back to article Uncle Sam's boffins stumble upon battery storage holy grail

According to the head of ARPA-E – the research arm of the US Department of Energy – a number of breakthroughs in battery technology have been achieved, with huge implications on the use of renewable energy and electric cars. Speaking at an ARPA-E event in Washington DC this week, director Dr Ellen Williams told an interviewer …

TRT
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Re: "Chornobyl (sic) was about as bad as it could be"

Fukushima is pretty bad as well. And Three-Mile Island, and many others. But these are not the single catastrophic event I'm talking about which is the hypothetical worst case scenario. The light of experience in the 60 years of atomic energy has shown that damage can be mitigated, effects lessened and chance reduced, but that does not change the fact that the more you build, the more chance there is of the nightmare scenario.

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Re: Charging...

"

Geothermal energy is intermittent? Whoda thunkit?

"

Geothermal energy is not really renewable energy. If we started using it in large amounts I suspect that the resulting cooling is likely to get people more riled up than the present greenhouse gas panic.

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Re: Ageing fossil and nuclear plants are going off-line

Like I said you're the sort of econazi who lies. Even to the point of going back to edit his original post because he just happened to be inside the edit window.

That quote is purely YOU because I'd never use such an awkward construction.

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Re: Ageing fossil and nuclear plants are going off-line

My edit was to add "in that post, though they are" because in the post you responded to... you know what, I'm going to stop feeding the troll. Have it your own way, mein Führer.

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Anonymous Coward

What we need ..

.. is a system that can store lightning strikes, or at least an approach that could charge up and then divert the excess so things don't blow up.

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Re: What we need ..

Lightning strikes would provide a minuscule amount. Don't be fooled by their dramatic nature; the energy available per unit time per unit area is insignificant.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What we need ..

lightning strikes contain around 275KWh or energy, there are approximately 1.4 billion strikes per year world wide, that is 385TWh of energy (approx 100 nuclear reactors at 100% load). World electricity production is around 23000TWh, so around 1.6% of the worlds energy production.

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Re: What we need ..

I thought they were 1.21GWe...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What we need ..

Only when they hit clock towers

But it would be close to that, as a strike last only a fraction of a second, and each strike has 275KWh of energy.

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Person in charge of looking for funding says...

someone with billions should spend it elsewhere shocker

nuff said

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Anonymous Coward

Roswell, the gift that keeps on giving.

Anal probes all round!

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Jaded

Various sources have been promising incredible breakthroughs in battery technology for as long as I can remember, and they never seem to actually show up.

Sure, they sound very exciting, there are some impressive "in the lab" demonstrations, but when it comes to being able to go out and _buy_ the things it's back to tiny incremental steps that don't really change much.

Until I'm actually able to go out and buy a laptop that can work for 3 days straight, or a mobile phone that actually lasts for a week I'm just going to have to stay sceptical I'm afraid.

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BEEEEEEST

Acronym of the weeeeeeek, for sure.

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I just love the idea of refilling the old gasometer tanks with Prussian Blue

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Oval_Gasholders

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seems a good time to report this

http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

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Fossil religion?

It's funny how strong the resistance to electric cars is. "I live in a flat", "Cables will make people fall over", "It needs to be cheaper than petrol" etc. It's bordering on fossil religion.

I imagine horse owners felt similarly aggrieved about noisy internal combustion automobiles.

Thinking about it, someone should calculate the human cost of fossil engine noise. We have learned to accept it but I, for one, will be happier when my neighbour stops running his engine warm at 4am.

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Re: Fossil religion?

> I imagine horse owners felt similarly aggrieved about noisy internal combustion automobiles.

Yes, they did. Many restrictions were imposed on motorised vehicles because of it.

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Re: Fossil religion?

But at least they didn't leave the streets ankle-deep in shit.

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Re: Fossil religion?

That WAS a genuine problem because horses could spook and bolt, threatening the passengers. I recall early on-street vacuum cleaners had the same effect: thus the term "noisy serpents".

