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The Battery 500 Project

A century ago, more automobiles were powered by electricity than by gasoline.

But the need for longer travel ranges, the availability of a more affordable fuel source and a reliable power infrastructure soon turned internal combustion engines into the predominant means of motor transportation.

Now drivers are considering a move away from gasoline and back to electricity as an ideal source for automotive power, but big challenges remain. IBM and partners are working on solving one of the biggest barriers to widespread electric vehicle adoption: limited battery range.

An antidote to 'range anxiety'
Most people consider switching to electric vehicles to save money on gas and contribute to a healthier environment. But “range anxiety,” the fear of being stranded with no power, was cited by 64 percent of consumers as a main detractor to buying an electric vehicle.

Electric cars today typically can travel only about 100 miles on current battery technology, called lithium-ion (LIB). LIB technology stands little chance of being light enough to travel 500 miles on a single charge and cheap enough to be practical for a typical family car. This problem is creating a significant barrier to electric vehicle adoption.

Recognizing this, IBM started the Battery 500 project in 2009 to develop a new type of lithium-air battery technology that is expected to improve energy density tenfold, dramatically increasing the amount of energy these batteries can generate and store. Today, IBM researchers have successfully demonstrated the fundamental chemistry of the charge-and-recharge process for lithium-air batteries.

In 2012, industry leaders Central Glass and Asahi Kasei joined the project. Each brings a history of electric vehicle materials innovation to help IBM put research on the road.


 

The Battery 500 project. Watch the video.
IBM Battery 500: A look inside lithium-air. Watch the video.

 


 

Battery 500

How it works: During discharge (driving), oxygen from the air reacts with lithium ions, forming lithium peroxide on a carbon matrix. Upon recharge, the oxygen is given back to the atmosphere and the lithium goes back onto the anode.

 


 

Meet the team

The Battery 500 project was developed out of the Almaden Institute, an annual forum that brings together eminent, innovative thinkers from academia, government, industry, research labs and the media for an intellectually charged, stimulating and vigorous dialogue that addresses fundamental challenges at the very edge of science and technology. The partnerships born out of this event range from university and national laboratory collaborations to connections across IBM research labs and with industry experts, all forming a dynamic, multi-disciplinary team, focusing on unique aspects of the project.

Winfried Wilcke
Senior Manager, Nanoscale Science and Technology, Energy Storage, IBM Research – Almaden
Read more about Winfried

 

Chandrasekhar (Spike) Narayan
Functional Manager, Science and Technology IBM Research - Almaden Research Center
Read more about Spike

 

Don Bethune
Research Physicist, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Alessandro Curioni
Manager, Computational Sciences Group, IBM Research - Zurich

 

Campbell Scott
Research Scientist, Physics, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Mark Hart
Research Scientist, Physics, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Ho-Cheol Kim
Research Staff Member, Materials Science, IBM Research - Almaden
Read more about Ho-Cheol

 

Alan Luntz
Research Consultant, Battery 500, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Teodoro Laino
Research Staff Member, Computational Sciences, IBM Research - Zurich

 

Bryan McCloskey
Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Electrochemistry, IBM Research - Almaden
Read more about Bryan

 

Bob Shelby
Research Scientist, Physics, IBM Research - Almaden

Carl Larson
Manager, Nanoscale Fabrication, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Julia Rice
Research Scientists, Life Sciences Simulation and Information Management, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Phil Rice
Research Scientist, Materials Analysis and Characterization, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Mark Sherwood
Research Scientist, Chemistry, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Barton Smith
Manager, Collaboration Science, User Systems and Experience Research, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Sally Swanson
Research Staff Member, Nanoscale Science and Technology, IBM Research - Almaden
Read more about Sally

 

Qing Song
Research Staff member, Advanced Organic Materials, IBM Research - Almaden
Read more about Qing

 

Bill Swope
Research Scientist, Macromolecular simulation and modeling, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Kumar Virwani
Research Scientist, Materials Analysis and Characterization, IBM Research - Almaden

 

Greg Walraff
Research Scientist, Chemistry, IBM Research - Almaden

 Dr. Winfried Wilcke

Senior Manager, Nanoscale Science and Technology, IBM Research Chairman, Almaden Institute on Energy Storage and Program Director, Silicon Valley Projects

Winfried W. Wilcke works at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. He received a Ph.D. in experimental nuclear physics in 1976 from the Johann-Wolfgang Goethe Universitaet, Frankfurt, Germany, and worked at the University of Rochester, Lawrence Berkeley Lab and Los Alamos, co-authoring well over 100 papers on nuclear heavy-ion reactions and muon physics. In 1983 he joined IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, where he worked initially on VLSI RISC CPU design and then played a key role in convincing IBM to build very scalable message-passing supercomputers, which was an extremely controversial point of view. He became senior manager in charge of the Victor and Vulcan projects, which were the precursors of the very successful IBM SP message-passing supercomputer product line. Today, the fastest supercomputers in the world -like the IBM Blue Gene- are all based on this once so controversial model.

