Energy & Storage

Solid-state batteries with bi-layer cell design

Image: Ion Storage Systems

Ion Storage System’s $30 million capital raising will go toward scaling up its solid-state battery cell production facility in the US state of Maryland, with aims to produce 10 MWh per year by the end of 2023, for a range of applications.

From pv magazine

Ion Storage Systems, a US battery startup based in Maryland, has received $30 million in Series A venture capital funding from the likes of Toyota Ventures, Tenaska, and Bangchak Corp. The company aims to develop factories to reach mass battery cell production.

Ion Storage is developing solid-state batteries and aims to produce 10 MWh per year and generate commercial revenue by the end of 2023. The key differences to other solid-state and next-generation batteries is a bi-layer cell design. This reduces typical lithium-ion battery defects, and works with existing and next-generation cathode chemistries, avoiding the use of critical raw materials like cobalt, nickel, and gold.

Neil Ovadia, Ion’s vice-president of operations, told pv magazine that the company can target multiple markets, ranging from defense to consumer products to electric vehicles and stationary grid storage. Ovadia noted that Ion is working on a variation to the core product meant for stationary storage applications.

“Ion’s unique technology unlocks the power of solid-state batteries through its patented Bi-layer cell design. The dense ceramic electrolyte separator is connected to a porous ceramic electrolyte scaffold,” explained Ovadia. “The porous scaffold acts as a “sponge,” creating uniform and continuous pathways for lithium metal plating without external volume change, while the dense layer acts as a solid-state separator blocking lithium metal dendrites – thereby avoiding the need for compression and preventing short circuits. This architecture makes Ion’s solid-state electrolyte compatible with a wide range of existing and next-generation cathode chemistries.”

Ovadia further detailed the non-flammable materials used in the battery cell architecture.

“Ion bi-layer cell architecture is made of inexpensive, nonflammable materials and use of a lithium metal anode has been able to meet next-generation performance metrics, including high-energy density, strong cycling performance, wide temperature range, and fast charging all at room temperature and without compression,” he said.  “Its ability to utilize both existing and next generation cathode chemistries removes the need for supply constrained materials such as nickel and cobalt. The manufacturability of ION’s technology also sets us apart as we utilize already-scaled processing and high-speed green body manufacturing techniques for our ceramic electrolyte and largely utilize existing lithium-ion manufacturing processes for cell production.”

Furthermore, the battery allows for a “cathode agnostic” approach, opening a wide range of cathode materials to be used, he said.

Ion has previously said it aims to produce more than 1 million cellphone-size batteries annually, And while those figures were not restated, the plan is to develop Ion’s pilot manufacturing facility at its Beltsville headquarters in 2023. It will then supply samples to interested parties and first market customers.

In terms of the struggles that companies face to scale-up production processes, Ion says it “employs existing industrial scale ceramic preparation methods.” It claims its unique structure “allows for the use of widely deployed Li-Ion battery manufacturing equipment for final cell assembly.”  

Author: Tristan Rayner

Solar-plus-storage for islands

A solar-plus-storage facility in Pulau Mesa, an island in East Nusa Tenggara. Image: Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Indonesia

Indonesian remote islands are increasingly resorting to solar-plus-storage to cover most of their electricity demand. According to new research from LUT University, combining PV with batteries may help islands to cover around 60% of demand with renewable energy.

From pv magazine

Indonesia‘s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resource has provided an update on the program run by state-owned utility PT PLN (Persero) to deploy solar-plus-storage plants across remote islands in the country.

According to the ministry, solar facilities totaling 5.3 MW and connected to an unspecified number of storage systems have been deployed across 17 islands to date. These include Palue (760 kW), Messah (530 kW), Gunung 490 (kW), Golo Lebo (440 kW), Parumaan (420 kW), Papagarang (380 kW), Nuca Molas (380 kW), Wontong (320 kW), Nangabere (270 kW), Mbakung (260 kW), Kebirangga Selatan (200 kW), Ranakulan (190 kW), Seraya 190 (kW), Kakasewa 140 (kW), Batu Tiga (120 kW), Legur Lai (150 kW), and Kalelu (100 kW).

