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Carbon Nanotubes to Revolutionize Batteries

Arthur Hanson

Well-known member
A new type of battery technology utilizing carbon nanotubes promises dramatic improvements in power density, lowered charge times and the possibility of replacing lithium with silicon and other materials. It looks like batteries are going to be built in the future using many of the processes and materials used in the semi sector and the making of solar panels. If this works out, it could put batteries on the same speed of performance increases we have seen in the semi sector for a period of time. This would dramatically change how we handle everything that needs power by bringing major disruptions to how energy is integrated into everything. I feel if this technology plays out, the changes to our everyday life could be nearly as great as the semi revolution. It would also be a nail in the coffin for fossil fuels and how our current energy grid is structured and built. I also see large opportunities for companies such as AMAT and other suppliers of materials and equipment for the semi sector. Any comments, thoughts or additions to this are welcome and solicited.

 
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IC Smith

New member
"nail in the coffin" of fossil fuels.
Dracula says: "I vant your power charge". A battery is a useful weight if it's not charged. Worldwide.
 

Portland

Member
It is a big deal. Households and small businesses will always prefer gasoline but freight, corporation, and car rentals electric is the answer. In power generation it's a big deal as well.

It's easier to ride an electric vehicle it's the maintenance that's the issue.
 

IanD

Member
Big claims have been made many times for battery breakthroughs in the past which haven't happened, the company makes lots of noise and slurps up some VC money and then disappears as they hit problems with their wonderful new technology.

Maybe this will be the one that finally succeeds, but let's see if they can actually do what they claim and it can scale to big batteries and mass production and be delivered at a competitive price before getting too excited...
 

Portland

Member
I've rented electric cars from enterprise for $35 a day so it's affordable and it exists.

You question capacity and I personally think that electric will be common in 2-3 years. It's one person's guess.
 

Arthur Hanson

Well-known member
All technologies are advancing at an ever accelerating rate with increasing performance and declining costs and batteries are no exception. There is no telling what we will see in the near future. Just look at literally a hundred plus companies, universities and others exploring new battery technologies. This is a no brainer, advances will continue, just like everything else, even human nature and business structures are changing due to technology and this process is now constantly accelerating. Betting against this trend has been a proven looser.
 

IanD

Member
I'm not betting against the trend, just saying that any enthusiastically reported claims of a "huge breakthrough" (like this one on newatlas) should be treated with caution *until* they prove they can actually deliver. I've seen articles like this gushing about wonderful new batteries regularly for years, and not a single one has come to fruition, instead we've only seen baby steps (but still forwards) for at least the last ten years.

Batteries certainly haven't been rapidly advancing like silicon chip and other technologies, advances in chemistry (which is what batteries are) tend to be slow until some radical new material comes along -- which carbon nanotubes might well be, or not.

It's perfectly possible that sooner or later there *will* be a sudden leap forward in batteries that not only delivers a big step in energy/power density but also doesn't use rare materials and can easily be scaled up to volume, after all this is the "holy grail" of the e-power industry. But so far much has been promised on many occasions and little has been delivered, and there's no proof yet that this one will be any different.

So I'll believe it -- and cheer! -- when I see it ;-)
 

Arthur Hanson

Well-known member
I'm not betting against the trend, just saying that any enthusiastically reported claims of a "huge breakthrough" (like this one on newatlas) should be treated with caution *until* they prove they can actually deliver. I've seen articles like this gushing about wonderful new batteries regularly for years, and not a single one has come to fruition, instead we've only seen baby steps (but still forwards) for at least the last ten years.

Batteries certainly haven't been rapidly advancing like silicon chip and other technologies, advances in chemistry (which is what batteries are) tend to be slow until some radical new material comes along -- which carbon nanotubes might well be, or not.

It's perfectly possible that sooner or later there *will* be a sudden leap forward in batteries that not only delivers a big step in energy/power density but also doesn't use rare materials and can easily be scaled up to volume, after all this is the "holy grail" of the e-power industry. But so far much has been promised on many occasions and little has been delivered, and there's no proof yet that this one will be any different.

So I'll believe it -- and cheer! -- when I see it ;-)

I agree with you that no big break throughs have come to the battery world, just a lot of incremental changes that have reduced costs dramatically and improved performance incrementally, but changes are coming as the amount of resources devoted to research in this area has increased dramatically and advances in the semi sector will spill over into the battery/storage sector. The amount of research in this area has increased dramatically and we should start seeing some interesting results.
 