In 1991, Wilcke joined HAL Computer Systems as a very early employee. He was initially Director of Architecture and later CTO. HAL was instrumental in creating -in collaboration with Sun Microsystems- the 64-bit Sparc architecture, which has been the foundation of Sun's and Fujitsu RISC system businesses since 1996. HAL grew to over 400 employees and was acquired by Fujitsu. Today, the HAL Sparc64 processor architecture is now in its 5th generation and sold by both Fujitsu and Sun. In 1996 Wilcke retired and embarked on an extended tropical sailing voyage. In the late nineties, he missed the challenge of working in High Tech and rejoined IBM Research at Almaden, where, in 2001, he launched the IBM IceCube project, a highly scalable 'brick' architecture for data-intensive computing and storage. This technology formed the basis for Seval Systems, Inc., a venture-capital funded spin-out from IBM Research, led by Wilcke as CTO/acting CEO. However, he soon came to the conclusion that the expected ROI did not warrant continuation of the venture and shut it down within a year. He returned to lead research in physics, and is currently senior manager of the Almaden Nanoscience and Technology area, which is engaged in a wide variety of nanoscale activities, ranging from novel memory and storage devices to work on developing synapses for an artificial brain to energy related projects. He still remains active in computer architecture.

Wilcke just published an anthology, Random Walk, about his many (mis)adventures in Science and Technology and while playing with his airplanes, sailboats and underwater.

 Dr. Chandrasekhar (Spike) Narayan

Functional Manager, Science and Technology IBM Research - Almaden Research Center

Dr. Chandrasekhar (Spike) Narayan presently leads the Science and Technology Organization at IBM's Almaden Research Center. He is responsible for driving both fundamental and applied research in areas that include nanoscale science and engineering, nanoscale device integration, spin based electronics, advanced materials development and characterization, storage technologies and computational materials science. He is also responsible for driving new programs in the areas water, energy, environment and health care.

Previously, Dr. Narayan has held several research and management positions in both Almaden and Watson Research Laboratories and has received many awards for his technical contributions. In addition, he is a Master Inventor within IBM Research and has over 50 US Patents to his credit. In addition, Dr. Narayan has contributed to the external engineering community by serving as the general and program chair for the IEEE/IEMT Symposium in 1999 and 2000, respectively, and chaired the DRAM Development Alliance Invention Board in 1999.

Dr. Narayan earned his Bachelor of Technology in Metallurgy from Indian Institute of Technology, a Master of Science and a PhD in Metallurgy and Materials Engineering from Lehigh University.

 Ho-Cheol Kim

Research Staff Member, Materials Science, IBM Research – Almaden

Dr. Ho-Cheol Kim is a Research Staff Member at IBM Research Division, Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA. He joined IBM Research in 2001 right after his Post-Doctoral research at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He received his Ph. D. in Polymer Science from Seoul National University in Korea. His research focuses on nano-structured functional organic and inorganic materials and their applications to device fabrication. Since he joined Almaden Research Center, he has been working on porous low-k dielectrics, surface nano-patterning using self-assembly of block copolymers and their hybrids, and solution processed nano-structures of titania. His recent research interest focuses on Energy areas and he is actively leading the effort for searching new materials and nanostructures for solar cells and lithium-air battery. He won the IBM Almaden Fund for Innovation (2005) and the IBM Research Division Award (2005) for advances in creation of controlled nanostructures. He has authored or co-authored over 90 research publications, mentored over 35 undergraduate and graduate students, served as PI or Co-PI for research grants from DARPA, NSF, DOE, DOD, SRC, and holds 13 granted US patents.

 Dr. Bryan D. McCloskey

Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Electrochemistry, IBM Research – Almaden

Dr. Bryan D. McCloskey joined the IBM Almaden Research Center as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in 2009. He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in 2003 and his Ph.D. in the same subject at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow from 2005 to 2008, in 2009. His research interests include characterization of molecular transport phenomena through polymer membranes and electrochemical characterization of Li-air batteries.

 Dr. Qing

Song Research Stuff Member, Advanced Organic Materials, IBM Research - Almaden

Dr. Qing Song received his Ph D. in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia in 2005. He then became a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Arthur J. Nozik’s group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), where he focused on the development and implement of semiconductor nanomaterials in the next generation quantum dots based solar cells. Since November 2008, he is in the Advanced Organic Materials group as a research staff member at IBM Almaden Research Center. Currently, he is conducting various research and development projects including the novel earth abundance semiconductor materials for photovoltaic solar cells, rechargeable Li/air battery technology for energy storage and transportation, and functional nanomaterials for bio-medicine application.

 Dr. Winfried Wilcke

Senior Manager, Nanoscale Science and Technology, IBM Research Chairman, Almaden Institute on Energy Storage and Program Director, Silicon Valley Projects

Winfried W. Wilcke works at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. He received a Ph.D. in experimental nuclear physics in 1976 from the Johann-Wolfgang Goethe Universitaet, Frankfurt, Germany, and worked at the University of Rochester, Lawrence Berkeley Lab and Los Alamos, co-authoring well over 100 papers on nuclear heavy-ion reactions and muon physics. In 1983 he joined IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, where he worked initially on VLSI RISC CPU design and then played a key role in convincing IBM to build very scalable message-passing supercomputers, which was an extremely controversial point of view. He became senior manager in charge of the Victor and Vulcan projects, which were the precursors of the very successful IBM SP message-passing supercomputer product line. Today, the fastest supercomputers in the world -like the IBM Blue Gene- are all based on this once so controversial model.

