By Prabhat Khare – Director, KK Consultants, IIT Roorkee Gold Medalist
The research on batteries had started in the early 1800 and was evolving with time at a very slow pace till the electronics revolution happened around 1960 making these batteries part of daily lives which brought the drastic changes in the development of battery technologies.
While historically, the batteries were classified as primary (non-rechargeable) or secondary (rechargeable), yet with time and applications, this classification has vanished. However, one must understand the basic difference between the two as explained graphically below – shift happens from primary batteries to secondary batteries as the power needs go up with repeated requirements.
The current family of battery technologies have a wide range, many of them are already available commercially, while many others are still in the development stages. With time, many of these technologies will evolve and come out of the laboratory, and compete for their survival. We will look at some of them now.
Present Day Commonly Used Batteries:
- Lead Acid Battery: They are the most commonly used batteries which got very early success and hence were used in diverse multiple applications. However, due to various inherent issues including their weight & safety, they are now only found in a very specific application like SLI or the home inverters.
- Lithium-Ion Battery: They are the most commonly used batteries in present times yet despite pushing their chemistry to its limits, they still have limitation in delivering a driving range to a BEV (on full charge) as comparable to that of ICEVs (on full tank), leave aside issued of extended charging or recouping time.
- Lithium Polymer Battery: Despite having similar energy densities as that of LIBs and also having advantages like form flexibility, ruggedness, being safer they could not find much success except in restricted applications of niche markets.
- Fuel Cell: They are a form of battery which can produce energy as long as the active material (generally Hydrogen gas) is fed to the electrodes. However, since Hydrogen is a highly explosive gas with many associated safety issues, their application has been restricted.
New Technologies in Batteries:
5. Lithium-Oxygen Battery: When chemistry “beyond Li-ion” evolved, to address the driving range issue of LIBs, Li-O2 battery was developed as one of its product (3500 Wh/kg). However, it has yet to prove its worth as an alternative to LIBs.
6. Lithium-Sulfur Battery: This is another product of “beyond Li-ion” chemistry and are have cost advantages due to abundant availability of Sulphur (2600 Wh/kg). However, their real practical applications are still restricted to limited fields.
7. Solid-State Battery: These are also one of the promising technologies for the next generation of energy storage, yet due to limitation of present processes to synthesize a perfect solid electrolyte, this technology has been found wanting.
8. Al-Air Battery: With high energy density (~8100 Wh/Kg) Al-Air batteries are also the most promising technology of the future, yet struggling for want of a reliable, quicker, safer, and effective charging mechanism of Al-Anode (replacement) as well as setting up energy-efficient infrastructure to recycle the Al(OH)3 which gets generated during its use.
9. Few Other Upcoming Battery Technologies: Apart from the above commonly known technologies presently already in vogue, many other new & diverse battery technologies are getting developed and each of them would be fighting for its right place in the burgeoning EV market. They are listed below:
|Some Of The Futuristic Battery Technologies|
|Dual-Ion||Cobalt-Free Lithium-Ion||Zinc-Air||Ryden Dual Carbon|
|Potassium-Ion||Heavy Metals Free||Nanotube Electrode||Sand Battery|
|Silicon Anode Lithium-Ion||Graphene Aluminium||Vertically Aligned Carbon||Gold Nanowire|
Future of Batteries
The research is already on to embed micro optical fibres, plasmonics, acoustics and electrochemical sensors within the individual cells to monitor the chemical performance at cell level with a feedback system, making them smart & connected.
Another research is also advancing on self-healing batteries for intelligently restoring the lost performance.
Yet another research is advancing to integrate the batteries with the structural part of their application e.g. body shell of EV.
Future Road Map
With the arrival EVs, coupled with increasing need portable Energy Storage System (ESS), demand of batteries are going to explode in coming future, a future in which EVs would certainly be playing a critical role similar to what ICEV played for fossil fuel industry in the early 1900, bringing its own set of known/ unknown challenges. One such known challenge is the disposal of the old batteries at the end of their lives (EOL).
Hence, the real challenge for battery developers would be to go beyond the conventional mindset by creating an end-to-end eco-system for the complete life cycle management of batteries, in the circular economy of future, a future which could possibly be consisting chemically neutral, nonhazardous batteries or biodegradable batteries.