If companies want to capitalize on the future of clean energy, they’re going to have to get at least one foot in the door when it comes to storing that energy. A company who has a little more than a foot in the door is Tesla. It has been in their interest to invest in lithium-ion battery technology because the Tesla business relies on it: electric vehicles and solar storage for homes and businesses. They have made strides in growing their batteries’ lifetimes thanks to a seasoned battery researcher named Jeff Dahn.
Dahn has been working for Tesla for over a year now and has professed that the batteries tested in Tesla’s labs have achieved double the lifetime of Tesla’s previous cells. He signed on with Tesla in June 2015, for a five-year tenure, during which time he is working with researchers on making Tesla’s lithium-ion technology the envy of the industry.
Credit: Dalhousie University
The progress they have made is thanks to the discovery of a variation of an aluminium coating on the cells that “outperformed” other materials. Dahn is now traveling to prestigious universities, one being the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to showcase the new cells to students. The cells, according to Electrek, “showed barely any degradation under high numbers of cycles at moderate temperature and only little degradation even in difficult conditions.”
At MIT, Dahn recapped the events pertaining to the project of developing energy-dense batteries for Tesla and how they had made their most recent discovery. He said:
“In the description of the project that we sent to NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) to get matching funds from the government for the project, I wrote down the goal of doubling the lifetime of cells used in the Tesla products at the same upper cutoff voltage. We exceeded that in round one. OK? So that was the goal of the project and it has already been exceeded. We are not going to stop - obviously - we have another four years to go. We are going to go as far as we can.”
The Manganese Nickel Cobalt batteries that Dahn is specializing in are specifically for Tesla’s home-based Powerwalls and the utility-scale Powerpacks that are available to businesses. He says that there is no reason why the batteries cannot last for 20 years.
Naturally, Dahn is being tight-lipped on the progress they are making and is not giving too much away in terms of the chemistry behind their discoveries.
However, more will be made clear as Dahn and his team of researchers continue to grow the energy density of Tesla’s cells.
Dahn has said that he is in the business of building more efficient batteries because the planet needs an alternative to fossil fuels. In an interview with his university’s website he said:
“We can’t just keep burning fossil fuels; we’re going to heat the planet into death. And if you want to continue to have land that is not submerged, you have to do something about it.”
Lambert, Fred, and John Fitzgerald Weaver. "Fred Lambert." Electrek. 10 May 2017. Web. 11 May 2017.
McNutt, Ryan. "Supercharged Success: Battery Researcher Jeff Dahn Wins Herzberg Gold Medal." Dalhousie News. 07 Feb. 2017. Web. 11 May 2017.