I, like many others, have been following the work being done by Yi Cui at Stanford University in improving battery technology.
Cui’s work has often aimed at improving Li-ion battery technology, much in the same way researchers at Northwestern University recently have done in getting a silicon-graphene sandwich to act as a more effective anode.
But in his most recent research he has abandoned the use of lithium ions and replaced them with either sodium or potassium ions for his new battery technology. The result is a battery that Cui and his colleagues claim is able to retain 83% of its charge after 40,000 cycles, which compares more than favorably to Li-ion batteries of 1,000 cycles.
The researchers have been able to develop a cathode material that they can essentially mix in a flask by combining iron with cyanide and then replacing half of the iron with copper then making crystalline nanoparticles from the compound.
There is a weight penalty with this battery technology, which means that it will not be likely powering any laptops or electric vehicles. However, it may be the perfect fit for large-scale energy storage on the electrical grid. "At a rate of several cycles per day, this electrode would have a good 30 years of useful life on the electrical grid," said Colin Wessells, a graduate student in materials science and engineering who is the lead author of a paper describing the research, published this week in Nature Communications.
"That is a breakthrough in performance – a battery that will keep running for tens of thousands of cycles and never fail," said Cui, who in this case is Wessell's adviser and a coauthor of the paper.
But all is not resolved as of yet. While the researchers have developed this ‘new chemistry’ for the battery, they only have the high-power cathode at this point, so they still need to develop an anode.
Nonetheless the researchers are confident they will develop a material for the anode. If they manage to get that sorted, they may have developed an economical battery for storing energy from solar and wind power so as to avoid sharp drop offs in electricity in the grid.