Skip to comments.Could Iron Replace Lithium in Batteries? Here's why scientists want to make the swap, stat.
Posted on 08/16/2019 10:56:35 AM PDT by Red Badger
Transitioning to renewable energy across society will require many changes, including more batteries. Energy storage is crucial for making sure that inconsistent renewable sources, like wind or solar, can stay humming even when the weather isn't going their way. But batteries have their own problem in the form of the commonly used lithium. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have come up with what could be a possible replacement: a rechargeable iron ion battery that uses mild steel as the anode.
The major limitations of lithium-ion batteries are the unavailability of lithium in conjunction with the safety issues," said M.V. Sangaranarayanan, a chemistry professor at IIT Madras, in a recent talk. "It is hence imperative to look for new and abundantly available electrode materials in order to make the energy storage devices commercially viable, devoid of safety limitations."
Lithium, in many ways, is the dirty secret of many environmental efforts. Analysts have called electric car company's demand for lithium "increasingly ravenous," and the mineral is used in everything from smartphones to glass ceramics to airbag ignitions.
But while lithium mining is relatively cheap, it comes with huge downsides. When brine mining, miners need to let the water surrounding lithium evaporate in order to reach it, which means using 500,000 gallons of water per tonne of lithium. And when digging the mineral out of rock, it requires toxic chemicals, which can lead to disastrous results.
So the need for an alternative is a pressing one, and iron could be a strong option.
Iron has favorable physico-chemical properties like lithium, Ramaprabhu Sundara, an IIT Madras physics professor, told The Hindu. "The redox potential of iron ion is higher than lithium ion and the radius of the Fe2+ ion is nearly the same as that of the lithium ion."
Redox refers to "reduction potential," or the tendency for a chemical substance to lose or gain electrons and have their effectiveness lowered.
"These two favorable properties of iron have been overlooked for so many years. And thats the reason why we dont have iron ion rechargeable batteries, Ramaprabhu says.
The team's iron battery successfully withstood 150 cycles of charging and discharging under controlled conditions. And after 50 cycles, it still had 54 percent capacity retention, which is a sign of stability.
Iron is more stable during the charging process and therefore prevents short-circuiting of the batteries," study coauthor Sai Smruti Samantaray, a Ph.D. student at IIT Madras, told The Hindu. "Thus, when compared with the popular lithium metal-based batteries, we are able to cut down the cost and make it safer to handle."
The next step for the team is to increase the iron battery's performance. One challenge could be cathodes, or the way currents move out of a battery. While cathodes can be replaced in some batteries, that's not the case in iron.
We are trying out different metal oxides to increase the amount of iron ions that can bind to the cathode," said Ajay Piriya,a Ph.D. student at IIT Madras and the first author of the paper showing the team's findings. "When more iron ions bind to the cathode, more energy can be stored in the battery, leading to improved performance."
There's a global hunt for the next lithium battery. Even the creator of the original lithium battery, 97-year old John Goodenough, has developed an improvement.
Source: The Hindu
And after 50 cycles, it still had 54 percent capacity retention...
So, your car with a 300 mile range per charge, after 50 days, has a 150 mile range. How about after five years? 20 miles?
Someday they’ll get around to perfecting the nickel-iron battery, aka “Edison battery”. Yes, THAT Edison:
Duh better than the first lithium batteryl
Di-lithium crystals for warp drive?
Yes, it underperforms now.
Btw, “cycles” isn’t days. Most people do not drive 300 miles a day. If you do you shouldn’t be driving EV anyway. A hybrid or just a fuel efficient high compression diesel would be better.
My own suspicion is that they may have been recharging the battery like they do a mature tech lithium batteries and that battery memory is a significant issue at this time if you don’t do something extra. It may sound like I’m insulting but really it isn’t uncommon for people to just overlook obvious things while they hunt down percentages.
I wonder what the effect of nano particles which greatly increase surface area without increasing size or weight on that type would be?
I think of a cycle as “drain and charge.” So, if you drive 50 miles a day and charge overnight, I see that as a “Cycle.”
Frankly, I think the future is in something more like a graphene capacitor.
This is the first time (this month) that a new promising battery technology has been announced!
Cannot wait for this breakthrough be a reality, just like the 50 or so other battery “breakthroughs” we’ve read about over the past few years! Oh wait, nothing came of those either...
Iron is so plentiful, that it might be an option for mass storage on the electric grid.
Bummer this is happening in India.
The cost to mine a ton of iron? $108.94 The cost to mine a ton of lithium? $2,180.00.
While these preliminary numbers suggest a low battery life for an iron battery, suppose after 30 cycles the iron batt retains 75% capacity. So a low-mileage user might swap out batteries at some sort of swap-station after 30 days or 45 days. An in-town driver might get 90 days out of a cycle.
Costs to replace a lithium batt are estimated to be from $1K to $6K, a range so wide so as to be ridiculous. I have no direct experience. Allegedly they last 2-3 years. But we know lithium is a problem on the supply front. Suppose a Li 30 month batt costs $3K, $100 a month. Lithium costs roughly $10 per kilo, iron is pennies. It’s not inconceivable that a rapid-and-cheap-replace iron battery pack that only lasts a month and costs $100 to swap out wouldn’t be the functional equivalent of a lithium batt.
I don’t know, there are a lot of interconnected factors, obviously. Just sayin’. We *do* have a history of replacing costly elements with cheaper ones; iron for lithium would be about as dramatic as imaginable. We went from platinum catalysts in cat converters to palladium, however those are both extremely rare metals. In the process, platinum went from $2000 to $850 and now sells for $600 less than gold, when it is 10x as rare a metal as gold in nature. (a nearly unfathomable anomaly) And palladium went from (depends where you measure from) $600-700 to $100 LESS than gold or about $1430. Yes, I recognize lithium is about 1/14th the weight of iron and that is sweet for vehicle use. But iron is so bloody cheap, there MUST be an economic argument in there somewhere.
Iron is heavier than lithium. So, wouldnt the batteries be heavier.
“The cost to mine a ton of iron? $108.94 The cost to mine a ton of lithium? $2,180.00”
14x $109 = $1526.
Not so spectacularly different when you consider iron is about 14x as “weighty” as lithium.
Di-lithium crystals for warp drive?
Marianne Williamson crystals for a warped love
What weighs more? A ton of feathers or a ton of gold?
That would sure present an issue with memory.
But for those trying to advance the idea I would see them as focusing on their best options, they need to get funding ... then they can go for realism on how real consumers will recharge.
Sure, it's not ready for prime time. But, the possibility that batteries can be made of rust instead of lithium is worth investigating to see if it can be made a practical reality.
They weigh the same. But a ton of lithium occupies 14x as much space as a ton of iron and the number of times a steamshovel or excavator has to dig out a load of raw ore and load up a truck is probably at least 3x as many times as with iron, since the concentration of lithium in its ore is much less than with iron.
Iron concentration in taconite can be 15% - 50% though 30% is more common as an upper limit. Lithium in spodumene ranges from 1-6%, and the process for extracting the metal from ore are a lot more complex with Li than with Fe.
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