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Will Lockett

Will Lockett

Will Lockett

Will Lockett

26 days ago

The world will be changed by this molten salt battery.

Salt crystals — Pexels

Four times the energy density and a fraction of lithium-cost ion's

As the globe abandons fossil fuels, batteries become more important. EVs, solar, wind, tidal, wave, and even local energy grids will use them. We need a battery revolution since our present batteries are big, expensive, and detrimental to the environment. A recent publication describes a battery that solves these problems. But will it be enough?

Sodium-sulfur molten salt battery. It has existed for a long time and uses molten salt as an electrolyte (read more about molten salt batteries here). These batteries are cheaper, safer, and more environmentally friendly because they use less eco-damaging materials, are non-toxic, and are non-flammable.

Previous molten salt batteries used aluminium-sulphur chemistries, which had a low energy density and required high temperatures to keep the salt liquid. This one uses a revolutionary sodium-sulphur chemistry and a room-temperature-melting salt, making it more useful, affordable, and eco-friendly. To investigate this, researchers constructed a button-cell prototype and tested it.

First, the battery was 1,017 mAh/g. This battery is four times as energy dense as high-density lithium-ion batteries (250 mAh/g).

No one knows how much this battery would cost. A more expensive molten-salt battery costs $15 per kWh. Current lithium-ion batteries cost $132/kWh. If this new molten salt battery costs the same as present cells, it will be 90% cheaper.

This room-temperature molten salt battery could be utilized in an EV. Cold-weather heaters just need a modest backup battery.

The ultimate EV battery? If used in a Tesla Model S, you could install four times the capacity with no weight gain, offering a 1,620-mile range. This huge battery pack would cost less than Tesla's. This battery would nearly perfect EVs.

Or would it?

The battery's capacity declined by 50% after 1,000 charge cycles. This means that our hypothetical Model S would suffer this decline after 1.6 million miles, but for more cheap vehicles that use smaller packs, this would be too short. This test cell wasn't supposed to last long, so this is shocking. Future versions of this cell could be modified to live longer.

This affordable and eco-friendly cell is best employed as a grid-storage battery for renewable energy. Its safety and affordable price outweigh its short lifespan. Because this battery is made of easily accessible materials, it may be utilized to boost grid-storage capacity without causing supply chain concerns or EV battery prices to skyrocket.

Researchers are designing a bigger pouch cell (like those in phones and laptops) for this purpose. The battery revolution we need could be near. Let’s just hope it isn’t too late.

Will Lockett

Will Lockett

2 months ago

Russia's nukes may be useless

Russia's nuclear threat may be nullified by physics.

Putin seems nostalgic and wants to relive the Cold War. He's started a deadly war to reclaim the old Soviet state of Ukraine and is threatening the West with nuclear war. NATO can't risk starting a global nuclear war that could wipe out humanity to support Ukraine's independence as much as they want to. Fortunately, nuclear physics may have rendered Putin's nuclear weapons useless. However? How will Ukraine and NATO react?

To understand why Russia's nuclear weapons may be ineffective, we must first know what kind they are.

Russia has the world's largest nuclear arsenal, with 4,447 strategic and 1,912 tactical weapons (all of which are ready to be rolled out quickly). The difference between these two weapons is small, but it affects their use and logistics. Strategic nuclear weapons are ICBMs designed to destroy a city across the globe. Russia's ICBMs have many designs and a yield of 300–800 kilotonnes. 300 kilotonnes can destroy Washington. Tactical nuclear weapons are smaller and can be fired from artillery guns or small truck-mounted missile launchers, giving them a 1,500 km range. Instead of destroying a distant city, they are designed to eliminate specific positions, bases, or military infrastructure. They produce 1–50 kilotonnes.

These two nuclear weapons use different nuclear reactions. Pure fission bombs are compact enough to fit in a shell or small missile. All early nuclear weapons used this design for their fission bombs. This technology is inefficient for bombs over 50 kilotonnes. Larger bombs are thermonuclear. Thermonuclear weapons use a small fission bomb to compress and heat a hydrogen capsule, which undergoes fusion and releases far more energy than ignition fission reactions, allowing for effective giant bombs. 

Here's Russia's issue.