The facility installed in Messah, an island in the country’s southernmost province of East Nusa Tenggara, was built in 2019 and provides power to 467 customers, including households, businesses, and public entities, the ministry explained. The PV system has a capacity of 530 kW and relies on five bidirectional inverters, 27 inverters, and 590 batteries.

According to recent research from the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in Finland, the combination of solar and storage may help remote islands have a 60% share of renewables in their electricity mix.

In the paper “A review of 100% renewable energy scenarios on islands,” published in WIREs Energy and Management, the research group provides a holistic view of energy system studies for islands aiming at 100% renewable energy penetration and reviews all existing literature, including 97 scientific papers. “Detailed information on actions used on-demand as well as on supply-side are delivered,” it specifies. “In this context, there is no limitation regarding single technologies, energy system sectors, regions, or size of islands.”

According to the scientists, balancing the high variability of wind and solar resources via more dispatchable renewable energy technologies such as biomass and biofuels or storage will be crucial for realizing the 100% renewables target. “Further technologies providing the remaining required electricity are hydropower plants and pumped hydro storage, solid waste plans, and bioethanol plants,” they point out, noting that solar and wind may also be used to produce hydrogen for use on the islands themselves. “Bioethanol capacities have a crucial role in supply reliability and provide power in short periods of very low solar, wind, and biomass availability.”

After reviewing the existing research, the LTU researchers concluded that the target of powering islands with 100% renewable energy is technically feasible and economically viable. “This has been shown for several small islands as well as for large island states, independent of their geographic location,” they stated. “The role of electricity will become that of a primary energy source and the electricity sector is the backbone of any smart energy system.”

According to their findings, a 30% renewable share may become possible by building capacity and infrastructure while, for a 60% share, storage deployment will be crucial.  Furthermore, sector coupling will be the final step to achieving a 100% target. “We found that there is still not the same common sense on multi-sectoral approaches for islands as it could also be found for energy systems transition in general. Full sector coupling studies are not yet the standard for 100% renewables islands, and a detailed industry sector inclusion is fully missing for islands,” they concluded.

Author: Emiliano Bellini

Photon-enhanched rechargeable batteries for solar storage

Image: Image: National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), Nano Research Energy, Tsinghua University Press

Japanese scientists have analyzed storage systems that combine PV and high-energy-density metal batteries. The rechargeable batteries have advantages such as low-charge voltage and high energy density, but stability and safety must be addressed before they reach commercial maturity.

From pv magazine

Researchers from the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) in Japan have reviewed different photo-enhanced rechargeable metal batteries featuring PV and high-energy-density metal batteries for direct solar-to-electrochemical energy storage.

They looked at devices integrating PV and lithium-ion, zinc-ion, lithium-sulfur, lithium-iodine, zinc-iodine, lithium-oxygen, zinc-oxygen, and lithium-carbon dioxide storage systems.

“Despite the respective significant progress in rechargeable batteries and photovoltaic techniques in the past decades, integrating different rechargeable batteries with solar energy in an effective and low-cost way remains a great challenge,” they said.

They divided the battery technologies into two categories: closed-type photo-enhanced rechargeable metal batteries and open-type photo-enhanced rechargeable metal batteries. They analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of battery.

As a general rule, photon-enhanced batteries with PV can provide better performance for low charge voltage and high energy density, which makes them suitable for smart electronics and optoelectronics. However, stability and safety should be improved to help such devices to reach commercial viability.

“For example, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which we are all familiar with because they are used in many modern electronic devices, including laptops, phones, and electric vehicles, are efficient, but would be difficult to scale for solar energy use because of their complicated structure,” they said.

The scientists noted the importance of standardizing experimental conditions and developing effective thermal management systems for stable operation.

“Standard experimental conditions conducive to the comparison of overall performance in different systems need to be established. For photo-enhanced rechargeable batteries, light illumination is indispensable,” they explained.

Thy introduced the battery technology in “Photo-enhanced rechargeable high-energy-density metal batteries for solar energy conversion and storage,” which was recently published in Nano Energy.

