If human ingenuity can create batteries designed to power nano-satellites, weighing just a few kilograms, which orbit the Earth, why can we not create batteries designed to make electric cars more efficient? In some cases batteries can be created, but they are prohibitively expensive. Many technologists see the break-even for a battery that is economical, safe, compact, and energy-dense, as one capable of storing energy at a cost of less than $100 a kilowatt-hour. With this, a number of groups are looking at lithium-air or lithium-oxygen batteries as having the potential for between 5-15 times the efficiency of existing lithium-ion batteries.
The question about why we can achieve more in space than we seem to be capable of achieving on Earth is a question that one science group has recently been debating. One important answer is that many satellite batteries run off solar power and this is much easier to harness in space, where the sun’s light can be more readily accessed, than it can on Earth. Nonetheless, computer scientists think they have come up with a way that makes accessing battery energy easier. This all comes down to access chemicals within the battery that contain ‘power’ but which are not always accessible by a system.
The work has focused on improving satellites, however the team thinks the technological application will also work with more Earth-bound human constructs
, like electric cars. With the development, the Saarland University scientists have achieved a battery that is up to five times greater than any current system. This battery could be used in next-generation electric cars
The basis is with looking at the ‘recovery effect’ of a battery. This is best explained, by the German scientists, using the concept of a smartphone. If the phone dies due to an empty battery, it often takes just a few minutes of waiting, then you can turn the phone back on again and use it, for a short time. By tapping into this the researchers can assess the exact amount of energy currently available and determine how much of this is available in chemically bound form. Using improved methods this untappable energy can be accessed.
Discussing the development, lead researcher Professor Holger Hermanns enthuses
: “As far as we know, there is nothing like it in Earth orbit so far.”
The results have yet to be published in a peer reviewed journal; however the development is being exhibited at the Cebit computer fair in Hannover. In addition, further details are available via the research group’s website, which is called "Dependable Systems and Software