The Future of Battery Technology

November 18, 2022
Autonomous drone at sunset demonstrating the future of battery technology led by Amprius.

What are the benefits of battery technology?

Today’s battery technology is increasingly energy dense, especially when using lithium-ion batteries. The more energy density a battery is, the longer it can remain active, emitting a charge, in relation to its size.  These batteries offer high voltage, low maintenance requirements, and no ‘memory effect’ (where batteries hold less charge over time) which can impact battery capacity. The more battery technology improves, the greater the benefits to industry and consumers alike.

What industries currently benefit from this technology?

Lithium-ion batteries are some of the most popular batteries on the market today, replacing lead acid batteries in many settings. The battery powering your phone, for example, is likely lithium-ion, as is the battery in your laptop or tablet. Lithium-ion batteries are used in electrical systems, aviation, vehicle manufacturing including autonomous vehicles, and wearables.

How is battery tech development vital for these industries?

The need for lighter, more powerful batteries is shared amongst the energy industry, aviation, vehicle manufacturing, wearables and numerous other industries. As batteries grow smaller, with more energy density packed into each cell, there are greater opportunities for each industry to advance. For example, a wearable can stay in action longer without needing to be recharged, while a drone, electric airplane, or autonomous vehicle can travel further.

What impact does it have on our lives?

Battery technology improvements can impact our lives in positive ways, large and small. It’s easy to overlook the convenience of having small, powerful batteries in our devices, but can you imagine carrying around a phone with a clunky five-pound battery that requires recharging every hour? Smartwatches, fitness trackers, headphones, tablets, laptops – these are all powered by battery technology that allows for greater portability and longer use time.

We might notice the impact of battery technology in a greater way when we look at the transportation and energy industries. As technology improves, energy storage costs decline and options like electric vehicles and solar-powered energy become more affordable to the average consumer. Today’s electric vehicles can travel further for less than previous iterations, and better yet, they are no longer something that only the wealthiest can afford.

Finally, we all benefit from the impact of batteries on clean energy. Reducing fossil fuel reliance and carbon emissions is critical to preserving our climate and environment.

Why is battery tech important for a clean energy future?

Utility-scale batteries are transforming the energy sector, allowing for the storage of energy to smooth out oversupply and shortages in renewable energy. When solar plants or wind farms generate a lot of energy on a good day, high-quality batteries can store that energy for times when it cannot be actively generated as easily. The more battery storage we have for clean energy, the less reliant we are on conventional energy methods that kick in when demand is high.

What types of batteries besides lithium batteries are currently on the market today?

Alternative battery technology centers largely on zinc carbon and alkaline.

Zinc carbon batteries are generally low cost and come in a variety of sizes. You will typically find them in applications such as radios, toys and instruments. Alkaline batteries are very popular as well, with a moderate cost and generally high performance. There are also magnesium batteries, mercury batteries, and silver-zinc batteries, all of which are less common but used in settings such as medical devices and cameras.

What are the current emerging technologies?

Significant work is focused on developing the anode of existing lithium-ion batteries. The anode is an aspect of the battery that can be quite bulky and heavy. Adjusting the anode could offer opportunities for smaller, more powerful batteries with greater energy density.

What lithium ion batteries exist on the market today?

Amprius’ silicon anode lithium-ion batteries are a good example of such advanced technology at work. Using the silicon nanowire anode platform, our commercially available batteries offer many benefits over traditional graphite anode batteries, including improved energy density, fast charging rate and increased range.

What is Amprius’ role in battery development?

There is surging demand for batteries and enhanced battery technology. We are a leading manufacturer of ultra-high-energy, high-capacity silicon anode lithium-ion batteries. We are constantly working on R&D. Our focus is on silicon nanowire anodes and cells, and we aim to develop scalable production and a unique anode manufacturing process to bring our batteries to the broader UAV and HAPS market.

Our work builds on research from Stanford University, and we aren’t done advancing technology any time soon! We are always looking at new ways to improve both battery technology and the anode manufacturing processes involved for improved performance and quality, so our industry partners can use them in new applications and markets that might not exist without Amprius’ innovations.

What improvements are involved in the latest development?

Amprius uses silicon anode nanowires to overcome swelling and cracking, a common problem with silicon anodes, and is a better option than graphite anodes. Our batteries offer many benefits, as outlined below.

Improved energy density

Today’s modern batteries have made great strides in energy density, a trend we expect to continue in future battery development. Such batteries are capable of holding more energy than their earlier counterparts like nickel-cadmium batteries. Our silicon nanowire batteries boast a high content of active silicon material, at 100 percent (actual percentage of silicon is 99.5-99.9%, which is within the range of acceptable purity levels for materials that are considered 100%).

Silicon is one of the best materials for energy density, and using silicon for nanowires means that there is nothing to block the flow of current. Our nanowire batteries offer a high ratio of energy to power.

Why is energy density important?

A battery with higher energy density can remain active longer in relation to its size. A phone battery has high energy density, which is what ensures the battery is small and lightweight, but is still able to power your device. With energy-dense batteries, one can fit more, and better, batteries into smaller spaces and pack a lot of energy in.

As you can see from this chart below, Amprius’ silicon anode battery offers more flight time, talk time, mission time, and/or driving range. It’s all thanks to high energy density!

Chart showing the present and future evolution of battery technology and performance

Longer lifespan

By using silicon nanowires, Amprius’ batteries overcome cell life issues that previous attempts at silicon anodes suffered from. Instead of cracking and swelling like a conventional silicon anode is prone to do, Amprius’ silicon anode nanowires tolerate conditions well, while storing more lithium than graphite can. The end result is a battery with a long, useful lifespan, demonstrated in real-world use with multiple organizations and aerospace companies.

Improved safety

A cracking, swelling battery anode is, of course, a safety concern. Physical damage can cause a thermal runaway, pressurizing the battery cell casing. Results can be anything from a smoking battery to a full explosion. Amprius’ batteries do not face the same swelling and cracking issues, thanks to the nanowire technology that stabilizes the anode.

Fully charged batteries in less time

Amprius’ nanowire anodes are thinner and lighter than conventional graphite anodes, and the straight path of our nanowires facilitates high electric and ionic conductivity, enabling high power and fast charging.

Reduced levelized cost of energy

Levelized cost of energy is the cost of power produced by renewable energy, over the lifetime of the system. The lower the levelized cost of energy, the better the system is. To calculate the levelized cost of energy, add the capital expenditure (your initial investment), and operating expenditure together then divide that sum by the yield, or the energy your system harvests.

The cost of battery energy storage is trending downward and has been for quite some time, creating a lower levelized cost of energy. The capital cost of a battery system, and its operating costs, are reduced while the yield improves with higher energy density.

Overall cost of lithium-ion batteries

The overall cost of lithium-ion batteries continues to drop, which is a good sign for electric vehicles according to Bloomberg. Improvements in technology, including adopting low-cost lithium-ion phosphate for cathodes, is driving the decline in overall cost.

While the battery industry is not immune to supply chain issues, Bloomberg predicts that battery costs will continue to reduce into 2024, at which point automakers can produce and sell mass-market electric vehicles at the same price point as internal combustion vehicles in certain markets.