Lithium Will Dominate Energy Storage Like Silicon Dominated Computer Chips

Mark Twain said history does not repeat but it often rhymes. This will likely be the case with the future of lithium-based battery storage having a dominance like silicon was dominant for decades for computer chips. The silicon chip was invented in 1961 by Robert Noyce (Fairchild, Intel) and Jack Kilby (Texas Instruments).

Silicon is still the main material for computer chips although there have been many elements and changes to enhance performance. There were many times where it was believed that materials used for computer chips would change. There have been various challenger technologies: Magnetic bubble memory, carbon nanotubes, germanium, gallium arsenide and many others.

Many have claimed that Lithium-ion batteries will get replaced with solid-state batteries, zinc batteries, sodium-sulfur and other battery technologies. There are a hundred or more battery types that could potentially become the main type of battery.

Countering all of the potential materials and types of batteries are major innovations that will keep lithium as central to energy storage.

Changing the battery anode can double the energy density and reduce the cost of lithium batteries. A silicon anode instead of graphite can greatly increase the energy density.

Tesla is developing the Maxwell Technologies dry cell technology for lithium-ion batteries. This could reach 500-watt hours per kilogram of energy density.

Lithium Sulfur batteries can theoretically reach 2600 watt-hours per kilogram and costs in the $20 per kilowatt-hour range. The best lithium-sulfur batteries that are near commercialization have 500 watt-hours per kilogram.

Tesla and legendary battery researcher Jeff Dahn are making progress to lithium metal batteries.

Lithium air batteries could increase energy density by ten times.

The Rocky Mountain Institute surveyed potential battery technologies.

The lithium metal polymer version of lithium-ion batteries could reach $30 per kilowatt-hour costs. Currently Tesla and CATL have lithium-ion or lithium iron phosphate batteries at $80-100 per kilowatt-hour costs.

If the advanced forms of other battery technologies only have a 50% advantage in cost and energy density then the dominant lithium-based battery technology will get further cost and energy density innovations that will negate justification for switching the base technology.

Lithium-ion and lithium-based technologies that are highly compatible with the existing factories and supply chains will have tens of billions of dollars in research.

Any new technology that will displace lithium-ion and its variants will need to find a highly lucrative niche in order to get the continuous funding and development effort to overtake lithium-ion in order to overturn an industry.

It is also clear that batteries will improve by 5-20 times in costs and 5-10 times or more in energy density over the next 10-25 years.

There could be even larger improvements if nanotechnology-based fabrication arrives. Having fractal designs for battery anodes and cathodes could reduce charging and discharges times for batteries to ultracapacitor levels.

SOURCES- Science direct, Electrek, Tesla, Rocky Mountain Institute, Evonix, Wikipedia
Written by Brian Wang,