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"Dr Williams attracted some controversy when she noted that ARPA-E's projects were creating new innovative battery technologies but everyone's darling battery entrepreneur Elon Musk was just scaling up existing technology"

Yeah, but Musk doesn't play with masses of taxpayers' money (with no real issue if it won't pay off) does he?

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Re: Musk doesn't play with masses of taxpayers' money

Yes and no.

While his initial development money came from profits he earned, the business model for his e-car business is completely dependent on massive amounts of government subsidies to e-car buyers. There's a similar issue with his Space X venture.

In the case of Space X I'm willing to tolerate it for the simple reason that at the moment almost all space spending is government spending and what he's doing is making the same level of activity possible at HUGELY reduced costs while spurring actual technological advances. There is no similar savings for his e-Car business and I don't get the sense that we are seeing real technological advances.

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Anonymous Coward

"Yeah, but Musk doesn't play with masses of taxpayers' money (with no real issue if it won't pay off) does he?"

check on where telsa's income actually comes from. (and it's not the car sales! or batteries!).

He's pretty much the same, but sucking much more money!.

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I call Bullshit!

Currently, a significant factor holding back renewable energy sources like solar and wind is the fact that energy storage is often inefficient and expensive. When the sun stops shining or the wind stops blowing, that energy source is cut off. With better energy storage, however, the economics of the entire industry would change.

(emphasis mine)

The efficiency of energy storage is not the ONLY thing that matters. Conversion efficiency is much more important than storage efficiency. Getting the energy into and out of a storage system is actually where a lot of the losses occur and what make a lot of the proposed schemes completely unviable to begin with. On top of that the total efficiency of storage would have to about quadruple to even begin to have an impact. Storing energy is just not a good thing to do and matching generation to real time use will always be the most efficient option.

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Re: I call Bullshit!

Storing energy is just not a good thing to do and matching generation to real time use will always be the most efficient option.

Seems to have worked well enough with Tasmania's hydro until the Greens decided it was non-renewable. Definitely agree about matching generation to real time use, the main failing of wind and solar.

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Prussian Blue

I wonder what will be evolved in the event of a fire in that Prussian Blue battery? Remember that Prussian Blue is the nice name for Ferric FerroCyanide. Someone should at least ask the question.

Dave

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Facepalm

We should have stayed on the trees

Or, come think of it, it was quite comfy in the water.

Why is on a technology site, frequented by those working towards a brave new world where computers will solve all our problems, every new invention greeted with a howl of "this will never work"? Some prototype built by researchers is not competitive with the established technology, which has hundreds of thousands of man-years headstart. So what? There was no network of petrol stations when the first cars were built. Nor was there a need for private cars, because everybody obviously lived in walking or riding distance of their workplace. It took decades to get electricity to every household. The first owners of a phone had nobody to call. And yet it happened.

Technology take-up follows a pattern. First it's a interesting toy for enthusiasts or showoffs with more money than sense. As the teething problems are ironed out and the prices come down, slightly less rich showoffs are trying it out. Large corporations start to use it internally because it makes sense for one specific use case. And suddenly the infrastructure is there, and it's a commodity that everybody has. I don't know if the electric car falls into this category, but wouldn't rule it out. Maybe the Google-owned self-driving electric taxi will replace the personal car, first in the cities, then further out. Who knows?

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Re: There was no network of petrol stations

Actually there was. Maybe not the way you'd recognize them, but it was there. Everybody always forgets WHY Henry Ford settled on gasoline as the power source for his internal combustion engine. We all know diesel is a technically superior fuel. So why gasoline? Answer: because it was waste from processing oil into kerosene. The kerosene had an existing distribution system and gasoline just got tacked onto it.

I can pick apart the rest of your rant if you want me to, but I think that's sufficient.

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Re: We should have stayed on the trees

Why is on a technology site, frequented by those working towards a brave new world where computers will solve all our problems, every new invention greeted with a howl of "this will never work"?

You should have been around when Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Ptersen was touting a water-powered car. I'm sure its inventor would have been glad to put his hand in your wallet as well as the taxpayers of Queensland. Still waiting for the conversion of Queensland's trains to water power...