A thermonuclear bomb needs deuterium (hydrogen with one neutron) and tritium (hydrogen with two neutrons). Because these two isotopes fuse at lower energies than others, the bomb works. One problem. Tritium is highly radioactive, with a half-life of only 12.5 years, and must be artificially made.

Tritium is made by irradiating lithium in nuclear reactors and extracting the gas. Tritium is one of the most expensive materials ever made, at $30,000 per gram.

Why does this affect Putin's nukes?

Thermonuclear weapons need tritium. Tritium decays quickly, so they must be regularly refilled at great cost, which Russia may struggle to do.

Russia has a smaller economy than New York, yet they are running an invasion, fending off international sanctions, and refining tritium for 4,447 thermonuclear weapons.

The Russian military is underfunded. Because the state can't afford it, Russian troops must buy their own body armor. Arguably, Putin cares more about the Ukraine conflict than maintaining his nuclear deterrent. Putin will likely lose power if he loses the Ukraine war.

It's possible that Putin halted tritium production and refueling to save money for Ukraine. His threats of nuclear attacks and escalating nuclear war may be a bluff.

This doesn't help Ukraine, sadly. Russia's tactical nuclear weapons don't need expensive refueling and will help with the invasion. So Ukraine still risks a nuclear attack. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was 15 kilotonnes, and Russia's tactical Iskander-K nuclear missile has a 50-kiloton yield. Even "little" bombs are deadly.

We can't guarantee it's happening in Russia. Putin may prioritize tritium. He knows the power of nuclear deterrence. Russia may have enough tritium for this conflict. Stockpiling a material with a short shelf life is unlikely, though.

This means that Russia's most powerful weapons may be nearly useless, but they may still be deadly. If true, this could allow NATO to offer full support to Ukraine and push the Russian tyrant back where he belongs. If Putin withholds funds from his crumbling military to maintain his nuclear deterrent, he may be willing to sink the ship with him. Let's hope the former.

Will Lockett

Will Lockett

3 months ago

Tesla recently disclosed its greatest secret.

Photo by Taun Stewart on Unsplash

The VP has revealed a secret that should frighten the rest of the EV world.

Tesla led the EV revolution. Elon Musk's invention offers a viable alternative to gas-guzzlers. Tesla has lost ground in recent years. VW, BMW, Mercedes, and Ford offer EVs with similar ranges, charging speeds, performance, and cost. Tesla's next-generation 4680 battery pack, Roadster, Cybertruck, and Semi were all delayed. CATL offers superior batteries than the 4680. Martin Viecha, Tesla's Vice President, recently told Business Insider something that startled the EV world and will establish Tesla as the EV king.

Viecha mentioned that Tesla's production costs have dropped 57% since 2017. This isn't due to cheaper batteries or devices like Model 3. No, this is due to amazing factory efficiency gains.

Musk wasn't crazy to want a nearly 100% automated production line, and Tesla's strategy of sticking with one model and improving it has paid off. Others change models every several years. This implies they must spend on new R&D, set up factories, and modernize service and parts systems. All of this costs a ton of money and prevents them from refining production to cut expenses.

Meanwhile, Tesla updates its vehicles progressively. Everything from the backseats to the screen has been enhanced in a 2022 Model 3. Tesla can refine, standardize, and cheaply produce every part without changing the production line.

In 2017, Tesla's automobile production averaged $84,000. In 2022, it'll be $36,000.

Mr. Viecha also claimed that new factories in Shanghai and Berlin will be significantly cheaper to operate once fully operating.

Tesla's hand is visible. Tesla selling $36,000 cars for $60,000 This barely beats the competition. Model Y long-range costs just over $60,000. Tesla makes $24,000+ every sale, giving it a 40% profit margin, one of the best in the auto business.

VW I.D4 costs about the same but makes no profit. Tesla's rivals face similar challenges. Their EVs make little or no profit.

Tesla costs the same as other EVs, but they're in a different league.

But don't forget that the battery pack accounts for 40% of an EV's cost. Tesla may soon fully utilize its 4680 battery pack.

The 4680 battery pack has larger cells and a unique internal design. This means fewer cells are needed for a car, making it cheaper to assemble and produce (per kWh). Energy density and charge speeds increase slightly.

Tesla underestimated the difficulty of making this revolutionary new cell. Each time they try to scale up production, quality drops and rejected cells rise.

