ReVolt Technologies LLC, a Swiss battery company founded in 2004 as a spin-off of SINTEF, Norway, is moving its headquarters to Portland, Oregon. Initially targeting the consumer electronics market with their zinc/air battery (compare to the lithium/air batteries IBM is researching – see “Big Blue and Blue Sky Thinking” October 25, 2009) in a grant request to the U. S. Department of Energy for $30 million for research on making large format versions of the battery for vehicles. The company has an alliance with chemical giant BASF.
ReVolt claims the following advantages over lithium batteries:
- A theoretical potential of up to 4 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries at a comparable or lower production cost.
- Extended battery life due to stable reaction zone, low rates of dry-out and flooding, and no pressure build-up problems.
- Controlled deposition with no short-circuit, high mechanical stability.
- No need for bulky peripherals such as cooling fans or temperature control systems.
Generally seen as primary batteries in hearing aids and medical devices, zinc/air batteries are not normally recharchable because the zinc forms dendrites that penetrate the battery separators and short circuit the battery. The battery itself dries out, and oxygen formation deforms the electrode. ReVolt claims to have control of these factors and to be able to develop a longer cycle life and high performance.
Metal/air batteries are being developed by several start-ups and established entities. We’ll be following these developments in future entries.