells were completely solid-state.

Recently, a team of researchers at Tohoku University in Japan managed to create a new type of lithium ion conductor that could serve as the basis for an entirely new generation of solid-state batteries.

parasiticconduction

Essentially, the connector uses rock salt Lithium Borohydride (LiBH4), a well-known agent in organic chemistry laboratories that has been considered for batteries before, but up to now has only worked at high temperatures or pressures.

In the journal APL Materials, the researchers describe how they doped a cubic lattice of KI molecules with the LiBH4. This allowed the team to stabilize the high-pressure form of Lithium borohydride, effectively creating a solid solution at normal atmospheric pressure that was stable at room temperature.

During the process, the team made the peculiar discovery that the Li+ ions functioned like pure Li+ ion conductors, even though they were just doping the KI lattices. This is the reverse of the normal doping technique, in which a small amount of stabilizing element would be added to an ionic conductor abundant in Lithium.

“In other words, LiBH4 is a sort of ‘parasite’ but not a host material,” explained Hitoshi Takamura who led the research at Tohoku University. 

He and his colleagues have dubbed this mechanism “parasitic conduction,” suggesting that it could be broadly applied in the search for new batteries – anywhere that small amounts of Li+ ions could be used to dope an oxide, sulfide, halide or nitride host material.

“This work suggests the potential of this mechanism in the ongoing search for the perfect material for use in solid state batteries. The urgency of this quest has been abundantly clear after the grounding of so many aircraft in recent months,” Takamura added.

Report: Wearables to drive significant battery revenue

Analysts at IHS say the global market for batteries used in wearable electronics will increase more than tenfold in just four short years, propelled by new devices suitable for active sports and fitness lifestyles. 

Indeed, worldwide revenue for wearable electronics batteries is projected to reach $77 million by 2018, up considerably from a mere $6 million by year-end in 2014.

In addition, industry revenue will have grown nearly 120 percent from 2014 levels.

“Wearable electronics will be the key to sustaining the current very-high-growth levels of battery revenue in consumer electronics,” explained Thomas McAlpine, power supply and storage component analyst for IHS.

“The tremendous expansion in store will come thanks to an increase in the shipments of smartwatch products, wearable health monitoring devices and smart glasses—products geared toward an active lifestyle combining advanced technological trends in miniature computing with newly smart consumer imperatives in fitness and fashion.”

In addition, annual shipments for wearable electronic devices will reach an estimated 56 million units by 2018, fueling continued demand for the batteries that power these products.

“Of the total number of batteries expected to be installed in wearable electronics by 2018, lithium polymer batteries will take the predominant share, accounting for 73 percent of total wearable electronics battery revenue,” said McAlpine. 

”Lithium polymer batteries are typically the preferred choice as they are lighter in weight and can be manufactured into a wider range of shapes and sizes, compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries.”

Smartphone and tablet PC demand will continue to drive the majority of revenue growth in the lithium battery market for portable electronics over the next couple of years, with the combined shipments of these devices projected to grow 46 percent from 2013 to 2015. 

However, shipments will decrease from 2015 onward, and coupled with projected erosion in the average selling prices of lithium battery cells, growth will decelerate for the overall lithium battery market for portable consumer electronics.

“This means the emergence of new applications in the market is critical. Lithium batteries will remain an integral component for innovation in consumer electronics,” McAlpine added. “To achieve sustained market growth, new wearable electronics and other devices need to be introduced and adopted by the mass market, similar to what is occurring now in recently emerging product categories.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel is right in the middle of the wearable tech revolution, with the the soft electronics DIY Maker community adapting various Atmel-powered platforms specifically for wearables, including the Arduino Lilypad (ATmega328V) (developed by MIT Media Lab professor Leah Buechley), along with Adafruit’s very own Gemma (Atmel ATtiny85) and Flora (ATmega32u4), the latter of which can be easily daisy chained with various sensors for GPS, motion and light.

In addition, Atmel’s microcotrollers are found in a number of smartwatches and wearable medical devices.

Interested in learning more about wearables? You can check out our extensive article archive on the subject here.