The Galvanic Battery Marches On

“Yi Cui, a professor of materials science at Stanford and senior author on the paper, says modestly, “What we’ve done is thrown a special salt into water, dropped in an electrode, and created a reversible chemical reaction that stores electrons in the form of hydrogen gas.” The basic component of the water battery is manganese sulfate, a cheap, abundant industrial salt used to make dry cell batteries, fertilizers, paper and other products, according to Stanford.”
 
See Stanford Researchers Announce Inexpensive Water-Based Battery To Boost Grid Storage
This sounds like good news for EVs. Light weight batteries with high capacity and endurance built from fairly inexpensive materials are just the ticket for renewable electricity supplies and EVs. So, their prototype uses a platinum catalyst. So, the electrodes are made of carbon fibre. The active ingredients are hydrogen and manganese which are cheap and plentiful. Storing the hydrogen might waste some space but hydrides are pretty efficient. The catalyst can be replaced with something less expensive. Long life also amortizes price very well.

I look forward to gradual improvement in price/performance of EVs and solar/wind generation. My Solo EV is now certified for safety in USA. Canada will wait a few months more. I’m OK with the lithium battery in it. I’d rarely need more capacity/range but I could always enjoy a lower price.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
This entry was posted in technology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Galvanic Battery Marches On

  1. DrLoser says:

    So it might … It probably helps … It’s not like … They are just … There are probably factories …

    So many imponderables. So little actual knowledge of the subject, Robert.

  2. DrLoser says:

    Galvanic cells are rather simple stuctures with very few components. They find the right scale and crank them out for small-scale production.

    Low hanging fruit, Robert. Whacking a simple NiFe battery design through a production line is piss easy. Doing the same with (as you point out yourself) a big ole bag o hydrogen on the side, plus an as-yet-unknown hi-tech catalyst that has high efficiency at relatively low temperatures is not piss easy.

    Not to mention that even Edison went through about 1,000 alternatives before he found something as simple as the filament for an electric bulb.

    If it’s that easy. If it’s that cheap. If this new battery is such a step-change in tech. Why is nobody building the things right now?

    Answers: because it isn’t, it isn’t, and it isn’t. You probably bought into cold fusion, didn’t you?

  3. DrLoser wrote, “scaling a lab experiment up to production is non-trivial”.

    ISTR that Edison brought forth the NiFe battery and the carbon-filament incandescent light bulb in rather crude conditions and they came to market likkity-split. Galvanic cells are rather simple stuctures with very few components. They find the right scale and crank them out for small-scale production. So it might take a year or two for full scale production. It probably helps that similar shaped/kind of cells are out there. It’s not like they are reinventing the wheel. They are just changing of what the rim is made. There are probably factories existing which could be converted in weeks to change the components and carry on.

  4. DrLoser says:

    You’re reading too much into this.

    I’m not reading anything into it at all. I’m just pointing out that, at the moment, it’s a lab experiment. Ask your friendly local chemical engineer — scaling a lab experiment up to production is non-trivial.

    Many catalysts work on similar principles.

    That’s a bit of a reach, isn’t it? First of all it depends what sort of catalysis you’re trying to achieve. Secondly it depends upon factors such as temperature. Thirdly “similar principles” in no way implies “similar efficiency” — not even to within orders of magnitude.

    You can, for example, use palladium in catalytic converters for petrol-driven cars, because the exhaust temperature starts at about 350 C and upwards. Unfortunately for the exact same catalytic process in diesels, the exhaust temperature is much lower — so you can’t use palladium; you have to use platinum.

    I imagine this battery operates at somewhat less than 350 degrees Centigrade.

    Platinum is one that is known to work very well and may just have been the first tried.

    Well, duh. I would have been very surprised if platinum is not the go-to catalyst of choice for absorption and desorption of oxygen (which I guess is what’s happening here). It’s not just really really good at its job — palladium and rhodium are also really really good at the same job, which is no surprise, since they’re in the platinum group — but there’s presently very little that compares to it.* So it’s not like the guys are just going to move on to the next flask down the shelf, is it?

    Iron, copper, and nickel would probably also work and would be much less expensive.

    Here we venture into territories of which we are both completely ignorant, but I would specifically bet against iron, copper, or nickel. (Hydrides, presumably, but I’d still bet against them.)

    I’m not saying this stuff is impossible, Robert. I’m saying that it is unproven, and that any industrial small-scale (ie within a car battery) implementation is a very long way down the road.

    *Barring new exotica, of course. To cheer you up, I refer you to this MIT News article, which indicates that progress is being made. But, since it’s from 2011, I infer that said progress is being made very slowly.