“It is necessary to explore more suitable electrode materials and optimize the device structure of the batteries,” said researcher Hairong Xue. “By addressing some critical challenges involving working mechanism, electrode materials, and battery structure design, the goal is to demonstrate viable uses of photo-enhanced rechargeable batteries in electronic and optoelectronic devices.”

Author: Emiliano Bellini

Asia Pacific to lead global battery storage market by 2026

Image: Anesco

The global battery storage market will reach $10.84 billion in 2026, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for 68% of total demand. China, Japan, India, South Korea and Australia will drive the regional market, according to GlobalData.

From pv magazine India

Bhavana Sri Pullagura, a senior power analyst at GlobalData, attributes the expected growth of the battery storage market to a “fall in battery technology prices, increasing need for grid stability, and resilience of the integration of renewable power in the power market.” 

China, one of the fastest-growing economies, is expected to lead the global battery energy storage market with a $4.04 billion share in 2026. A mammoth target of 1,200 GW of wind and solar capacity will provide considerable growth opportunities to the energy storage market over the forecast period.

South Korea, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom will be the major markets due to supportive regulations and incentives. Other countries will also see rapid growth in demand for electricity and the wider use of renewable integration. 

Over the last decade, countries have been aggressively promoting grid modernization and enhancing the grid’s ability to meet present and future requirements. Additionally, batteries are being deployed to aid smart grids, integrate renewables, create responsive electricity markets, provide ancillary services, and enhance system resilience and energy self-sufficiency.

“GlobalData believes that encouraging policies and high electricity charges are also nudging the market to renewables and storage plus renewables at the end consumer level,” said Pullagura. “As the power sector evolves to accommodate new technologies and adapt to varying market trends, energy storage will play a crucial role in the transition and transformation of the power sector.”

Author: Uma Gupta

Developing better behind-the-meter energy storage

Stationary batteries, like the one pictured, allow buildings to reduce reliance on grid power by storing energy that can be used during times of peak demand. Image: Dennis Schroeder, NREL

NREL researchers work on developing high energy density cells to advance stationary storage.

From pv magazine USA

Behind-the-meter storage (BTMS) systems directly supply homes and buildings with electricity and offer many advantages such as the ability to minimize grid impacts, integrate EV charging, and more.

The BTMS markets are expected to see strong growth, as noted in Wood Mackenzie’s Global Energy Storage Outlook, which forecasts 57GWh of new deployments through to 2030. The report points out that the residential sector is being driven by cost reductions and consumer awareness, coupled with solar hybridization and electric vehicle adoption.

Researchers in the BTMS Consortium at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) are working with other national laboratories to develop energy storage technologies for stationary applications below 10MWh. Their recent work, which aims to improve lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery designs is published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society, delved further into promising opportunities, as well as limitations, of using LTO/LMO battery cells for stationary storage use.

“We already know a lot about Lithium-ion batteries, but batteries for different applications have different requirements,” said NREL Researcher and Project Leader Yeyoung Ha. “Our research looks at how to leverage the developments from electric vehicle battery research for new applications in stationary storage.”

According to the researchers, BTMS systems have different charging and discharging patterns than a typical electric vehicle and require Li-ion battery materials that meet these unique priorities. BTMS systems, for example, are expected to operate safely and efficiently over a long lifespan. The researchers looked at Li-ion battery designs using a Li4Ti5O12 (LTO) anode and LiMn2O4 (LMO) cathode, which are promising critical-material-free candidates that offer the safety and long lifespan required, however, their low energy density is a drawback.

NREL researchers evaluated the temperature-dependent performance of LTO/LMO cells with various electrode loadings, and they determined that using thicker electrodes in battery designs can increase the cell capacity and energy density, while decreasing overall cell costs. However, these thicker electrodes require ions to travel a longer path, limiting the use of electrodes. They found that temperature adjustments can alleviate these negative impacts but may introduce added complications.

“Our goal with this research is to identify a ‘sweet spot’ to leverage the advantages of electrode loading and increased temperatures to maximize the performance of LTO/LMO battery cells,” Ha said. “Our research refined material designs for BTMS specifically, converting this well-known power chemistry to energy cells.”