IanD

Member
I agree with you that no big break throughs have come to the battery world, just a lot of incremental changes that have reduced costs dramatically and improved performance incrementally, but changes are coming as the amount of resources devoted to research in this area has increased dramatically and advances in the semi sector will spill over into the battery/storage sector. The amount of research in this area has increased dramatically and we should start seeing some interesting results.
I don't see how advances in the semi sector will spill over into the battery/storage sector. One is based on cramming more and more function into smaller and smaller pieces of silicon by pushing towards the atomic scale and using expensive advanced materials and equipment, at the inevitable cost of an increase in cost per wafer or mm2 (even if cost per gate still goes down). The other is based on chemistry and needs enormous volumes and lower cost per kWh which means using low-cost materials which exist in huge volumes (natural resources) and manufacturing techniques at massive scale -- we're talking orders of magnitude bigger mass of materials here than all the solar panels made worldwide, which is in turn far bigger than the semiconductor wafer market.

No number of papers or company publicity puffs showing how advanced materials can be used to build fantastic new high energy density batteries are any use for the car/truck market unless there's a credible roadmap for scaling up production to millions of tons per year, which immediately rules out any exotic elements (e.g. rare earths) or materials which take vast amounts of energy or resource to manufacture (e.g. carbon nanotubes).

There will be advances and there may indeed be a battery breakthrough which meets all these requirements (especially the volume/cost one), but there's no sign of one yet in spite of many promises over many years -- if they can't be scaled up enough then no amount of performance improvement will help, except maybe for super-high-value lower-volume markets like planes.

To my mind this makes semiconductor advances irrelevant -- one is making small quantities of more and more expensive stuff using vast amounts of energy where even rare materials are fine, the other needs several orders of magnitude more volume and has to be built using stuff the planet has got loads of. It's like arguing that the production techniques used for Beluga caviar can be applied to the worldwide market for rice...
 

Arthur Hanson

Well-known member
I don't see how advances in the semi sector will spill over into the battery/storage sector. One is based on cramming more and more function into smaller and smaller pieces of silicon by pushing towards the atomic scale and using expensive advanced materials and equipment, at the inevitable cost of an increase in cost per wafer or mm2 (even if cost per gate still goes down). The other is based on chemistry and needs enormous volumes and lower cost per kWh which means using low-cost materials which exist in huge volumes (natural resources) and manufacturing techniques at massive scale -- we're talking orders of magnitude bigger mass of materials here than all the solar panels made worldwide, which is in turn far bigger than the semiconductor wafer market.

No number of papers or company publicity puffs showing how advanced materials can be used to build fantastic new high energy density batteries are any use for the car/truck market unless there's a credible roadmap for scaling up production to millions of tons per year, which immediately rules out any exotic elements (e.g. rare earths) or materials which take vast amounts of energy or resource to manufacture (e.g. carbon nanotubes).

There will be advances and there may indeed be a battery breakthrough which meets all these requirements (especially the volume/cost one), but there's no sign of one yet in spite of many promises over many years -- if they can't be scaled up enough then no amount of performance improvement will help, except maybe for super-high-value lower-volume markets like planes.

To my mind this makes semiconductor advances irrelevant -- one is making small quantities of more and more expensive stuff using vast amounts of energy where even rare materials are fine, the other needs several orders of magnitude more volume and has to be built using stuff the planet has got loads of. It's like arguing that the production techniques used for Beluga caviar can be applied to the worldwide market for rice...
se

It's already happened in solar, that advances in semis have spilled over to solar and the same has already happened in batteries, which have improved dramatically over the last few years. We will continue to see advances in everything from improvements at nanoscale to large scale improvements as we are seeing in solar, batteries, semis, and all other materials and structural technologies. The improvements of the last ten years have been very dramatic and as far as batteries, just look at what just Tesla has done in lowering costs and improving performance. If you don't think semi technology is involved in batteries, solar and many other areas, just look at AMAT and many other companies in the semi sector whose technology is used in a vast array of other areas and companies outside the semi sector whose technologies are now used in the semi sector. All technologies are advancing and most have multiple uses. All this is contributing to the "Great Acceleration" where the pace of advancement is accelerating in everything and I have written about for the last seven or eight years.
 

IanD

Member
se

It's already happened in solar, that advances in semis have spilled over to solar and the same has already happened in batteries, which have improved dramatically over the last few years. We will continue to see advances in everything from improvements at nanoscale to large scale improvements as we are seeing in solar, batteries, semis, and all other materials and structural technologies. The improvements of the last ten years have been very dramatic and as far as batteries, just look at what just Tesla has done in lowering costs and improving performance. If you don't think semi technology is involved in batteries, solar and many other areas, just look at AMAT and many other companies in the semi sector whose technology is used in a vast array of other areas and companies outside the semi sector whose technologies are now used in the semi sector. All technologies are advancing and most have multiple uses. All this is contributing to the "Great Acceleration" where the pace of advancement is accelerating in everything and I have written about for the last seven or eight years.

There have been no significant *technical* advances in either mass-market EV batteries or solar panels for at least 10 years, the ones being used today are pretty much the same as then but prices have plummeted due to economies of scale and mass production -- this is nothing to do with semiconductors any more than the space program.