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Lean on details

Just because a battery technology can store energy does not mean it can deliver that energy as needed. What sort of load constraints does a huge tank of liquid have. How will we convert the AC generated energy to DC for battery storage and then BACK to AC for use with loads? Or will we have to upgrade everything including the distribution system to DC?

I ask because even if batteries become cheap, invertors for megawatt+ loads will not come cheap and the efficiency of these are not fantastic (a mechanical mechanism is probably the most efficient at that scale, literally coupling a DC motor to an AC generator which is more semi-redundant generation equip.). That is if these massive batteries can actually discharge at high enough amps. Or is the plan to have massive DC voltages by daisy chaining cells? 11KV battery cells sound a bit scary if you ask me.

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Trollface

Just saying...

They'll need someone more babelicious to do the marketing...

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aqk
Paris Hilton

And where is the Hydrogen response?

Ironically, right beside this article is a leader for a "hydrogen powered car".

Will this hydrogen idiocy ever die? Or have they recently drilled a hydrogen well?

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Has anyone

stopped to think what governments will do when all the revenue they take in from gasoline taxes dries up? Once everyone is driving electric that revenue will have to come from somewhere else, and you can bet it'll cost us all more (governments being the way they are).

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Re: Has anyone

They'll tax electricity. It's such an obvious idea that they won't even have to think of it.

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Re: Has anyone

They'll tax electricity.

Or the air! Oh wait, they're already doing that...

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Re: Has anyone

They already do tax electricity.

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Maybe we're think about this the wrong way

Everyone is trying to solve the problem of storing energy so that they can smooth out the differences between baseload (~50%) and peak load. That's proving hard, but wasting energy is really easy, so perhaps we should just up our baseload generating capacity to the current peak and arrange to dump the surplus. For the dumping, you'd need an energy-intensive process that could be rate-switched up or down as quickly as consumer demand went down or up. (Electrolysis of water to drive all those hydrogen cars might do.)

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Moving the bottleneck

My house uses about 10-12kWh of leccy a day. Heating by Gas. If I was to go for a decent home charged e-car my power consumption would at least double. The UK is already struggling to keep the lights on.

I also have solar PV on the roof, it's averaging about 9kWh a day over the year so far, during daylight hours only of course.

Much as I look forward to an electric future, no matter how cheap we make storage systems, we are going to need a lot more generating capacity hopefully renewables and or safer nuclear (Thorium fuelled molten salt reactors seem a good civil technology option)

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A real-world(?) example

I own a BMW i3. I travel about 40 miles a day (20 miles each way to work), and about the same on weekends. I charge at home, and I need about 10 kWh a day. I charge at 25 A at 220V, so I need a bit more than 2 hours to charge. I charge at night between 11:00 PM and 6:AM and I am on a special rate plan that provides electricity at a low rate for these hours, which are the hours of lowest demand in my area. So: Charging off-peak is a crude but effective way to solve the peak demand problem.

It is perfectly feasible to deploy home charging stations that work with the car to communicate with the grid. My car already knows when I intend to use it next and the current battery state. If the electricity company would give me a further discount, I would be happy to suspend charging when sent a request to do so: my car knows when it can honor such a request and still have time to complete its charging. A central computer in the grid can allocate electricity to the cars to perform load leveling. This would solve the problem when there are more electric cars than now.

For those of you with no dedicated parking: wait for driverless cars. They can go park in a shared garage and quit cluttering up your neighbourhood, and they can charge when they get there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re. assault on batteries

It does occur to me that zinc bromide technology (aka Redflow) are pretty advanced now with near 100% coulombic efficiency.

Also yes they are fairly nasty if they leak but no worse than lead acid plus the electrolyte(s) can be collected and filtered then returned to the tanks, one recharge and its good as new.

IIRC the big advantage with vanadium is that the two electrolytes are essentially just different oxidation states in solution so again if someone screws up and reverses them its more of an annoyance.

In fact any flow battery has the main advantage that because the tanks are separate to the MEA if something bad happens it can simply be mechanically disconnected or a secondary MEA connected.

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