For the Benefit of Our Readers, Could You Explain What the Key Components for Effective Energy Storage in Batteries are?
Sure, I think there are a couple issues. There are both the capabilities and usability to consider. The capability is generally how much energy they have. The usability entails what the product is that they’re built for.
A lot of our batteries that we’ve been using now for instance were designed for consumer applications such as laptops, and cell phones. So there’s been a real focus on energy capacity.
As we’re getting into vehicles and industrial uses, and to the grid for electric power, the idea of usability is becoming important. This means being able to charge quickly and for the products to have a long duration of lifespan.
As we evolve the use of our batteries into new markets, increasingly both of those attributes are going to be important. This means having more energy, but then also having different capabilities and usability for the specific applications.
Image Credits | shutterstock.com/g/3823478
Which Materials are Ideal for this Level of Energy Storage Ability?
If you look at batteries, there are a couple of different points. You have the cathode, the separator, and then the anode, and the electrolyte. Most of the focus has always been on the cathode, because that controls how much energy you are going to be able to store.
People have always been focusing on different blends and trying to make it thicker but more useful. As we increasingly go towards how fast we can charge it; the other components become very important.
These include the separator and the electrolyte, which means how fast the electrons can move back and forth, and especially the anode. The anode is important because when you charge a battery, you’re putting all the ions into the anode. If you’re trying to fast-charge it, you want to be able to do that even faster.
I also think it is really important to have people recognize what a dramatic change is going to occur in the next couple of years based on fast charging. If we take a step back, for example if we looked at Level One charging; it has always been where you plug it into the wall in your house, and Level Two was the 13 kilowatt.
For a while, we’ve talked about 50 kilowatt DC fast charging as something it’s moving towards. Now, you start hearing people talk about two, three, four, five, and 600 kilowatt charging. As you can tell, that is just significantly higher. Having a high quality anode is going to increasingly become very important for allowing people to fast charge, and also for having that battery last a long time.
How Can Someone Ensure that they have the Materials that are up to this Standard?
Across the industry, we are increasingly moving towards a higher quality of material and a higher quality of manufacturing. When you’re talking about the electrical charging and discharging, any kind of imperfections or impurities can cause a problem in the movement of the ions.
You have to use really pure material, and also, because they are designing the batteries themselves, they used to allow for a wider range in the quality of the material. As they’re trying to improve the capability of those batteries, they’re tightening up on the range that they can allow.
The different battery materials have to be of a certain size and must be uniform so that all of the ions can move quickly. This also makes sure that they have no impurities. The purity of the material, but also having a tighter range of particle sizes in the material and the properties of the material, are increasingly becoming more critical.
What Does Novocarbon Offer as a Solution for These Material Needs?
NovoCarbon is now focusing on providing additional resources for the different battery materials. They are looking at being able to provide these at competitive prices but also the second goal is working through good manufacturing.
You are taking the natural graphite and then working it through a manufacturing process so that we can hit those really exacting properties that the battery manufacturers and consumers of high tech materials increasingly demand. This is because they’re trying to improve the capabilities of their product.
The OEM’s need really high tolerance carbon and graphite material so that their capabilities will be enabled. What NovoCarbon is doing is looking at ways to provide natural and synthetic material that these firms need as very precise, and high quality material.
Image of spheronized graphite courtesy of NovoCarbon Corp
What Applications are Your Battery Materials Typically Used in?
The battery material that we provide is the graphite for the anode. We provide that material and depending on how the OEM wants to design the battery, we can provide different qualities of the material. As we said, we’re currently basing our use of batteries on the designs that came out of the long duration laptops and consumer electronics.
Now, as we get into vehicles and grid storage, the designs need to have the capabilities to have faster charging, and a longer life. More ‘stable’ is a term that they use for that.
We can tailor the material in porosity, size, and other qualities to the different battery OEM’s so that they can continue to pursue the performance targets that they have.
They rely on the materials for all the different types of suppliers. So to wrap it up, a longer life, and faster charging, leads to a wider range of capabilities. That’s where the battery market is moving and we’re prepared to provide that to the different OEM’s.
Do You Provide Any Services Alongside These Products?
I think the services that we provide are often embedded into the materials themselves. A lot of what happens when you are working with an OEM is to provide the material that they ask for, both for a certain type of material and for certain qualities.
Then, a lot of times they will say, “That’s good, but it has this other aspect to it that we didn’t want.” We can then go back through our manufacturing process to tailor it specifically to their needs.
Many times it is internal engineering on our side. We are able to exactly provide them with specifically what they want. Our workings with all of our different customers through the process of tailoring embeds all of that knowledge and capability in the end product.
What Developments in Battery Storage Do Novocarbon Foresee in the Near Future?
We see a continued expansion both in scale of the battery markets, as we’ve all seen a doubling, tripling, quadrupling over the next several years. We will also have not just more material, but a consistent quality to the material. That’s very important to the battery OEMs.
Also, as they are producing better quality batteries, they also need better quality materials. We have to have a more refined, purer material of a certain quality without any type of impurities. As people are looking to improve their batteries with different performance levels, they need more engineering into all the material itself so that their batteries are able to perform.
This is achieved not only through the precise engineering of the battery design and the materials that go into it. With exacting tolerance, they will be able to build the billions and billions of different cells that they’re trying to produce. That’s where we see it going, both in scale, better quality, but also higher performance capabilities for each of the different OEM customers.
About Richard Baxter
Following a career in investment banking, Richard Baxter spent 20 years in the energy storage industry. Mr. Baxter works with senior executives to craft corporate strategy, including partnerships, raising capital, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures.
Richard works with clients to help them develop achievable corporate and division goals through market and regulatory assessment, financial and economic analysis, and competitive positioning.
Richard is currently consulting for the US Department of Energy to produce market research on pricing of alternative energy generation and storage systems.
Richard is the author of “Energy Storage: A Nontechnical Guide”, PennWell Publishing and a frequent speaker at industry conferences, including Energy Storage North America (ESNA), the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology (NY-BEST) Consortium and The Battery Show.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by NovoCarbon, Corp.
For more information on this source, please visit NovoCarbon, Corp.
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