I tend to follow a lot of tech news because I get really depressed thinking about how Earth is retaining more and more heat in its atmosphere, which will eventually kill everything if left unchecked. We all have a long way to go towards decarbonizing but one area I enjoy reading about is ongoing battery research. The problem with battery research is there are exciting things being discovered all the time but most of them don’t scale, or it’s not something happening in the next decade. Still, there have been some interesting discoveries just this past month so I thought I’d share some!
Engineers at Drexel University (my alma mater) in Philly accidentally discovered an important step on the road to sulfur-ion batteries, which have the potential to be three (possibly even five) times as energy-dense as lithium-ion.
Using AI, researchers at the University of North Carolina have made interesting findings with a Fluoride battery, which could be ten times as energy-dense as a lithium-ion battery. Having a battery that dense could mean a car that goes over 3,000 miles on a charge but you could also have a much smaller battery, resulting in a lighter car that uses less energy to cover the same distance (with more charging stops).
Contemporary Amperex Technology just announced the Qilin Battery, claiming a 1,000 km (621 miles) vehicle range with mass production starting in 2023.
Alsym Energy just emerged from stealth mode with a water-based battery they claim is similar to lithium-ion but half the cost and with no risk of fires.
All these various solutions reduce or eliminate the need for certain rare earth minerals and lithium, replacing them with more common elements and more potential for rapid expansion without the traditional bottlenecks. The if and when remains unclear but it’s all hopeful stuff.
There’s also QuantumScape’s work on a solid state battery, which will be another step forward and could be something we see in the near future (as in the next few years). Full disclosure, I bought some QuantumScape stock when it was a SPAC and at one point my value had tripled but at the moment it's down by around half of what I invested. It could go up, it might not! Most of my attempts to invest in green tech have failed.
Besides making electric cars way more efficient and environmentally friendly, we need battery solutions for grid storage from sources like wind and solar. Sodium batteries are a big one to watch in this space; they aren’t as energy dense as lithium-ion but use salt (very abundant) vs lithium and are much cheaper, so you could see tons of large sodium batteries being used for grid or even home energy storage.
There’s also interesting things happening with carbon capture tech, something that could help pull CO2 from the atmosphere as we work to reduce the CO2 we’re putting out.
I hope it all pans out!