By applying electrochemical modeling to simulate reactions at different temperatures and electrode thickness, they verified their experimental results. Instead fully discharging the batteries, as for electric vehicles, they found that allowing batteries to have intermittent rest during discharge, the electrode use was significantly improved. And they determined that this type of pulsed discharge is well suited for BTMS stationary applications, where the batteries will be used only when there is intermittent demand and then transitioned back to a resting stage.

Although these optimized LTO/LMO battery cells offer many advantages, the research team is also exploring cathode options that may better meet the needs of the stationary energy storage systems that are critical to ensuring that the power from renewable energy sources is available when and where it is needed.

Author: Anne Fischer

Sodium-ion batteries go mainstream

With backing from new owner Reliance Industries, Faradion is laying out plans for double-digit gigawatt-scale manufacturing of its sodium-ion battery technology. Image: Faradion

Sodium-ion batteries are emerging as a viable alternative to lithium-ion technology. Industrial heavyweights CATL and Reliance Industries, following the acquisition of UK-based sodium-ion specialist Faradion, are bent on bringing the technology out of the lab and into mass production. Against a backdrop of soaring prices and predicted shortfalls of lithium-ion battery materials, sodium-ion chemistry has never been more tantalizing.

From pv magazine 03/2022

Sodium-ion (Na-ion) batteries offer superior environmental credentials, enhanced safety, and better raw material costs than lithium-ion (Li-ion). In addition, Na-ion batteries also promise strong performance and continuous improvements in density and cycle rate are making the chemistry particularly exciting.

“Sodium-ion technology is still in its infancy but represents a viable alternative to Li-ion technologies, depending on how far companies are willing to invest,” says Max Reid, research analyst at Wood Mackenzie. And alternative battery technologies that use fewer or zero critical raw materials could ease the growing strain on Li-ion supply chains.

Sodium is a thousand times more abundant than lithium and there is practically an infinite supply of it, with the overall cost of extraction and purification far lower. Generally, Na-ion cells are quoted to be between 20% and up to 40% cheaper, but the challenge is bringing the technology to scale.

“In the short term, the cost to manufacture Na-ion will be high as producers look to reach scaled production in the mid-2020s,” Reid says. “In this time, demand for batteries in the EV sector will surge from 0.6TWh in 2022 to 2.8TWh by 2030, a boom too soon for the Na-ion market.”

According to WoodMac, Na-ion batteries are expected to replace some of the LFP share in passenger EVs and energy storage, reaching 20GWh by 2030 in the base-case scenario. “We expect Na-ion technology to eat into Li-ion’s dominating market share – yet there are still many unknowns that need to be addressed before the technology can follow Li-ion’s skyward trajectory,” says Reid. Battery material prices will clearly influence the outcome. If the price of lithium continues to rise, then the Na-ion cell could sooner become comparatively more attractive and secure a larger market share more quickly.

Production must also move past its infancy, but with industrial heavyweights pouring in resources and manufacturing experience, Na-ion appears to be doing so.

Giga fabs

On the last day of 2021, Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries said its solar unit would buy UK-based Na-ion battery technology pioneer Faradion for GBP 100 million ($136 million), including debt. The move marked Reliance’s sixth acquisition in the renewable energy sector. It was part of its ambitious $10 billion plan to manufacture and fully integrate all “the critical components of the New Energy ecosystem,” spanning every stage of the solar supply chain, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cells.

Under the plan, the conglomerate – which covers everything from textiles and polyester fibers to petrochemicals and petroleum refining – will build several gigafactories within India by 2024. As for its Na-ion manufacturing ambitions, Faradion CEO James Quinn told pv magazine that the plan is to build a double-digit-gigawatt fab.

“I think it’s very clear that Reliance is really going all in on sodium-ion technology and building at giga factories level. And this is what the technology needs to be able to scale,” he said. “You need around 2,500 tons of cathode to do 1GW of cell manufacturing so the scale to go up into 10GW to 20GW is massive.”

Li-ion has had a head start of decades when it comes to production volume, reducing costs as it has scaled. But Quinn firmly believes that with Reliance and Faradion under the same roof, there is a unique opportunity to continue to innovate and advance the technology but at the same time scale it at a massive level.

