Is lead dead? I think not.
There have been rumblings. I wouldn’t doubt that there may be an announcement coming this week… but I got to digging around to see what has been done lately with 150-year-old lead-acid battery technology.
The first thing you find is the FireFly company, which went belly-up in March 2010, looks like they got acquired, and may still have life in them, but they made a battery that used a suspension of lead in a graphite sponge. If you’re interested, take a look at this Gas2.0 story on the intrigue and drama that goes along with refining decades-old technology. …but until I hear more, it looks like FireFly is just another flash in the pan. Cute little battery, though.
What really seems like the mother lode is a company called Atraverda, and their development of the Bipolar VRLA battery, using a material they developed called Ebonex Electrically Conductive Ceramic Powder. Quoting the story from 2009 on New Energy and Fuel, we have claims of :
* More power, with higher specific energy the watt-hours per mass or weight and higher energy density, which is watt-hours per volume.
* Smaller, some 40% less volume or 60% the size of a regular lead acid battery.
* 30% less weight or 70% the mass of regular lead acid batteries.
* The cycle life is doubled.
* Half as much lead is needed and other materials are also reduced.
* Production is easily repeatable in mass unit volume and would go to scale with little new investment … existing production facilities can increase output from the same basic production equipment.
About the Ebonex Electrically Conductive Ceramic Powder, from Atraverda:
“This advanced ceramic material enables higher performing advanced batteries, new water treatment techniques, and longer-lasting, reinforced concrete structures. Ebonex substrates allow customers to more easily develop new markets and applications based on electrically conductive ceramics.”
“Bipolar VRLA batteries replace the stack of multiple layers of separators, lead grids and electrode paste materials used in conventional designs with a single layer of conductive material, the Ebonex® Bipole Element, which serves as both the support structure and divider for the positive and negative electrode paste material. The use of individual plastic compartments for cells, straps and complex inter-cell connection schemes is also eliminated.
Each Ebonex® Bipole Element, when assembled with electrode paste material, forms a 2 volt cell. Through a dramatic reduction in the number of components and amount of raw material used in the battery, weight and size are reduced, overall energy densities are improved and low cost is maintained. “
Here are some links to their site, with technical information:
Now, I hear the comments already… just another company with a vaporware product looking for investors. Although that’s possible for the battery technology, the ceramic material clearly has seen some commercial applications. Take a look at this site, Vector Corrosion Technologies, and their list of applications (non-battery related) that use this material, primarily based on Ebonex-based anodes. They have what seems like a good formula… and it’s not hinging on one product market.
We just have to wait and see. It’s hard to believe that lead has no room for improvement, and there certainly are aspects of manufacturing a battery from lead that are more attractive than lithium, not to mention performance advantages. I’ll be updating this, hopefully in a few days. Stay tuned!