Tough Science, Market Demand Flub Bid To Improve Batteries
With the proliferation of wearable electronics, drones and electric cars -- and the race to halt climate change hastening -- demand for better, cheaper, lighter, smaller, safer batteries is soaring, Brooks Hays reported for United Press International (UPI).
Photo Insert: Rendering of EV components
To meet those demands, researchers, startups, automakers, governments and many others are counting on a few breakthroughs to pan out.
"If we're going to decarbonize the economy, we're going to need a much better battery," Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science at Argonne National Laboratory, told UPI.
Twenty years ago, mostly electric car enthusiasts were clamoring for a better battery. Today, global capital is driving that call -- including massive efforts aimed at vehicles -- keen to the growing demand for carbon-neutral technologies.
As such, billions of dollars have been pouring into the green economy, and battery startups are rapidly proliferating. Many of them inevitably will pin their hopes on promising new cathode material or electrolyte chemistry, but it's likely to take longer to bring those to market than anybody wants.
Worse, the lithium-ion battery currently used by Tesla is prone to explode and destroy electric cars.
Every week, science journals publish a handful of papers promising a new and improved battery. More often than not, these early successes fail to hold up under further testing.
“The main challenge is that to go from a lab breakthrough to a fully validated, commercialized product requires 15 to 20 different metrics be met," Matthew McDowell, a material scientist and associate professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, told UPI.
"Usually, when we're talking about laboratory breakthroughs, we're talking about researchers working on just one or two metrics," McDowell said.