    Oh, and yes, hydrogen storage is going to be a bit of an issue too (and one that clearly doesn’t matter in lab conditions). I’m grateful to you for pointing that out.

  5. DrLoser wrote, ““Identifying” catalysts — and you could practically throw a stone in any direction in a chemistry lab and “identify” a catalyst — is not quite the same as finding the one that works in your environment at an acceptable cost”.

    You’re reading too much into this. Many catalysts work on similar principles. Platinum is one that is known to work very well and may just have been the first tried. Iron, copper, and nickel would probably also work and would be much less expensive.

    The main obstacle to this technology is not the catalyst. That’s just tweaking. The big obstacle is hydrogen storage. In an EV that could be too bulky. Typically, a metallic hydride will be used. That could be more expensive than the catalyst by far just for the mass of material and the size of it.

  6. Ivan says:

    I just want things manufactured locally so they will employ locals instead of Chinese sweatshop labour.

    The cars built in the Chinese factories are sold within China, so what exactly are you arguing for here?

  7. DrLoser says:

    Why not let them do that while [until?] we make stuff better/cheaper than they can?

    By employing even cheaper sweat-shop labour and running a massive adverse debt ratio of 256% relative to GDP (source: Bloomberg, Robert. Not to mention that the national Current Account is turning negative for the first time this century … never a good sign.

    Why not let them do that? Because most of us don’t care to feather the nests of decrepit old misers like you, Robert. And let’s face it, you don’t care about auto workers or Chinese sweat-shop workers or anything else. You just care about you.

    It’s a particular form of uniqueness, I suppose. Most narcissists don’t even consider other people, but you? You’re a narcissist who rubs his hands every time some poor sod in the third world gives him CA$10 value for every CA$1 he gets paid.

    I’m not criticising the economics of the PRC here, Robert. I am directly criticising your total lack of morals.

  8. DrLoser says:

    TFA does state other catalysts work too.

    Very careful phrasing. My weasel-skills are not up to yours, Robert. But actually “TFA” states nothing of the sort:

    We have identified catalysts that could bring us below the $100 per kilowatt-hour DOE target

    “Identifying” catalysts — and you could practically throw a stone in any direction in a chemistry lab and “identify” a catalyst — is not quite the same as finding the one that works in your environment at an acceptable cost, or pollution, or production, or whatever, level, is it?

    I’m not at all against this idea of Yi Cui and his Stanford colleagues. It’s fascinating. But right now it is not “a water based battery” with added manganese goodness. It’s a lab experiment that depends upon a platinum catalyst, which isn’t exactly either the most eco-friendly or even easily-obtained metal on earth.

  9. kurkosdr wrote, “I just want things manufactured locally so they will employ locals instead of Chinese sweatshop labour. I don’t care if it’s GM or Toyota USA building the cars.”

    That’s just silly. Ships and planes and trains were invented to move things around from where they are to where they’re needed. It’s most efficient that way instead of reinventing the wheel or duplicating services. The Chinese can make lots of stuff better/cheaper than most others. Why not let them do that while we make stuff better/cheaper than they can? A lot of stuff depends on way more than labour to produce: energy, space, natural resources, technology, material etc. There’s lots of stuff that needs producing to go around. Why not make good use of the Chinese? That’s what economies, industries and trading is all about.

    Of course, if you want to apply sanctions to your own country, go ahead.

  10. kurkosdr says:

    From the guy that claims to want protectionism but decries the American Auto-industry receiving loans from the American Government.

    I just want things manufactured locally so they will employ locals instead of Chinese sweatshop labour. I don’t care if it’s GM or Toyota USA building the cars.

  11. Ivan says:

    From the guy that claims to want protectionism but decries the American Auto-industry receiving loans from the American Government. You should probably stick to pretending Java is useful.

  12. kurkosdr says:

    you’ll need to answer my riddle first.

    Why should we answer the questions of someone who speaks in riddles and cannot articulate one clear question? At least our Doctor can be trusted to speak clearly half the time and stay on topic on every third post of his.

  13. DrLoser wrote, “Come back to us when it doesn’t user platinum as a catalyst.”

    Even with platinum as the catalyst, a little goes a long way and it’s not prohibitive. TFA does state other catalysts work too.

  14. DrLoser says:

    Will the new technology from Yi Cui and his team be one of the ones that makes it out of the lab and into production? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.

    Oh, puh-leese.

    Come back to us when it doesn’t user platinum as a catalyst. I notice that, “reversible chemical reaction” or not, this appears to be the big thing here.

  15. An Out Of Phase Transistor says:

    Wasting space is a huge problem, actually, but to understand that, you’ll need to answer my riddle first.

    (Hammie, dear, are you not googling or what, is it that hard? In all honesty, it probably is…)

Leave a Reply