“Their own captive requirement is so massive that that alone can significantly bring the cost down,” Quinn says. Reliance itself could have tens of gigawatts of captive requirements – it owns the largest telecom company in the world with 450 million subscribers, and has 22,000 trucks, to mention a few. In addition, the enterprise plans to build at least 100GW of solar projects by 2030, which it might decide to couple with batteries. “I think it’s the best chance for sodium-ion to really become mainstream,” Quinn says.

Faradion was the first company to champion Na-ion battery technology more than 10 years ago and back then had basically no competition. “We were really early in, so we put a web of IP around sodium-ion,” Quinn says. But interest has grown, and several companies have since emerged. They include HiNa Battery Technology (a spinoff from the Chinese Academy of Sciences), Tiamat (which came out of the French National Centre for Scientific Research), Natron Energy (a spinoff from Stanford University in the United States), Altris AB (started by a team from Sweden-based Uppsala University), and of course, China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL) – the 800-pound gorilla in the battery industry.

Next generation

CATL released its first generation of Na-ion batteries in mid-2021, with plans to establish a basic industrial chain by 2023. At the launch, the Chinese battery manufacturer said it has been dedicated to the research and development of sodium-ion battery electrode materials for many years. It said its first generation of sodium-ion battery cells can achieve energy densities of up to 160Wh/kg and it is now aiming to exceed 200Wh/kg.

However, when asked by pv magazine about improvements that will enable the jump in energy density announced for its second generation of sodium-ion batteries, CATL did not respond directly. It instead forwarded several local media reports as a suggestion for further reading. These articles speculated that CATL is working on anode-free metal battery technology, which will first be applied to the next generation of its Na-ion batteries, but not only limited to that space.

CATL has reportedly filed a patent named “Na metal battery, electrochemical device,” in which the metal layer formed on the negative current collector after the first charging is completed is used in place of the negative electrode. The absence of the anode from the manufacturing process, and its creation after the battery is assembled and charged for the first time, would be a unique advantage. It appears that CATL has not only laid out relevant material design patents, but also took the lead in applying for production process patents, which indicates that the research progress on this technology may be advanced.

Meanwhile, Faradion says it has already achieved a big jump in the energy density by virtue of cumulative iterative improvements on its cathode, anode, and electrolyte, and demonstrated a capacity of 190Wh/kg, which is now being transferred into production. In addition, the company is working on step change innovations, and as Quinn confirmed, expects to push the energy density towards 250Wh/kg. That would bring it on par with most Li-ion batteries today.

Powerful synergy

Ultimately, Na-ion will be a complementary technology to Li-ion, rather than a competitive one. The two battery technologies have much in common in terms of structure and working principles and can often even use the same manufacturing lines and equipment. Therefore, CATL is simply integrating its sodium-ion offering into their existing Li-ion infrastructure and product ecosystem.

“We have rolled out our AB battery system solution, which uses both sodium and lithium-based cells in one EV pack, thus helping leverage the benefits of both chemistries and opening up more room for application scenarios for sodium-lithium battery systems,” a CATL spokesperson said.

The system compensates for the current energy density shortage of the Na-ion cells and benefits from their performance in low temperatures. Faradion’s Quinn added: “You never put LFP in the same battery pack as NMC, you don’t really gain anything, but you can to this with Na-ion, it works like a supercapacitor, if you will.”

Author: Marija Maisch

Organic battery progress brings Adelaide researchers tantalisingly close to full biodegradability

Dr Zhongfan Jia holds the electroactive polymers used for organic batteries at his Flinders University laboratory. Image: Flinders University

The realisation of biodegradable batteries is a step closer thanks to research from South Australia’s Flinders University, which has developed a 2.8V organic polymer battery. While this battery was made from synthetic polymers, research lead Dr Zhongfan Jia told pv magazine Australia the team’s future iterations will source “materials directly from nature” saying this promises to reduce waste and reliance on mined materials and could have novel applications in fields like biotech.

From pv magazine Australia

Researchers at Adelaide’s Flinders University have developed a 2.8 Volt organic polymer rechargeable battery. While the polymers used in the battery are not yet biodegradable, the team will soon switch to natural polymers like that found in seaweed – an application other Flinders researchers are examining.

