Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Energy News  




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



ENERGY TECH
NASA Research Helps Take Silver-Zinc Batteries from Idea to the Shelf
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Dec 02, 2016


ZPower rechargeable silver-zinc hearing aid batteries fit into a specialized door that can be retrofitted onto most existing hearing aids. The door carries a charge from the charger to the battery, eliminating the chore of removing and inserting the batteries. Image courtesy ZPower. For a larger version of this image please go here.

We often imagine that inventions are born whole: a eureka moment that changes history. But that's rarely how it happens. One technology that exemplifies the long, hard slog of creation is the silver-zinc battery, more than two centuries in the making. Today, the battery, which offers more energy per ounce than any other battery couple, is finally making inroads in the consumer market as a rechargeable hearing aid battery - with potential for much more.

Its story, featured in the latest issue of NASA's Spinoff publication, to be released on Dec. 5, has been marked by incremental progress, dead ends, and the occasional breakthrough - including a crucial one at NASA's Glenn Research Center, then known as Lewis Research Center.

The biggest challenge for silver-zinc batteries was that their electrodes - the cell's negative and positive electrical conductors - were soluble and deteriorated quickly. The answer to this challenge, developed first in the late 1920s by professor Henri Andre and then advanced by the U.S. military in World War II, was a membrane to separate the two electrodes.

The military still deploys these single-use batteries to power submarines, torpedoes and other devices, and in its early days, NASA used them too.

But the space agency really wanted a rechargeable version - and there, electrode deterioration remained a problem. By the time the battery had been drained and recharged just a few times, its performance would drop significantly. And the problem got worse if the battery was heat-sterilized, a requirement to ensure rovers and spacecraft don't carry microbes to other planets.

Apollo-Era Advances
During the 1960s, researchers across NASA worked to resolve these challenges, making only minor improvements. However, outside NASA, the Astropower Laboratory of Douglas Aircraft Company had come up with an experimental cell using a novel, inorganic ceramic separator, which showed promise. The agency teamed up with the lab to advance the technology, and by 1972 NASA had tested and proven a battery that could be recharged shallowly, even after heat sterilization, some 400 to 500 times.

It was a huge improvement, but well below the 10,000-cycle life of the nickel-cadmium batteries commonly used in space applications of the time.

On the other hand, the silver-zinc batteries were one-third the size and provided a substantial weight savings, which was enough to keep NASA on the trail. Throughout the 1970s, NASA helped develop chemistries with better performance and a new method to manufacture the batteries cheaply and efficiently. However, the rechargeable battery lasted longest if it was only drained a little bit - deeper discharge-recharge cycles caused it to fail more quickly. As a result, NASA has not made heavy use of the technology.

But silver-zinc batteries continue to have potential advantages, even over lithium-ion batteries, that make them attractive for commercial markets, especially when the batteries need to be tiny.

For one thing, lithium-ion batteries are prone to a phenomenon known as thermal runaway, which in rare but disastrous cases causes them to catch fire. This is not a possibility with silver-zinc batteries, which use a water-based chemistry. Lithium-ion batteries also require more packaging and other components that take up a larger percentage of their space the smaller they get, so it's a less efficient technology for small spaces.

A New Market
Traditional hearing aids run on disposable batteries, usually zinc-air based. As a result, hearing aid users have to replace their batteries every week or so. Changing the small batteries is no easy task, especially for the seniors who are their primary users. And to conserve battery life, users will often turn off the hearing aids for stretches of time, inevitably leaving them without hearing at inconvenient moments.

"Can you think of any other high-end electronic device where you've got to do that?" asks Ross Dueber, president of ZPower, a Camarillo, California-based company founded with the goal of selling rechargeable silver-zinc batteries commercially. "It's just unfathomable in this day and age."

Using NASA's publicly available research as a jumping off point, ZPower began in the 1990s to develop silver-zinc batteries that could last through more and deeper recharge cycles.

"What we've done at ZPower is take that chemistry that NASA did a lot of development on, along with the military, and moved it into the commercial sector," Dueber says.

The company has improved all four active components of the battery: the two electrodes, the electrolyte and the separators, earning some 100 new patents. The batteries can now survive up to 1,000 discharge cycles without losing significant capacity.

The company launched its rechargeable hearing aid battery in 2013, and expects to expand into other markets as well.

"With a new focus on wearables, people are looking more and more at small, high-energy batteries," Dueber says. "We really view this as an enabler for new product designs going forward."


Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
NASA Spinoff
Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com






Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
ENERGY TECH
Glow-in-the-dark dye could fuel liquid-based batteries
Buffalo NY (SPX) Nov 21, 2016
Could a glow-in-the-dark dye be the next advancement in energy storage technology? Scientists at the University at Buffalo think so. They have identified a fluorescent dye called BODIPY as an ideal material for stockpiling energy in rechargeable, liquid-based batteries that could one day power cars and homes. BODIPY - short for boron-dipyrromethene - shines brightly in the dark under a bla ... read more


ENERGY TECH
China power plant collapse kills at least 22: Xinhua

Climate: Four nations map course to carbon-free economies

Study: LED lights draw fewer insects

Shifting focus leaves mixed bag for German utility RWE

ENERGY TECH
The fusion reactor that employs a liquid metal shower

Physicists spell 'AV' by manipulating Abrikosov vortices

Hydrogen in your pocket? New plastic for carrying and storing hydrogen

Glow-in-the-dark dye could fuel liquid-based batteries

ENERGY TECH
Owl-inspired wing design reduces wind turbine noise by 10 decibels

DONG Energy sets wind energy sights on Taiwan

Interior set to rule on future of BLM's Renewable Energy Program

Microsoft Corp. taps deeper into wind power

ENERGY TECH
EU unveils plans to boost 'clean energy' use

New fabrication technique leads to broader sunlight absorption in plastic solar cells

Sun setting on Japan's solar energy boom

Tesla microgrid powers entire island with solar in American Samoa

ENERGY TECH
'Diamond-age' of power generation as nuclear batteries developed

Nuclear energy: who's advancing and who's retreating

Swiss reject speedy nuclear phaseout

Breakthrough offers greater understanding of safe radioactive waste disposal

ENERGY TECH
Investing in the 'bioeconomy' could create jobs and reduce carbon emissions

Argonne researchers study how reflectivity of biofuel crops impacts climate

UNIST researchers turn waste gas into road-ready diesel fuel

NextCoal to produce bio-coal for export to Japan, bio-oil for domestic use

ENERGY TECH
China launches 4th data relay satellite

Material and plant samples retrieved from space experiments

Chinese astronauts return to earth after longest mission

China completes longest manned space mission yet

ENERGY TECH
World mayors gather to plot Trump-era climate plan

How did the Sahara Desert get so dry?

Climate model predictions are telling a consistent story

Huge reduction in African dust plume impacted climate 11,000 years ago




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement