Imagine using your laptop, non-stop, flying from New York to Los Angeles and back on a single battery charge. Or, picture using your digital camera or mobile phone for days on end without recharging. QuantumSphere has just filed a patent for a nanotechnology that extends the capacity of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries up to five times.
“We’re working on the anode side of the battery and will then begin work on the cathode side soon, with the production expected in 24 to 30 months,” says Kevin Maloney, president and CEO of QauntumSphere. He also says QuantumSphere is working with a fairly large battery manufacturer on this effort and expects to have some results sometime next year.
So far, the company has produced a novel, paperthin, high-rate nano-enabled electrode designed for disposable Li-ion batteries (Fig. 1). “Our Li-ion electrode with nano-lithium particles essentially packs more lithium in a given electrode space leading to much higher energy densities than what’s been achievable so far,” says Subra Iyer, principal technologist at the company.
“They key is in obtaining greater energy levels for a given area of a material in a cost-effective and safe manner,” explains Kimberly McGrath, a Quantum- Sphere fuel-cell scientist.
“We can achieve energy density levels between 1000 to 1500 mAh/g, compared with about 350 mAh/g for what’s been best achieved by others. That’s a three- to five-fold improvement,” adds Iyer (Fig. 2). QuantumSphere also says that its latest work has produced highly favorable results compared to other leading types of rechargeable batteries in terms of Wh/kg.
A PERFECTED AND SAFE PROCESS
The company’s confident prediction about the success of its Li-ion work is not without some proof of encouraging results it has achieved so far. QuantumSphere credits this to its ultra-pure and highly uniform patented manufacturing process for metal and alloy particles of 50 nm in size. The process has already produced zinc-air batteries that are being used by major hearing-aid manufacturers, resulting in a 320% increase in power delivery.
According to QuantumSphere, the technology reduces cost and dramatically improves battery and fuel-cell electrode performance and on-demand hydrogen generation. The company also claims it is the industry’s first process to allow for narrow-sized distributions without the use or production of hazardous chemicals or gases.
“In our experience, other methods for making nano materials to such exacting measurements proved too costly, too labor intensive, too inconsistent, or unsafe,” says Maloney. “The key to our company’s patented process is the ability to make commercial volumes of nano metals and alloys in a fully automated and scalable manner while maintaining size and purity.”
The process is being focused on battery and fuel-cell electrode formulations. This involves incorporating highsurface- area catalysts by using a newly patented gas-diffusion layer that incorporates nano-manganese particles 5 to 30 nm in size. The result is significantly higher power densities relative to commercially available gas-diffusion electrodes employed in metal-air and alkaline batteries that generally use platinum-based catalysts. The nanomanganese base-metal substrate costs less than platinum, with only a slight penalty in performance.