The use of polymers in the battery are paramount, though hardly obvious. Plastic (a synthetic polymer) is typically used to insulate and stop electrical currents conducting, so it hardly seems a battery material frontrunner, especially for an electrode. 

How Dr Zhongfan Jia, a senior lecturer in chemistry at Flinders University’s Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, and his team have been able to use polymers is by chemically modifying them at a molecular level, something which they do in two different process to allow both the storage and cycling of energy. (More on this modification process below.)

Currently the Flinders polymer battery has an energy density just under 100mAh/g (milliampere hours per gram), though the team is now working on the next generation and hopes they can double that capacity. If the polymer battery could reach 200mAh/g, Dr Jia says it would bring it in line with the capacity of lithium batteries sold just a few years ago. “That will compete,” Dr Jia told pv magazine Australia.

What motivates the intercontinental researchers is the potential for biodegradable polymer batteries to solve the waste issue of batteries and global reliance on mined, rare materials. Moreover, the batteries could have novel high tech applications as the are flexible and non-toxic, making them suitable for fields like biotech and beyond. “That’s something we only talk about at scientific conferences, not too much to the general public,” Dr Jia said.

“We do know that we cannot completely replace the li-ion battery,” Dr Jia said, pointing to superiority of lithium-ion batteries voltage. “We don’t want to replace the Tesla car battery… but in our daily lives there’s so many small batteries in use that are discarded.” Alongside novel high tech applications, this is where Dr Jia sees the most potential for the batteries, including in things like electric toothbrushes and other rechargeable appliances. Currently his team have 100 to 200 cycles on their battery, though the plan is to reach 1,000.

Polymers and biodegradability

Most polymers used today are synthetic and come from petroleum, but they can also occur naturally in things like seaweed. Dr Gia and his collaborators’ plan is to use “materials directly from nature” in future iterations of the battery. “Next stage is we are trying to make the polymer that can degrade if you discard [the battery] in the environment only from sunshine, water and oxygen… within six months to a year.”

How it would be possible for these natural materials to store and cycle electricity is through, as mentioned, modification. The kind of battery the team has built is called a radical battery, because it uses a stable radical molecule called a TEMPO radical. A small molecule, this TEMPO radical needs to be attached to something, or else it “cannot make a certain shape, they don’t have mechanic force,” Dr Jia said.

Which is where polymers come in. “Polymers can make your chairs, desk, boat, any shape of material that you can make. That’s the beauty of the material,” Dr Jia said. “We are now making this radical on the polymer… because the polymer has the property you can use [to make the battery].”

This is the first polymer modification. The second comes in the battery’s electrode, which Dr Jia describes as “judiciously” designed. “We are now trying to store the energy in polymer,” the researcher said. “To achieve that is really difficult,” he adds, because polymers are not conductive. 

To make it conduct, the polymer has to be mixed with carbon materials on a molecular level. “Only when you do that can you use all your materials to store energy. Otherwise if there’s some aggregation, if the polymers aggregate together, then only the surface can store energy,” Dr Jia said.

“We try to modify the polymer not only with the TEMPO radical to store the energy, but we also modify that polymer with other function and that function can stick on the carbon materials.”

Dr Jia has been working with polymers for over 20 years, but only started researching their use in batteries around six years ago – a period which saw a marked increase in interest in this area. Dr Jia’s team in Adelaide has been working in collaboration with Dr Kai Zhang from the Zhejiang Sci-Tech University in China, who was a PhD student of Dr Jia’s in Australia. The team also collaborates with researchers in Japan, Texas, at the University of Queensland and the Australian National University (ANU). 

In terms of commercialisation, Dr Jia says that is still a way off. The materials needed to make the TEMPO radical are cheap, acetone and ammonium, but creating the radical does require a few steps, Dr Jia explained. “It’s not as expensive as you think, it’s pretty cheap. But of course when you make this into a real material to use for the battery, there’s some stages [for it] to be optimised and I think that’s probably something we need to consider in the following years.”

More details on the inner workings of the battery have been published in the Chemical Engineering Journal.

Author: Bella Peacock