Power density for batteries and efficiency for panels have improved very slowly (a few percent per year?) due to manufacturing/design refinements but there have been no technical breakthroughs, the simple reason for mass market adoption has been lower cost. Yes there have been lab demos of high-power batteries and high-efficiency panels, for example using 4 layers and rare materials to get 2x the efficiency but at massively higher cost and with no prospect of ever being scaled up.

If you think that semi technology has revolutionised batteries and solar panels (other than in the lab with no possible path to volume use), please provide the evidence ;-)
 

Arthur Hanson

Well-known member
Look at the battery life and capacity of batteries for cell phones. Dramatic increases in power density. life span at lower costs and charge time. This is because the total cost of these small batteries allows more flexibility in design and materials. Mistakes have been made as the infamous Samsung phone batteries that blew up and burst into flames, but significant progress has been made and is in widespread use. EVs are now looking at far better range than when they were introduced at far lower cost. The battery world has had significant advances and will continue. You are right, no quantum leaps, but significant, steady progress.
 

Arthur Hanson

Well-known member
There have been no significant *technical* advances in either mass-market EV batteries or solar panels for at least 10 years, the ones being used today are pretty much the same as then but prices have plummeted due to economies of scale and mass production -- this is nothing to do with semiconductors any more than the space program.

Power density for batteries and efficiency for panels have improved very slowly (a few percent per year?) due to manufacturing/design refinements but there have been no technical breakthroughs, the simple reason for mass market adoption has been lower cost. Yes there have been lab demos of high-power batteries and high-efficiency panels, for example using 4 layers and rare materials to get 2x the efficiency but at massively higher cost and with no prospect of ever being scaled up.

If you think that semi technology has revolutionised batteries and solar panels (other than in the lab with no possible path to volume use), please provide the evidence ;-)

Here is just one more of many advances coming out at an accelerating rate, just like semis

 

IanD

Member
Like I keep saying, little steps forward but certainly not accelerating and still nothing to do with or driven by the same forces as semis, which is what you keep on saying...

The only real big improvements in batteries and solar in the last ten years have been price (dropped by about 10x) and production volumes (increased by about 20x). BEV battery energy capacity and solar panel efficiency have gone up slowly (<5% per year) due to gradual improvements in manufacturing, but the chemistries are basically unchanged (Li-ion and silicon) so this isn't a surprise -- both are now about 1.5x better than 10 years ago. And there's no evidence that this rate is increasing, if anything it's slowing down as manufacturers run out of tweaks they can do and get closer to the fundamental limits of the technology being used.

The only thing that will change this (as opposed to cost) is if the fundamental technology changes, but nothing has come along yet for batteries or solar which is much better but also scaleable and low cost.

Over the same 10 years semis driven by radical process changes like multi-patterning/FinFETs/EUV have increased gate density about 30x (doubling every 2 years, thank you Mr. Moore) and cost per gate by more than 10x, and there's no sign yet of this density increase slowing down (though power saving per node is dropping and NRE/wafer costs are going up).

So 1.5x improvement in batteries (and solar) and the reasons behind it doesn't really have anything in common with 30x improvement for semis, the only thing they have in common is an order of magnitude reduction in cost...
 
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Arthur Hanson

Well-known member
Like I keep saying, little steps forward but certainly not accelerating and still nothing to do with or driven by the same forces as semis, which is what you keep on saying...

The only real big improvements in batteries and solar in the last ten years have been price (dropped by about 10x) and production volumes (increased by about 20x). BEV battery energy capacity and solar panel efficiency have gone up slowly (<5% per year) due to gradual improvements in manufacturing, but the chemistries are basically unchanged (Li-ion and silicon) so this isn't a surprise -- both are now about 1.5x better than 10 years ago. And there's no evidence that this rate is increasing, if anything it's slowing down as manufacturers run out of tweaks they can do and get closer to the fundamental limits of the technology being used.

The only thing that will change this (as opposed to cost) is if the fundamental technology changes, but nothing has come along yet for batteries or solar which is much better but also scaleable and low cost.

Over the same 10 years semis driven by radical process changes like multi-patterning/FinFETs/EUV have increased gate density about 30x (doubling every 2 years, thank you Mr. Moore) and cost per gate by more than 10x, and there's no sign yet of this density increase slowing down (though power saving per node is dropping and NRE/wafer costs are going up).

So 1.5x improvement in batteries (and solar) and the reasons behind it doesn't really have anything in common with 30x improvement for semis, the only thing they have in common is an order of magnitude reduction in cost...

The lifespan of batteries has increased many times, but performance has lagged, costs are coming down, the chemistry will always limit the performance increases, but everything else can improve by factors, you are dead on, on that.
 
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