Tesla recently installed this battery pack in Model Ys and is scaling production. If they succeed, Tesla battery prices will plummet.

Tesla's Model Ys 2170 battery costs $11,000. The same size pack with 4680 cells costs $3,400 less. Once scaled, it could be $5,500 (50%) less. The 4680 battery pack could reduce Tesla production costs by 20%.

With these cost savings, Tesla could sell Model Ys for $40,000 while still making a profit. They could offer a $25,000 car.

Even with new battery technology, it seems like other manufacturers will struggle to make EVs profitable.

Teslas cost about the same as competitors, so don't be fooled. Behind the scenes, they're still years ahead, and the 4680 battery pack and new factories will only increase that lead. Musk faces a first. He could sell Teslas at current prices and make billions while other manufacturers struggle. Or, he could massively undercut everyone and crush the competition once and for all. Tesla and Elon win.

Will Lockett

Will Lockett

4 months ago

The Unlocking Of The Ultimate Clean Energy

Terrestrial space-solar terminals could look like radio telescopes — Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

The company seeking 24/7 ultra-powerful solar electricity.

We're rushing to adopt low-carbon energy to prevent a self-made doomsday. We're using solar, wind, and wave energy. These low-carbon sources aren't perfect. They consume large areas of land, causing habitat loss. They don't produce power reliably, necessitating large grid-level batteries, an environmental nightmare. We can and must do better than fossil fuels. Longi, one of the world's top solar panel producers, is creating a low-carbon energy source. Solar-powered spacecraft. But how does it work? Why is it so environmentally harmonious? And how can Longi unlock it?

Space-based solar makes sense. Satellites above Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) enjoy 24/7 daylight. Outer space has no atmosphere or ozone layer to block the Sun's high-energy UV radiation. Solar panels can create more energy in space than on Earth due to these two factors. Solar panels in orbit can create 40 times more power than those on Earth, according to estimates.

How can we utilize this immense power? Launch a geostationary satellite with solar panels, then beam power to Earth. Such a technology could be our most eco-friendly energy source. (Better than fusion power!) How?

Solar panels create more energy in space, as I've said. Solar panel manufacture and grid batteries emit the most carbon. This indicates that a space-solar farm's carbon footprint (which doesn't need a battery because it's a constant power source) might be over 40 times smaller than a terrestrial one. Combine that with carbon-neutral launch vehicles like Starship, and you have a low-carbon power source. Solar power has one of the lowest emissions per kWh at 6g/kWh, so space-based solar could approach net-zero emissions.

Space solar is versatile because it doesn't require enormous infrastructure. A space-solar farm could power New York and Dallas with the same efficiency, without cables. The satellite will transmit power to a nearby terminal. This allows an energy system to evolve and adapt as the society it powers changes. Building and maintaining infrastructure can be carbon-intensive, thus less infrastructure means less emissions.

Space-based solar doesn't destroy habitats, either. Solar and wind power can be engineered to reduce habitat loss, but they still harm ecosystems, which must be restored. Space solar requires almost no land, therefore it's easier on Mother Nature.

Space solar power could be the ultimate energy source. So why haven’t we done it yet?

Well, for two reasons: the cost of launch and the efficiency of wireless energy transmission.

Advances in rocket construction and reusable rocket technology have lowered orbital launch costs. In the early 2000s, the Space Shuttle cost $60,000 per kg launched into LEO, but a SpaceX Falcon 9 costs only $3,205. 95% drop! Even at these low prices, launching a space-based solar farm is commercially questionable.

Energy transmission efficiency is half of its commercial viability. Space-based solar farms must be in geostationary orbit to get 24/7 daylight, 22,300 miles above Earth's surface. It's a long way to wirelessly transmit energy. Most laser and microwave systems are below 20% efficient.

Space-based solar power is uneconomical due to low efficiency and high deployment costs.

Longi wants to create this ultimate power. But how?

They'll send solar panels into space to develop space-based solar power that can be beamed to Earth. This mission will help them design solar panels tough enough for space while remaining efficient.

Longi is a Chinese company, and China's space program and universities are developing space-based solar power and seeking commercial partners. Xidian University has built a 98%-efficient microwave-based wireless energy transmission system for space-based solar power. The Long March 5B is China's super-cheap (but not carbon-offset) launch vehicle.

