A new tool for creating better batteries

Any version of the future that includes the use of modern technology will need better batteries than we have today. Our current technology could support a lot more of our power grid than it does, but even if we could swap over to 100% renewable right now without any power storage problems, better batteries would still be a good thing. This article is not about a better battery design, though; it’s about how to find better materials for any battery that might be designed down the road.

A multi-institutional, international research team has developed a way to discover materials that could be used to replace the liquid components of current lithium batteries. Most solids don’t stay stable under those conditions, but by measuring how sound moves through crystalline lattices of a potential material, the team hopes to be able to find what they’re looking for much more easily.

The new concept can now provide a powerful tool for developing new, better-performing materials that could lead to dramatic improvements in the amount of power that could be stored in a battery of a given size or weight, as well as improved safety, the researchers say. Already, they used the method to find some promising candidates. And the techniques could also be adapted to analyze materials for other electrochemical processes such as solid-oxide fuel cells, membrane based desalination systems, or oxygen-generating reactions.

Following developments in energy technology can be a bit frustrating, given how much promising material is published, but never seems to make it into practical use. This one seems more likely than some to have a real impact on the day to day lives of people in the future.

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