Advances in Battery Development

The history of the battery industry can be succinctly boiled down to the following:  we have been seeking to increase capacity, develop longer lifecycles, generate zero emissions, source low-cost raw materials, develop enhanced safety techniques, and of course to design and manage high energy density power packs that reduces the size and weight of all other batteries before.

If you are a electrochemical engineer then the above scenario would be your nirvana.

But what advances are being researched and what can consumers expect in terms of the commercialization? We are familiar with the SCiB and Lithium Air batteries but are there other developments? Let’s look at a few of the recently researched and tested including: NAS and ZEBRA.


In August 2008, Presidio, Texas began installing a backup power source for the city. The backup source is an $8 million dollar NAS battery located on the outskirts of the city. NAS gets its name from Na for sodium and S for sulphur.  This power supply provides the city 4 mega watts of storage to provide temporary backup power, operational power to run the city for approximately 6-8 hours. A sodium sulfur battery is a type of molten metal constructed from sodium (Na) and sulfur (S). This type of construction has a high energy density, high efficiency of charge/discharge (89–92%) and long cycle life, and is fabricated from inexpensive materials. However, operating temperatures reach in excess of 300 degrees Celsius and the sodium polysulfides are highly corrosive, thus an NAS is only suitable for large-scale non-mobile applications like the one in Presidio.


The ZEBRA battery gets its name from the Zeolite Battery Research Africa Project (ZEBRA) group that began developing it in 1985. It’s technical name is Na-NiCl2. The ZEBRA battery is also known as the Zero Emission Battery Research Activities. What makes the ZEBRA so attractive is the specific energy and power it can store (90 Wh/kg and 150 W/kg).  The other aspects to the ZEBRA that makes it attractive is that the primary elements used Na, Cl and Al have much higher worldwide reserves and annual production than the Li used in Li-ion batteries. Also the ZEBRA has lifecycles of over 1500 cycles and five years have been demonstrated with full-sized batteries. Vehicles powered by ZEBRA batteries have covered over 1 million miles.

There are other promising technologies being developed for a wide array of power source applications including military, space, energy, and mobility. It will be interesting to see just what the next nirvana battery will be but one thing is for certain: it will have increased capacity, a longer lifecycle, zero emissions, low-cost raw materials, enhanced safety techniques, and a high energy density.

Until next time, Dan Hagopian –
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