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Advancing Lead-Acid Battery technology

Harry Valentine's picture
Commentator/Researcher Chatila/Menoz

Harry Valentine holds a degree in engineering and has a background in free-market economics. He has undertaken extensive research into the field of transportation energy over a period of 20-years...

  • Member since 2005
  • 258 items added with 131,300 views
  • Jul 14, 2021

The development of the classical lead-acid battery dates back over 160-years. During the very early years of the 20th century, battery-powered cars and delivery vans were popular in cities. The technology remained essentially unchanged over a period of decades with sulphuric acid held in an insulated container of bake-lite, ceramic and later plastic along with plates of lead and lead-oxide. During both world wars, submarines used battery power to travel while submerged.


Lead-acid batteries incur reduced service life when repeated operated in deep-discharge cycles, with 300-cycles being typical and inability to recharge after being fully discharged to zero. Partial discharge operation greatly extends usable service life. Cold temperature reduces performance with 20% of power available at minus 25 deg C (-13 deg F) as compared to plus 25 deg C (77 deg F). Repeated operation at temperatures above 50 deg C (120 deg F) reduces service life.


On innovation dating back to the late 1970’s involved adding silicon dioxide to the sulphuric acid to improve both battery performance at both freezing and elevated temperatures, except that both voltage and energy storage capacity were initially too low to assure viability. Later research resolved both problems and modern lead silicon dioxide batteries contain 5% sulphuric acid and 95% silicon dioxide while offering competitive voltage levels, competitive energy density storage levels. Some 60% of power is available at minus 40 deg C ( also minus 40 deg F) with upper operating temperature at 65 deg C (150 deg F) and many times the service cycles of traditional lead acid batteries.


During a later period, development to increase the performance of lead acid batteries involves introducing glass mats (A.G.M batteries) between plates of lead and lead oxide, even passing silica fumes through the sulphuric acid to form a gel. A subsequent advance involved winding the plates if lead, lead oxide and absorbed glass mat (A.G.M) into spiral cells to increase storage density and partial discharge service life in vibration prone environments.


In a totally unrelated field, researchers seeking to address the problem of carbon deposits of valves of diesel engines experimented with a variety of commercially available solvents and acids, including sulphuric acid to which the carbon deposits were immune. Instead of softening the carbon deposits, the application of an electrical charge revealed that the carbon deposits mimicked the responses of lead in a lead acid battery. The discovery lead to the development of the carbon foam battery, where blocks of carbon replace plates of lead in lead acid batteries. An absence of sulphur deposits on battery plates and porous carbon material greatly increases battery service life and energy storage density.


Carbon foam battery technology and silicon dioxide battery technology are proprietary technologies of competing companies. There may be scope to combine both technologies into a single battery that offers the combination of superior cold weather performance, greater energy storage density and extended usable service life expectancy. Future research may achieve the ability to build the carbon foam into a spiral structure to further increase energy storage density. Such batteries may be applied to short-distance vehicle propulsion in northern regions that experience severe cold winter temperatures


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