All the technologies for the batteries of the future

All the technologies for the batteries of the future

Lithium batteries have made possible a technological leap in the electrification process of means of transport, thanks to the superior performance compared to the chemical compositions traditionally used in the past (such as lead, sulfur-sodium and nickel-zinc). However, this strategic element for the manufacturing of accumulators (as well as cobalt) presents geopolitical, economic and environmental criticalities in the supply chain. For example, according to BloombergNEF's Global Lithium-Ion Battery Supply Chain Ranking report, China produced 60% of lithium battery components and approximately 80% of cells in 2020. Furthermore, according to analyst Kwasi Ampofo, the production of lithium, to meet the demand, "could grow seven times between 2020 and 2030".

The search for alternatives thus becomes a priority, as evidenced by the collaboration agreement, announced last March, between the European Battery Alliance and the U.S. Li-Bridge Alliance to "accelerate the development of stable supply chains for lithium-ion and next-generation batteries, including critical commodity segments." Let's find out together the technologies that are today the best candidates to change this sector and the world of electric mobility. Not only as structural parts of vehicles, but also as tools for storing energy (produced for example from renewable sources, such as photovoltaic systems on the roofs of buildings) with which to supply them. \

Hydrogen-powered The Trentino-based Green Energy Storage (GES) company aims to evolve redox flow batteries (RFB - Redox Flow Batteries) through a new architecture with high energy density, capable of dealing with accumulators garlic lithium ion. In detail, the company has developed a hydrogen battery based on a hybrid system, in which hydrogen is present together with a patented liquid electrolyte "widely available at low cost in Europe, safe and environmentally friendly". In this way, the battery self-produces the hydrogen necessary for a closed discharge / charge circuit. This type of battery has a useful life of about 15/20 years and a more competitive Levelized Cost Of Storage compared to lithium technology. In addition, it can operate at room temperature, without being subject to overheating. And, thanks to its chemical composition, it allows the formation of a stable supply chain, from the supply of raw materials to recycling, in accordance with the principles of the circular economy and reducing geopolitical and environmental risks compared to lithium accumulators.

In 2022, GES received access to funds for 53 million euros from the European project IPCEI 2, which supports "research, development and innovation" in the battery sector, confirming its strategic potential . \

Lithium-Sulfur and Graphene Replace rare earths, which represent an economic and political bottleneck with graphene and sulfur. This is the challenge of battery manufacturers, including the American NexTech, which promises an improvement in performance and safety in batteries that use the lithium-sulfur formula. And which also involves Italy through Directa Plus, a Como-based company founded by the entrepreneur Giulio Cesareo and engaged in the production and supply on a global scale of graphene (an innovative material obtained from graphite and which is inserted in NexTech accumulators) . The Larian company intends to create a battery that has half the cost of a similar lithium-ion version, but with an energy density that is three to five times higher. In this way, a car could travel almost a thousand kilometers without the need for refueling. In addition, the presence of graphene allows for a stable chemical composition, avoiding the risk of combustion associated with lithium. \

Zinc-Manganese In 2016, during an experiment, a group of researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy identified an unexpected chemical conversion reaction in a zinc oxide battery -manganese which, properly controlled, could have increased the energy density in this type of battery, without increasing its costs and making them competitive with lithium-ion batteries, especially for storage (and with a lower environmental impact). The transition from the laboratory to production on an industrial scale took place in a few years. In fact, in 2020, the Zinc Battery Initiative was born. The companies participating in this program include Urban Electric Power, a New York company that produces zinc-manganese accumulators with an alkaline electrolyte for the residential sector. The Swedish Enerpoly and the Canadian Salient Energy operate in the same area, confirming the high interest in this element. \

To gold nanowires Scientists from the University of California, Irvine, have created an electrode based on nanowires (a thousand times thinner than a human hair) of gold that is particularly resistant to recharging cycles , overcoming the traditional fragility manifested inside a lithium ion battery. In particular, the scientists enclosed a gold nanowire in a "shell" of manganese dioxide and covered the assembly in an electrolyte made of gel, similar to Plexiglas. This structure, in the tests conducted, proved to be extremely reliable, withstanding over 200,000 charging cycles in three months, thus opening up the possibility of producing commercial batteries with various applications (even outside of mobility) and long-lasting, without the need for replacement. . \

Solid state The Toyota group has been engaged since 2012 in the research and development of solid state batteries (in which electrolytes are solid rather than liquid) with the aim of overcoming the performance limits of lithium accumulators . In particular, the Japanese giant has been collaborating with Panasonic since 2020 through a joint venture (called Prime Planet Energy & Solutions Inc.) to bring these high-performance batteries to the market by 2025: more than 700 kilometers of autonomy with a recharge only, with a time required of about 10-15 minutes to make a complete refueling. The scientist Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, confirmed, on the occasion of Ces 2022, the commercialization target of solid state accumulators for 2025, starting with hybrid vehicles and then placing them on board "full-electric" vehicles .

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