Part 2 of the poll that the Technology First team at element14 is inviting your nominations for the most influencial technologies and products for 2013. This is list for all of us to build together, we have some ideas here for starters. Please join in to discuss the entries below or to submit yours.

 

You may also be interested in reading Part 1 - Game Changers of Tomorrow and 2 more sleeps till we reveal Part 3 - Catalysts for change (Edit:link added) as part of this series.

 

Trend: Electric vehicles on the road

The Future belongs to electric vehicles - electrified mobility is currently given first priority in the US, Japan, China, Korea and EU! Latest technological advancements related to clean, efficient power conversion for all types of electrified transportation for air, land and water  would allow to reduce the dependency on conventional fuel sources.

 

4.  Keeping electric vehicle batteries cool

 

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Cryosolplus - a disperson that can absorb three times as much heat as water, and offer a future option to prevent batteries from overheating. Source: Fraunhofer UMSICHT

 

Heat can damage the batteries of electric vehicles – even just driving fast on the freeway in summer temperatures can overheat the battery. An innovative new coolant conducts heat away from the battery three times more effectively than water, keeping the battery temperature within an acceptable range even in extreme driving situations.

Batteries provide the “fuel” that drives electric cars – in effect, the vehicles’ lifeblood. If batteries are to have a long service life, overheating must be avoided. A battery’s “comfort zone” lies between 20°C and 35°C. But even a Sunday drive in the midday heat of summer can push a battery’s temperature well beyond that range. The damage caused can be serious: operating a battery at a temperature of 45°C instead of 35°C halves its service life. And batteries are expensive – a new one can cost as much as half the price of the entire vehicle. That is why it is so important to keep them cool. Thus far, conventional cooling systems have not reached their full potential: air cooling can absorb only very little heat and is also a poor conductor requiring big spaces between the battery’s cells. The thermal capacity of water-cooling systems exceeds that of air-cooling but there is a limited supply of water in the system

In future, another option will be available for keeping batteries cool – a coolant by the name of CryoSolplus. It is a dispersion that mixes water and paraffin along with stabilizing tensides and a dash of the anti-freeze agent glycol. The advantage is that CryoSolplus can absorb three times as much heat as water, and functions better as a buffer in extreme situations such as trips on the freeway at the height of summer. This means that the holding tank for the coolant can be much smaller than those of watercooling systems – saving both weight and space under the hood. The coolant was developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen.

As CryoSolplus absorbs heat, the solid paraffin droplets within it melt, storing the heat in the process. When the solution cools, the droplets revert to their solid form. Scientists call such substances phase change materials or PCMs. “The main problem we had to overcome during development was to make the dispersion stable,” explains Dipl.-Ing. Tobias Kappels, a scientist at UMSICHT. The individual solid droplets of paraffin had to be prevented from agglomerating or – as they are lighter than water – collecting on the surface of the dispersion. They need to be evenly distributed throughout the water. Other properties of the dispersion that the researchers are optimizing include its heat capacity, its ability to transfer heat and its flow capability. The scientists’ next task will be to carry out field tests, trying out the coolant in an experimental vehicle. We will watch this space in 2013!


5. LEDs – changing design for life. Towards greener transport


LEDs: a lighting revolution… Lighting is rarely mentioned when the subject of fuel savings in new automotive vehicles arises. Two 60W halogen bulbs powered by an alternator, which takes mechanical energy from the engine, increase the vehicle’s fuel requirement. In addition to requiring very little energy, LEDs have a lifespan equal to that of the vehicle itself, or four times as long as traditional halogen bulbs. They provide whiter light, which is more comfortable for human eyes, being closer to daylight, and offer increased styling possibilities for vehicles, both by day and by night, with a unique and innovative visual appearance.

 

An LED unit of just 20W can replace a 60W halogen low beam, for an equivalent amount of light. By 2015 a new development will cut this figure to a mere 15W. If this unit is used just 20% of the time, it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 0.66g/km in mixed driving cycles. Similarly, a vehicle using LEDs for all lighting functions (DRL, low beams, turn signals, positions lamps and brake lights) would save around 3g of carbon dioxide per kilometre.

 

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Not just bright pretty lights - new LED Lighting help reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions as featured in the Nissan Leaf's low beam visibility system. Source: Valeo.

 

Advantages for the carmaker

  • 0.66g/km cut in carbon dioxide emissions.
  • No need to change the bulb during car life; LEDs last at least as long as the vehicle.
  • Increased styling possibilities for the vehicle, both by day and by night, enabling a signature look to be created for a brand or model.
  • Modulated energy requirement according to need for light intensity.
  • Bending Light Systems without mechanical movement: lighting in bends, junctions, city driving, range, etc.

 

Advantages for the user

  • Reduced fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Improved visual comfort, with light closer to daylight than that provided by halogen bulbs.
  • Lifespan as long as that of the vehicle.
  • Innovative styling and image.

 

6. More energy – less cost


A completely new approach to battery architecture and materials at the Institute for Nanotechnology in Karlsruhe (KIT) should considerably increase the driving range of electric cars in the long term.

Completely new iron/carbon materials will store a lot more energy in a small space. However, the materials that have been described to date are not cyclically stable and the storage capacity decreases rapidly after several charging cycles. In the new approach to synthesizing iron/carbon storage materials different starting materials are mixed with a lithium salt and are then heated together. Nano-scale storage units and conduction paths are created almost in one step. The specific capacity of the new material is already double that of current batteries. The manufacturing process is simple and inexpensive and the high capacity of the iron/carbon electrode remains intact for a long time. The aim is to improve the storage density of lithium ion batteries by a factor of five.


 

From the same institute as above comes a completely new battery concept without lithium. Based on a fluoride shuttle – the transfer of fluoride anions between the electrodes – it may be possible to increase storage capacity many times over. Metal fluorides can be used as conversion materials in lithium ion batteries. But they also enable lithium-free batteries with fluoride-based electrolytes, metal anodes and metal fluoride cathodes. The fluoride anion transfers the charge instead of the lithium cation. A metal fluoride is formed or reduced on the cathode and anode. Since several electrons are transferred for each metal atom, this concept allows extraordinarily high energy densities – up to ten times that of current lithium ion batteries. 

 

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Structure of a fluoride ion battery proposed by KIT: An electrolyte containing fluoride separates the metal anode and the metal fluoride cathode. Source:KIT

 

 

However, the initial capacity and cyclical stability still require some more development. The charge capacity decreases by half after just a few charging cycles. In addition, the solid electrolyte currently used is only suitable for high temperature applications. The prototype of the metal fluoride battery is still working at about 150 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the aim is to find a suitable liquid electrolyte that works at room temperature.

No "miracle battery" is really in sight, even if it sounds like there is from some quarters. The battery is and will remain the weak point for the foreseeable future but one with great potential to change it.

 


Submit your suggestions or discuss the above ones. Part 3 coming soon (edit: is now live)! If you have suggestions for the categories of game changers of tomorrow and change catalysts, please drop in your comments and we would love to include them!