Science Interviews

Interview

Sun, 28th Jun 2009

Bipolar Batteries could be Better

Dr Andrew Loyns, Atraverda

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Driving into the Future

Ben -   So far, weíve heard that electric cars have a great deal of potential but they're held back by their weight, capacity and the expense of their batteries.  So new types of batteries are actually essential to seeing more electric cars on the road.  Dr. Andrew Loyns is the Chief Technology Officer for Atraverda.  A company working with the University of Glamorgan in developing a new type of battery.  Hi, Andrew.  Thanks for joining us.

Andrew -   Good evening, Ben.  How are you?

BatteriesBen -   Very well.  Thank you.  Whatís the problem with existing batteries?  Whatís wrong with them?

Andrew -   One of the problems with batteries generally is that itís always some kind of a trade-off either between the operating performance of those batteries and their actual cost.  Another issue of course is obviously safety.  So the more power that you're trying to condense in a smaller space, although it will give you more energy, it has the potential if it isn't controlled properly to cause issues in terms of safety.

Ben -   I think we saw this a few years ago with laptop batteries which spontaneously combusted.

Andrew -   Indeed.  And obviously, these lithium battery industries working extremely hard to get those issues out in the open and to understand the types of processes that they're having to go through, in order to build the batteries safely.

Ben -   And you're developing what is essentially a new type of battery.  Whatís the difference with your battery compared to the ones weíve heard about already?

Andrew -   Our battery is an advanced battery based on lead-acid chemistry.  So, lead-acid is basically safe.  It is proven.  Itís been around for over 100 years and it is almost 100% recyclable.  So, for every spent battery, you actually create a new battery out of it.  What Atraverda is trying to do is to overcome the issue that people have with lead-acid batteries and that they tend to be bulky and heavy.  So, what weíve done is create whatís known as a bipolar battery and that basically means that we get rid of all the inert heavy lead parts within the battery and put in our proprietary conductive ceramic which act as whatís known as bipole.  So what happens there is you have the negative active mass and the positive active mass of the battery on the same plate.  So itís a far more efficient system.

Ben -   So it could be much more compact.  Lead-acid batteries are what weíre using in cars at the moment, aren't they?  And they are heavy.  They're big chunky things.

Andrew -   Well, absolutely and as you were talking earlier, what you do have there however is a tremendous amount of power and thatís down to the number of lead grids that you have in creating a very high surface area.  So thatís what creates that power that you need in order to crank an engine.

Ben -   And so, whatís the difference really between these mono and bipolar batteries?  Can you get the same power from them?

Andrew -   You certainly can because you have a much shorter current path.  So, the plates within a bipolar battery just like Atraverdaís building are very close whereas in a conventional product, you have quite a torturous path to get all the energy from the power from the bottom of the grids through all of the lead parts and out of the terminals.  So, the potential is certainly there to give you a higher power product.

Ben -   So essentially, you can get a great and more power and great and more capacity for the same volume?

Andrew -   Yes and the principal reason for that is that you're taking a lot of the heavy lead parts out and therefore, you are actually filling the space with more active parts rather than inactive parts simply.

Ben -   And weíve already talked about electric cars today.  Isnít that the sort of place you see these bipolar batteries being put in place?

Andrew -   Yes, it is.  Itís quite interesting actually.  The whole of the energy storage markets and low carbon vehicles is obviously becoming a hot topic.  But itís interesting that lead-acid batteries have been used in electric vehicles for a long, long time.  Now, you did talk earlier on above, go-carts for instance and in Asia, in parts of the world like China and India, whatís known as e-bikes and e-scooters are absolutely booming.  And because of the cost benefits of the lead-acid system, they do generally tend to be lead-acid batteries.  So, those are two areas which we at Atraverda feel that we can really get into.  Simply because we are basing our battery system as I said early on, a proven chemistry, but also can take out some of the heavy lead and therefore, make a smaller, less bulky product.

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