Week 8-14 April 2019
Welcome to the fifteenth edition of our Last Week In Batteries digest!
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This is a very basic review of last week's events relevant to the battery and fuel cell industries. We do not pretend to be experts in this space but as investors we find such an overview helpful. The digest is intentionally very brief and dry and is intended as a demonstration rather as an end product. We'd love to hear what tools/software/platforms you use to stay abreast of the events in your industries of interest: please answer our anonymous questionnaire.
Neutral Zinc-air battery without platinum
Chemical engineers from Hunan University of Science and Technology have developed a neutral zinc-air battery that does not require expensive platinum-based catalysts.
Impact areas: Zinc-air battery performance and cost
New polymer for fuel cell membranes
Materials scientists from the University of Delaware have developed "the most powerful, durable hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cell components on record." Hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells can use non-platinum catalysts such as silver or nickel. According to the researchers, their prototype fuel cell, which uses a novel polymer membrane, is "the closest anyone has come to the 5000 operating hours that would be required to use this technology in a car."
Impact areas: Fuel cell cost and performance
Australia is moving up the battery value chain
Australia is setting up the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre, which will bring together "58 industry, government and research partners." The CRC will be funded by the Federal Government and participating institutions to the tune of AUD 135 million. Australia wants to generate more value from its mining resources rather than just export raw materials to other countries.
Impact areas: Battery research and value chains
Improved performance in Li-ion batteries with aluminum cathode
Scientists from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology have created a new aluminum-based cathode for Li-ion batteries which has shown "the best performance of Al anodes in full batteries with a cathode of such high areal density." Aluminum is a cheap and theoretically more performant cathode material than carbon, and the new research improves its prospects for practical applications in Li-ion batteries.
Impact areas: Li-ion battery capacity and cost
New understanding how fuel cells work
Materials scientists from the University of Wisconsin–Madison have studied the exact processes that take place on the surface of fuel cell cathodes. Computer simulations have revealed that the fuel cell efficiency-limiting factor is not the oxygen-splitting step, but "the way in which oxygen atoms find and enter vacancies at the surface." This gives researchers a direction for improving fuel cells by finding materials with best vacancy structures.
Impact areas: Fuel cell performance
Graphene prevents fire in Li-ion batteries
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have demonstrated that coating lithium cobalt oxide particles in Li-ion battery electrodes with graphene prevents the battery from catching fire in conditions where conventional batteries typically burst in flames: when heated or during charging at "very high voltages." In addition, “The wrapped cathode battery lost only about 14% of its capacity after rapid cycling compared to a conventional lithium metal battery where performance was down about 45% under the same conditions.”
Impact areas: Li-ion battery safety and durability
Explanation of poor performance of low-platinum catalysts in fuel cells
A researcher from the Institute of Energy and Climate Research (Germany) has proposed a model that potentially explains the "unexpected lowering of low-Pt loaded catalyst layers performance, which has been widely [discussed] in literature."
Impact areas: Fuel cell performance and cost
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