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IBM battery technology, claims to be better than the Li-ion

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IBM battery technology and other discoveries which would outperform the Li-ion in the future

IBM battery technology

IBM battery technology: Everyone is talking about the electric vehicle, but many of us are not completely aware about how friendly it is? It’s still a question mark because it depends on different scenarios- like

  • The acquisition of raw materials for the Li-ion cell
  • Battery cell manufacturing
  • Complete battery pack manufacturing
  • Final car manufacturing
  • End of life or recycling of battery pack

Which type of materials is being used for the manufacturing of the vehicle, what drives it?, the material used in its battery and other components. Whenever we talk about the electric vehicle, the battery comes into the picture and it’s the major component. Many companies like- LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Aptiv, BYD and others have developed different battery chemistry but the main constituents are still similar.

IBM new battery technology

IBM research team has used three new and different proprietary materials, which have never before been recorded as being combined in a battery. Through the whole research process and testing IBM has discovered a chemistry for a new battery which does not use heavy metals or other substances with sourcing concerns. The special thing is that the materials for this battery are able to be extracted from seawater, laying the groundwork for less invasive sourcing techniques than current material mining methods.

IBM battery technology outperfoms Lithium-ion battery

The new battery technology is more sustainable and outperforms at many other aspects like flammability, cost and charging time. IBM claims that as per the current test results the battery can be charged up to 80% in less than 5 minutes. Including above mentioned point there are some other important aspects where is performs better than the existing battery technology-

Young-hye Na, Manager, Materials Innovations for Next-Gen Batteries, IBM Research writes about the battery technology- ” this design uses a cobalt and nickel-free cathode material, as well as a safe liquid electrolyte with a high flash point. This unique combination of the cathode and electrolyte demonstrated an ability to suppress lithium metal dendrites during charging, thereby reducing flammability, which is widely considered a significant drawback for the use of lithium metal as an anode material”.

  • Lower cost: The active cathode materials tend to cost less because they are free of cobalt, nickel, and other heavy metals. These materials are typically very resource-intensive to the source, and also have raised concerns over their sustainability.
  • Faster charging: Less than five minutes required to reach an 80 percent state of charge (SOC), without compromising specific discharge capacity.
  • High power density: More than 10,000 W/L.(Exceeding the power level that lithium-ion battery technology can achieve).
  • Higher energy density: More than 800 Wh/L, comparable to the state-of-art lithium-ion battery.
  • Excellent energy efficiency: More than 90 percent (calculated from the ratio of the energy to discharge the battery over the energy to charge the battery).
  • Low flammability of electrolytes

Reality of the Lithium-ion battery

IBM Battery Technology
Mountains of Minerals at the Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia (Image credit: Bloomberg)

Lithium-ion batteries are the one which powering high percentage of EVs inn the world. Other battery chemistry like Solid State battery chemistry is still in nascent stage. The problem which the lithium-ion battery is that, it still includes the earth’s heavy metals like- nickel and cobalt. The use of these heavy metals pose tremendous environmental and humanitarian risks.

Electric Vehicles battery chemisty
EVs battery chemistry

A battery is made up of an anode, cathode, separator, electrolyte, and two current collectors (positive and negative). Lithium is the main element for any electric vehicle battery these days. The main source of lithium is in Chile, Australia, Argentina and China. While the Central Africa and Asia are the main source area for the other heavy metals like cobalt and nickel. Talking about the life of any li-ion battery, then it’s maximum of 15 years (including its second use). After that it’s difficult to successfully decompose it. Anyway, it’s still the area of research now.

How does the Li-ion battery works?

IBM battery technology

The lithium ion batteries are the power source for modern electric vehicles. A small battery cells or pouchs become the key elements for any battery pack. Manufacturers connect these into series or in parallel as per the final output requirements of each battery. Just as in every other battery there is a positive and negative electrode called the cathode and the anode. The cathode or positive electrode is made of a very pure mixed metal oxide containing lithium and other earth’s heavy metals. The more uniform its chemical composition and crystal structure the better the performance and the longer the battery life is.

The anode or negative electrode is located on the other side. Its made of graphite which is a natural form of carbon with a layered structure. The battery is filled with the transport medium, the electrolyte. So that the lithium ions carrying the battery charge can flow freely. This electrolyte must be extremely pure and as free of water as possible in order to ensure efficient charging and discharging of the battery.

Metal oxides used in Li-ion battery

Lithium: lithium is so popular for cathodes because lithium is an alkali metal and it has one valence electron. So, it means it is likely to give a one electron which is very important for the production of electricity. Lithium is the 25th most abundant element on earth. However, it only makes up 0.0007% of the earth’s crust. The most lithium extraction actually happens in the liquid brine pool water. It is evaporated off by the sun and lithium compounds can be extracted a majority. The current lithium deposits are in the lithium triangle of Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Australia and china.

Nickel: Next is the nickel, which has an abundance of 0.009% in the earth’s crust. Nickel is one of the most important earth-metal and main constituent for any electric vehicle battery. Tesla as well other manufacturers the nickel at a high percentage in their batteries.

Cobalt: The 0.003% of the earth now this is where things get interesting because cobalt is the most critical element in their battery supply chain. Cobalt is the most expensive. This is due to the scarcity but also due to the fact that over 60% of the worldwide production comes from the democratic republic of Congo. In this region the political turmoil, child labor concerns and violence make cobalt the most critical element in the supply.

Manganese: It is available in 11% of the earth’s crust making it the 12th most abundant element.

Other than the above listed, aluminium is also very important metal for any battery. But still these all the not environment friendly and take considerable time to charge. These whole things give the scope to work further to discover the better battery chemistry. Which would be environment friendly and economically viable.

Future plan of IBM (IBM battery technology)

Everyone is racing with the new battery concept, but what everyone is looking for the investment and a reliable automobile manufacturer which could be the future customer. So, to move this new battery from early stage exploratory research into commercial development, IBM Research has joined with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Central Glass, one of the top battery electrolyte suppliers in the world, and Sidus, a battery manufacturer.

My Words

For last few years different universities and companies are aggressively investigating for the new battery technology. This opens up the scope for and requirements for the new battery chemistry. We still cannot rely fully on lithium-ion or solid state battery technology. 2019 was the year when different companies and institutes was working on new battery technologies-

IBM battery technology

Other battery innovations:

  • Monash University (Australia): Researchers are working on lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery technology and claiming to provide 1000 kms in single charge.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago’s lithium-carbon dioxide battery: This battery technology is still in testing phase but at this stage also it is capable to have more than 500 charging cycles. MIT’s Carbon Dioxide Battery.
  • MIT’s Carbon Dioxide Battery: During charging it absorbs the carbon dioxide from the air passing over its electrodes and then it releases that gas during the discharge.
  • University of Adelaide’s (Australia) non-toxic zinc and manganese: It beats the cost. The cost of this new battery will be less than $10 per kWh compared $300 per kWh for many current lithium batteries.
  • Nikola’s free-standing electrode EVs battery: Company has taken care of the environment during the design of new battery technology. It doesn’t use nickel, cobalt and other dangerous metals while asserting it provided double the energy density and just 40% of the weight.
  • Iron-ion battery technology (IIT Madras, India): Iron has a smaller ionic radius and favorable potential. Since these benefits are overlooked, the potential use of iron in rechargeable metal ion battery has not been realized yet. The research team has overcome this challenge by inventing a suitable electrolyte for the operation of the battery.

So, the future is going to be very competitive, but what IBM has plus point that it has the partnership with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Central Glass, one of the top battery electrolyte suppliers in the world, and Sidus, a battery manufacturer.