Batteries/Lithium Nanotechnology040513

Lithium nanotechnology
 (May 2004) Ener1 forms new subsidiary, NanoEner, Inc.  to develop new market and applications for Ener1’s proprietary technologies to manufacture nanomaterials.  Ener1 currently uses its nanomaterials manufacturing technologies in the development of nanomaterials for lithium batteries and other high energy storage devices.  The National Science Foundation estimates that the nanotechnology  market will reach $1 trillion by 2015.
 (April 2004) Bell Labs scientists discover technique to control fluids using specially fabricated silicon ‘Nanograss.”  The scientists discovered an entirely new method to control the behavior of tiny liquid droplets by applying electrical charges to specially engineered silicon surfaces that resemble  blades of grass.  

“Once in a while we get a research breakthrough that has wide applicability across many fields,” said David Bishop, vice president of nanotechnology at Bell Labs and president of the New Jersey Nanotechnology Consortium. “The techniques resulting from this research might be applied to fields that range from optical networking and advanced micro batteries to self-cleaning windshields and more streamlined boat hulls.”

Bell Labs and the New Jersey Nanotech Consortium are exploring using the technique to create powerful, next-generation reserve micro batteries.  Conventional batteries have electrochemical reactions proceeding at some level all of the time, even when batteries are not being used.  Over time, the batteries degrade. By using the Bell Labs’ technique to isolate the liquid electrolyte so that electrochemical reactions do not take place until power is actually needed, nonograss-based micro batteries may be ideal for long-term, higher capacity battery applications, especially where bursts of power are needed.  Examples would be sensors out in the field that only need a lot of power when they detect something and need to transmit the information as a wireless signal.
 (April 2004) New batteries could boost current to phones and laptops

Using miniature carbon pillars, physicists at the University of California, Irvine have developed a method of growing hundreds of batteries in the space usually taken up by a single cell battery. The concept was made possible by growing tiny nano rods from plastic polymer which hardens when exposed to light. Heat drives off the atoms of hydrogen leaving behind a shrunken version of the plastic containing thousands of tiny  carbon rods which have lithium ions inserted into spaces between the rods; these rods are then wired together. Present silicon substrates need to be replaced with cheaper materials to make the process cost competitive.

Nature News Service Macmillan Magazines Ltd, Feb. 17, 2004
 (Febuary2004)Japanese Target Major Role In Nanotechnology

Having missed a controlling interest in info tech and biotech, the Japanese are not planning to take a back seat in nanotechnology. In 2002 alone, the Japanese government budgeted $1 billion for nano R & D. Three well known Japanese companies put in another $ 1 billion of their own money in that year.

There may be substantial payoff because the Japanese discovery of the original nanotube in 1991 has been extended to a new Japaneese discovery the nano horn. This micro device can be hoked together to form clusters with major roles in fuel cells. Sony is replacing graphite materials in electordes with nanotubes to increase battery life.
Microsoft Excel ChartTo illustrate the real growth in nanotube use, the total world output of nanotube material in 2002 was about one ton. The output of a single supplier, Mitsui will be 120 tons in 2004.
Toyota is pursuing a braided nanotube material to more efffectivley store hydrogen for fuel cell (or hydrogen powere ICE) vehicles.

Forecasters see growth of nanotech business into the realm of $200 billion by 2010.

Reference: Business Week, April 21, 2003, pp. 75-76
 (Dec. 2003)  ITRI’s Material Research Laboratories in Taiwan is working to produce the new nano-battery for portable communication devices such as PDAs and notebooks.  Utilizing nano-technology the new batteries are designed with capabilities over 160 Watts and are made by stacking polymer electrolytes with special materials.  The chemistry of the anode is a combined Lithium-cobalt material and the cathode  is composed of nanometer-scaled graphite sheets.  (Information was reported in “Nano-batteries promised energy savings by Jason Pan, Taiwan, 11/11/03)
 (Sept. 2003) University of Tulsa receives patent for method to make nanobatteries.  Professor Dale Teeters and students Nina Korzhova and Lane Fisher have formulated a manufacturing process that can build, charge and test nanobatteries.   The manufacturing process begins with an aluminum sheet that is placed in acid solution under an electric current, resulting in an aluminum oxide membrane.  A honeycomb structure forms when the metal is dissolved.  The pores are then filled with an electrolyte which is a plastic-like polymer.   The filled pores are capped with electrodes , either ceramic or carbon particles.  

Vital  instruments  in the process are a scanning electron microscope and an atomic force microscope, which can observe and manipulate particles as small as molecules and is used to charge the microscopic array of batteries. The microscope’s custom-made tip touches the electrode to charge and test the battery.  (This  custom tip is so tiny, being only two nanometers wide, that it cannot even be seen by an ordinary light microscope.)

The team has, to date, been able to develop batteries so minuscule that more than 40 can be lined up across the width of a hair.  

Today, these batteries are in the laboratory producing about a millionth of a miliAmp, but in the future, they could be found as a power source for a computer or a medical device.  

References: U.S. Patent 6,586,133 and Dewan, C. & Teeters, D., “Vanadia xerogel nanocathodes used in lithium microbatteries,” Journal of Power Sources, p.119-121, 310-315, 2002