In 1991, Wilcke joined HAL Computer Systems as a very early employee. He was initially Director of Architecture and later CTO. HAL was instrumental in creating -in collaboration with Sun Microsystems- the 64-bit Sparc architecture, which has been the foundation of Sun's and Fujitsu RISC system businesses since 1996. HAL grew to over 400 employees and was acquired by Fujitsu. Today, the HAL Sparc64 processor architecture is now in its 5th generation and sold by both Fujitsu and Sun. In 1996 Wilcke retired and embarked on an extended tropical sailing voyage. In the late nineties, he missed the challenge of working in High Tech and rejoined IBM Research at Almaden, where, in 2001, he launched the IBM IceCube project, a highly scalable 'brick' architecture for data-intensive computing and storage. This technology formed the basis for Seval Systems, Inc., a venture-capital funded spin-out from IBM Research, led by Wilcke as CTO/acting CEO. However, he soon came to the conclusion that the expected ROI did not warrant continuation of the venture and shut it down within a year. He returned to lead research in physics, and is currently senior manager of the Almaden Nanoscience and Technology area, which is engaged in a wide variety of nanoscale activities, ranging from novel memory and storage devices to work on developing synapses for an artificial brain to energy related projects. He still remains active in computer architecture.

Wilcke just published an anthology, Random Walk, about his many (mis)adventures in Science and Technology and while playing with his airplanes, sailboats and underwater.

 Dr. Chandrasekhar (Spike) Narayan

Functional Manager, Science and Technology IBM Research - Almaden Research Center

Dr. Chandrasekhar (Spike) Narayan presently leads the Science and Technology Organization at IBM's Almaden Research Center. He is responsible for driving both fundamental and applied research in areas that include nanoscale science and engineering, nanoscale device integration, spin based electronics, advanced materials development and characterization, storage technologies and computational materials science. He is also responsible for driving new programs in the areas water, energy, environment and health care.

Previously, Dr. Narayan has held several research and management positions in both Almaden and Watson Research Laboratories and has received many awards for his technical contributions. In addition, he is a Master Inventor within IBM Research and has over 50 US Patents to his credit. In addition, Dr. Narayan has contributed to the external engineering community by serving as the general and program chair for the IEEE/IEMT Symposium in 1999 and 2000, respectively, and chaired the DRAM Development Alliance Invention Board in 1999.

Dr. Narayan earned his Bachelor of Technology in Metallurgy from Indian Institute of Technology, a Master of Science and a PhD in Metallurgy and Materials Engineering from Lehigh University.

 Ho-Cheol Kim

Research Staff Member, Materials Science, IBM Research – Almaden

Dr. Ho-Cheol Kim is a Research Staff Member at IBM Research Division, Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA. He joined IBM Research in 2001 right after his Post-Doctoral research at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He received his Ph. D. in Polymer Science from Seoul National University in Korea. His research focuses on nano-structured functional organic and inorganic materials and their applications to device fabrication. Since he joined Almaden Research Center, he has been working on porous low-k dielectrics, surface nano-patterning using self-assembly of block copolymers and their hybrids, and solution processed nano-structures of titania. His recent research interest focuses on Energy areas and he is actively leading the effort for searching new materials and nanostructures for solar cells and lithium-air battery. He won the IBM Almaden Fund for Innovation (2005) and the IBM Research Division Award (2005) for advances in creation of controlled nanostructures. He has authored or co-authored over 90 research publications, mentored over 35 undergraduate and graduate students, served as PI or Co-PI for research grants from DARPA, NSF, DOE, DOD, SRC, and holds 13 granted US patents.

 Dr. Bryan D. McCloskey

Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Electrochemistry, IBM Research – Almaden

Dr. Bryan D. McCloskey joined the IBM Almaden Research Center as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in 2009. He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in 2003 and his Ph.D. in the same subject at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow from 2005 to 2008, in 2009. His research interests include characterization of molecular transport phenomena through polymer membranes and electrochemical characterization of Li-air batteries.

 Dr. Qing

Song Research Stuff Member, Advanced Organic Materials, IBM Research - Almaden

Dr. Qing Song received his Ph D. in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia in 2005. He then became a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Arthur J. Nozik’s group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), where he focused on the development and implement of semiconductor nanomaterials in the next generation quantum dots based solar cells. Since November 2008, he is in the Advanced Organic Materials group as a research staff member at IBM Almaden Research Center. Currently, he is conducting various research and development projects including the novel earth abundance semiconductor materials for photovoltaic solar cells, rechargeable Li/air battery technology for energy storage and transportation, and functional nanomaterials for bio-medicine application.