Tomorrow's Power Today? New Battery Is Most Powerful Ever

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Xenon Difluoride battery

Xenon Difluoride battery

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The electric motor is a great invention, but it's entirely limited by the power that the battery can feed to it, and that power is limited by the amount of energy the battery can store.

Battery technology is in constant development behind the scenes, though, and the latest to emerge in research at Washington State University promises to be the most powerful non-nuclear energy storage ever.

We're used to Nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium-Nickel (Li-Ni) batteries, and Lithium-ion (Li-Ion), as you'd find in cars such as the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

Now meet the Xenon difluoride (XeF2) battery, made of a material normally used to etch silicon conductors. Xenon difluoride molecules are usually kept relatively far apart, but to make the battery they are squeezed together at pressures of one million atmospheres--similar to those you'd find half way to the Earth's core--between two diamond anvils.

Under such massive pressures the molecules go from their normal state to a two-dimensional semiconductor, but then begin to form three-dimentional metallic network structures. This forces the mechanical energy of the compression process to be stored as chemical energy, just like you'd find in a regular battery.

Potential applications for the new technology are huge. Their potential use includes superconductors, super-oxidising materials to break down chemical and biological agents, and new fuels.

Most exciting for us is the potential as an energy storage device. Imagine the benefits for electric vehicles - such high energy and storage means much smaller batteries and much lower weight for the same power, or much greater power and storage as you increase the number of batteries.

They could be fit easily into redesigned chassis with more space devoted to passengers or moved around to alter weight distribution to the benefit of handling. Perhaps individual wheel motors could have their own battery sets that could be removed and replaced with ease.

Of course we're speculating at this stage and the technology is in it's infancy - but new battery technology is always exciting news for the electric vehicle industry.


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Comments (17)
  1. It sounds like a huge breakthrough, but two practical issues come to mind:
    1) How do you recharge this battery?
    2) How safe is driving around with something compressed to a million atmospheres?

  2. They say we are ten years from seeing the next stage in the evolution of the battery. But with so many people working on battery technology I wouldn't be surprised if we see something significant in three to five years.

  3. @ Bret - I don't think the molecules in the unit are under constant compression at that sort of pressure - I think that's basically how the chemical energy process is kicked off. Worth remembering that it's very early days for the technology yet too, so it's not even really a battery just yet - it just has the potential to be used as one.

  4. Xenon difluoride - are you nuts?
    Just _thinking_ about it makes me want to run away. Somewhere. Anywhere.
    It can rapidly decompose, to monoatomic fluorine which doesn't have the mild manners of common molecular fluorine. Xenon difluoride won't just eat through about any metal or glass, it will do this with explosion and a fire.
    Oh, and it'll also happily react with water, sand, nitrogen, CO2 and you.

  5. Priced Xenon recently? It is way too expensive for energy storage, if this would work at all (it won't).
    And Li-ion is not short for lithium iron.

  6. Li-ion is not Lithium Iron. There is a Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery. That would be LiFePO4. Gotta love these kids and there blogging!

  7. The picture with this article looks to be a magnet floating above a superconductor via the Meissner effect, not a battery.

  8. we made a big jump in lithium ion batteries, when we got to phosphate. the previous generation of lithium ion was not really good enough to cause the change to evs.
    now, the batteries are good enough. but they will get better.

  9. How much more powerful could this battery be than the best lithium batteries on the market today is an obvious question this article did not bother to answer. Will the battery be charged/re-charged by connecting it to an electrical power source, or by mechanical compression, something like a super-piezoelectric battery?

  10. This may or may not be the answer but it is good to hear about the battery development research going on out there. How many different fibers did Einstein try before he got the light bulb right? One of these days some engineer will hit a home run and we will reap the benefits of a smaller, lighter, lower cost with higher energy capacity battery for our EV’s.

  11. @ ecogo I'm sorry there's no mention of the actual power of the battery, but had you followed the link to my source at the bottom of the article you'll see there's no mention there either. Far from "not being bothered", we don't know yet. Likewise charging - you'll see in my comment above that the technology is in it's infancy so it can't be considered a useable battery just yet.
    @ Greg Simpson - Every definition of Li-ion I can find on the net refers to Lithium-Ion. If it's not that, I'd be interested if you can tell me what it's actually an abbreviation of.

  12. hi antony,
    there is just a typo in your article.

  13. Ah! So there is. Unfortunately spellcheckers can't pick up "wrong" words, only incorrectly spelled ones... Completely mis-interpreted what Greg was trying to tell me. Now corrected.

  14. Rechargeable Car Battery Glut to Worsen Price War at Samsung, Panasonic - click on my name for article

  15. When will we be able to buy the ultra battery?

  16. There's also the matter of the battery needing to REMAIN at 1M atmospheres of pressure to retain the matrix structure. It's neat, but outside of some extremely specific industrial applications, it means jack-all to the average consumer.

  17. I don`t think this technology is useful or interisting. Xenon difluorid store only 1 kj/gram of energy and after what; after compressing it by 1 "million" atm pressure inside "diamond" vice. Gasoline has 36 kj/g and lithium battery contain 1.8 kj/g even rechargable lithium ions battery store up to 0.8 kj/g without this madness.

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