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At the beginning of 2020, Echion Technologies demonstrated a Li-ion battery cell with a 200% improvement on the best lithium titanate anodes. The technology charges safely in six minutes and expects to replace the current batteries technologies that are too slow to meet the demands of next-generation e-mobility applications.
In 2018, the global electric vehicles (EV) market was 18% in North America, 20% in Europe, and 62% in Asia (CBMM, n.d). Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries have been a leading choice in EV and portable devices, such as phones and laptops, for more than two decades (Liu, Neale, & Cao, 2016). However, the consumers still face concern over the lengthy time required to recharge the batteries, their total lifespan, and safety. The innovation to accommodate these limitations are the current key target of the EV and battery industries to illustrate safe and sustainable batteries.
During the batteries' charging, a strategic approach is needed to manage batteries' cooling during charging and to preheat them in cold weather. This plays a critical role in achieving fast charging and normal temperature distribution. According to Tomaszewska, et al., fast charging technology generates heat due to resistance, which gradually leads to battery degradation and deterioration, resulting in reduced energy efficiency.
The understanding of battery from atomic to system level is necessary to enhance this process, which instantaneously requires high-energy-density cells needed for safe, fast charge.
A short lifespan encourages an increase in battery waste that has a negative impact on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that the U.S. alone is responsible for more than three billion batteries wastes each year (Murray, 2019). According to Echion Technologies, its discovery uses low cost, abundant, and environmentally friendly chemical precursors and demonstrates 640 mAh/cm3 volumetric capacity anode that leads to superfast charging in six minutes.
A New Approach to Enhance Li-ion Batteries using Mixed Niobium Oxide (MNO)
Li-ion batteries store and release energy through intercalation (Liu, Neale, & Cao, 2016). In a battery, an anode is usually made up of graphite and mixed oxides composed of lithium and titanium.
A cathode consists of mixed metal oxides, such as Cobalt, Nickel, Manganese, Iron, Phosphorous, and Aluminium. Niobium's addition to the Li-ion battery composition generates better performance, longer life, and safer batteries (CBMM, n.d).
Conductivity is one of the main properties to improve Li-ion batteries, ensuring stable and long-term battery performance. By introducing small amounts of Niobium, Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) cathodes can be one billion times more conductive than a conventional battery.
Charging/discharging rates are another crucial property, which increases with the Lithium Niobate (LiNbO3) coating. This process increases the efficiency of the battery by releasing more electricity at a faster rate.
A new cathode material containing Niobium can increase Li-ions by 30 to 50%, improving the energy density and consequently increasing EVs' range and performance.
The Niobium materials improve the mobility of Li-ions by allowing them to easily and efficiently move in and out of the anode. The use of Titanium Niobium Oxides (TNO) creates the anode materials with approximately three times the amount of energy storage than a traditional battery.
As the lithium battery deteriorates, the accumulated heat in the cathode during the charging process comes in contact with lithium metal, inducing a short circuit. Echion Technologies plans to license the MNO material to prevent these short circuits, helping its customers deploy innovative fast-charge cell technology based on their needs.
Is There a Future for a Super Charging Battery Solution?
The scientists at Stanford University (Chan, et al., 2007) have demonstrated a nanowire electrode that illustrates more than triple lithium batteries’ energy storage capacity. The research demonstrated that just a few nanowires of silicon could demonstrate the ability of about 10 times more high-capacity electrodes Li-ions than the graphite electrodes (Fairley, 2008).
To explore a better electrolyte for Li-ion batteries, the researchers at the University of California coated gold nanowires with manganese dioxide and covered them with electrolyte gel. These electrodes went through the cycles 33 times better than the conventional battery.
The rechargeable zinc-manganese as an inexpensive, safe alternative to Li-ion batteries has been the investigation's focus since the late 20th century. In collaboration with the University of Washington, the researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have considered exploring a rechargeable zinc-manganese oxide battery as a low-cost and safe alternative to Li-ion batteries.
The result demonstrated that zinc-manganese oxide battery works more like the traditional lead-acid battery than a Li-ion battery (Nanowerk, 2016).
Echion Technologies’ discovery presents a promising future in the field of fast-charging technologies to meet the limitation in the deployment of safe, charge rate capability, or energy density of commercial anode materials. The company is now working on a pilot-scale demonstration in co-operation with William Blythe Ltd to supply larger quantities to cell manufacturers and expects to launch the product to the market by 2022.
References and Further Reading
CBMM. (n.d). BATTERY INNOVATIONNIOBIUM AS A DISRUPTING ELEMENT.
Chan, C. K., Peng, H., Liu, G., McIlwrath, K., Zhang, F. X., Huggins, R. A., & Cui, Y. (2007). High-performance lithium battery anodes using silicon nanowires. Nature Nanotechnology. doi:10.1038/nnano.2007.411
Echion demonstrates superfast charging battery. (2020). [Online] Echion Technologies: https://echiontech.com/superfast-charging-battery/ (Accessed on 11 November, 2020)
Fairley, P. (2008). Super-Charging Lithium Batteries. [Online] MIT Technology Review: https://www.technologyreview.com/2008/01/04/97944/super-charging-lithium-batteries/ (Accessed on 11 November, 2020)
Liu, C., Neale, G. Z., & Cao, G. (2016). Understanding electrochemical potentials of cathode materials in rechargeable batteries. Materials Today, 19(2). doi:10.1016/j.mattod.2015.10.009
Murray, J. (2019). Is the Nobel Prize-winning lithium-ion battery really having a positive impact on the environment? [Online] NS ENERGY: https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/features/lithium-ion-battery-environmental-impact/ (Accessed on 11 November, 2020)
Nanowerk. (2016). Unexpected discovery leads to a better battery. [Online] Nanowerk: https://www.nanowerk.com/nanotechnology-news/newsid=43232.php (Accessed on 11 November, 2020)
Tomaszewska, A., Chu, Z., Feng, X., O'Kane, S., Liu, X., Chen, J., . . . Wu, B. (2019). Lithium-ion battery fast charging: A review. ETransportation. doi:10.1016/j.etran.2019.100011