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Toyota scientists announce breakthrough in magnesium battery tech
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May 9, 2016, 10:13 AM
 
Scientists at the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA) have announced a new developments involving magnesium batteries. Improvements in the technology may open the door for smaller, longer-lasting batteries for everything from cars to cell phones. However, Toyota believes that it could take 20 years of research and development by the company alone before magnesium batteries reach the consumer market.

Scientists at the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA) have announced new breakthrough involving magnesium batteries. Improvements in the technology may open the door for smaller, longer-lasting batteries for everything from cars to cell phones.

Magnesium metal has long been theorized as a much safer and more energy-dense alternative to current lithium battery technology. Lithium metal, in its natural state, is unstable and can ignite when exposed to air. In order to make lithium metal safe for batteries, ions are taken from the lithium metal and embedded into graphite rods, which are then used in batteries.

The lack of actual metal limits the amount of power a battery can store. Magnesium, on the other hand, is a very stable metal with the potential to store much more energy. Research on magnesium-based batteries was limited because a magnesium-friendly electrolyte did not exist.

Toyota principal scientist and chemical engineer Rana Mohtadi was researching hydrogen storage materials and their application to fuel cell technology; upon hearing her fellow researchers discussing the challenges of developing an electrolyte for a practical magnesium battery, Mohtadi realized her hydrogen storage material might just solve the longstanding problem. With further experimentation and the help of fellow researchers, her theory proved correct.

Mohtadi and collaborator Oscar Tutusaus published a paper on the research, with Tutusaus saying that "We want to make this electrolyte a standard for magnesium batteries… and we want other researchers to develop it further so these batteries can see the light of day."
     
Makosuke
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May 9, 2016, 04:33 PM
 
Sounds like this might be an offshoot of metal hydride hydrogen storage, which itself is kind of a magical technology--you fill a cylinder with a metal hydride liquid or pellets, and it can suddenly absorb *way* more hydrogen at quite low pressures than you could have stored in the same volume at pressures 20 times higher--much safer (in addition to the lower pressures, it's self-limiting, because it will get cold and stop evolving hydrogen in the case of a catastrophic leak) *and* better energy-to-volume ratio (although the weight ratio isn't so good).

Of course, 20 years is a really long time, but if this does pan out as a practical consumer technology it will be a huge benefit to everybody--not just cell phones and laptops, but cars as well. The car thing in particular could be *huge*, since the battery now makes up a substantial fraction of the cost of an electric car, and its energy density is the limiting factor for range.
     
Steve Wilkinson
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May 9, 2016, 08:22 PM
 
There was also an aluminum battery technology, out of Stanford I think, about 6mo to a year back that sounded promising. We'll get there one day. It's amazing how far battery technology has come already in not all that long, so if the next decade is similar, we'll have multi-day battery life and/or really quick charge, for laptops and imagine if we could just double electric car range!
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Steve Wilkinson
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coffeetime
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May 10, 2016, 08:32 AM
 
Electronic gadgets are on the rise and we are depending on them. A better battery is good start. But when it comes to frequent charging them, that's another story. Tesla (the inventor, not the car) has a good idea in distributing electricity via the air wave. I think we will get there eventually..... year 3000+ maybe?
     
Steve Wilkinson
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May 10, 2016, 11:06 AM
 
Originally Posted by coffeetime View Post
Tesla (the inventor, not the car) has a good idea in distributing electricity via the air wave.
It was a really cool idea, but I'd want the health effects of something like that closely studied first.
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Steve Wilkinson
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