The development of rechargeable long-life lithium-ion batteries is at the heart of many of the technological advances that have had a major impact on the modern world. Lithium-ion batteries are used in many electronic devices, including mobile phones, laptops, and electric cars. They are also key to many renewable energy schemes where energy generation and consumption do not necessarily align in time or location.
Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries that store energy by moving lithium ions between an anode and a cathode. When the battery is being used, lithium ions travel from the anode to the cathode, releasing electrons that create electrical current. When the battery is being recharged, the process is reversed, and the lithium ions move back from the cathode to the anode. This cycle can be repeated thousands of times, which is one reason lithium-ion batteries are so popular.
Over 30 years after Sony released the first rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, there are still gains to be made in energy and power density, reliability and cost. One such development was recently announced in a press release by Amprius, a battery technology firm based in Freemont California, who have replaced the traditional graphite anode with silicon, overcoming known issues with swelling to produce a battery which, on paper, has an energy density almost 200% higher than the graphite anode equivalent and far greater than some of the leading lithium ion batteries available today.
Amprius Technologies is a leading manufacturer of high-energy and high-power lithium-ion batteries with numerous patents and pending patent applications covering many different aspects of their battery technology and manufacturing techniques.
Amprius claims this new battery technology could extend the flight range of electrical vertical take off and landing aircraft (eVTOLs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by up to 50%, accelerate electric cars faster than ever before, and help to alleviate the “range anxiety” that many people cite as the main reason they are reluctant to switch from fossil-fuel based transportation. Moreover, the new battery can be charged to 80% in six minutes or less, bringing EV charging times even closer to filling up the tank at a service station.
However, besides the potential reduction in emissions due to the acceleration of the uptake of ‘greener’ vehicles, the use of silicon over graphite may have other important environmental benefits. Graphite mining and smelting is extremely energy intensive and consumes a significant amount of fossil fuels, whereas silicon is one of the most abundant elements on the planet, easily obtainable and not excessively expensive.
For these reasons alone, the planned commercialisation of Amprius’ silicon anode battery cells in early 2024 can’t come soon enough.
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