Longi fills the gap. They have the commercial know-how and ability to build solar satellites and terrestrial terminals at scale. Universities and the Chinese government have transmission technology and low-cost launch vehicles to launch this technology.

It may take a decade to develop and refine this energy solution. This could spark a clean energy revolution. Once operational, Longi and the Chinese government could offer the world a flexible, environmentally friendly, rapidly deployable energy source.

Should the world adopt this technology and let China control its energy? I'm not very political, so you decide. This seems to be the beginning of tapping into this planet-saving energy source. Forget fusion reactors. Carbon-neutral energy is coming soon.

Will Lockett

Will Lockett

4 months ago

The World Will Change With MIT's New Battery

MIT’s new battery is made from only aluminium (left), sulphur (middle) and salt (left) — MIT

It's cheaper, faster charging, longer lasting, safer, and better for the environment.

Batteries are the future. Next-gen and planet-saving technology, including solar power and EVs, require batteries. As these smart technologies become more popular, we find that our batteries can't keep up. Lithium-ion batteries are expensive, slow to charge, big, fast to decay, flammable, and not environmentally friendly. MIT just created a new battery that eliminates all of these problems.  So, is this the battery of the future? Or is there a catch?

When I say entirely new, I mean it. This battery employs no currently available materials. Its electrodes are constructed of aluminium and pure sulfur instead of lithium-complicated ion's metals and graphite. Its electrolyte is formed of molten chloro-aluminate salts, not an organic solution with lithium salts like lithium-ion batteries.

How does this change in materials help?

Aluminum, sulfur, and chloro-aluminate salts are abundant, easy to acquire, and cheap. This battery might be six times cheaper than a lithium-ion battery and use less hazardous mining. The world and our wallets will benefit.

But don’t go thinking this means it lacks performance.

This battery charged in under a minute in tests. At 25 degrees Celsius, the battery will charge 25 times slower than at 110 degrees Celsius. This is because the salt, which has a very low melting point, is in an ideal state at 110 degrees and can carry a charge incredibly quickly. Unlike lithium-ion, this battery self-heats when charging and discharging, therefore no external heating is needed.

Anyone who's seen a lithium-ion battery burst might be surprised. Unlike lithium-ion batteries, none of the components in this new battery can catch fire. Thus, high-temperature charging and discharging speeds pose no concern.

These batteries are long-lasting. Lithium-ion batteries don't last long, as any iPhone owner can attest. During charging, metal forms a dendrite on the electrode. This metal spike will keep growing until it reaches the other end of the battery, short-circuiting it. This is why phone batteries only last a few years and why electric car range decreases over time. This new battery's molten salt slows deposition, extending its life. This helps the environment and our wallets.

These batteries are also energy dense. Some lithium-ion batteries have 270 Wh/kg energy density (volume and mass). Aluminum-sulfur batteries could have 1392 Wh/kg, according to calculations. They'd be 5x more energy dense. Tesla's Model 3 battery would weigh 96 kg instead of 480 kg if this battery were used. This would improve the car's efficiency and handling.

These calculations were for batteries without molten salt electrolyte. Because they don't reflect the exact battery chemistry, they aren't a surefire prediction.

This battery seems great. It will take years, maybe decades, before it reaches the market and makes a difference. Right?

Nope. The project's scientists founded Avanti to develop and market this technology.

So we'll soon be driving cheap, durable, eco-friendly, lightweight, and ultra-safe EVs? Nope.

This battery must be kept hot to keep the salt molten; otherwise, it won't work and will expand and contract, causing damage. This issue could be solved by packs that can rapidly pre-heat, but that project is far off.

Rapid and constant charge-discharge cycles make these batteries ideal for solar farms, homes, and EV charging stations. The battery is constantly being charged or discharged, allowing it to self-heat and maintain an ideal temperature.

These batteries aren't as sexy as those making EVs faster, more efficient, and cheaper. Grid batteries are crucial to our net-zero transition because they allow us to use more low-carbon energy. As we move away from fossil fuels, we'll need millions of these batteries, so the fact that they're cheap, safe, long-lasting, and environmentally friendly will be huge. Who knows, maybe EVs will use this technology one day. MIT has created another world-changing technology.