The future of transport? Cars could be powered by baking powder while planes could run on fertiliser by the end of the DECADE, expert claims
- Bill David is a Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford
- He predicts predicts sodium will become the dominant battery type for cars
- Meanwhile, ammonia – found in fertiliser – could be used to power airplanes
Cars powered by baking powder and planes running on fertiliser are likely by the end of the decade, according to an Oxford expert.
Currently, lithium-ion batteries are hailed as playing a key role in the shift towards sustainable energy and are used in the likes of Teslas, iPhones and cordless drills.
Meanwhile many companies believe hydrogen power is the ‘green’ way forward for aviation.
But Bill David, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford, believes both will be surpassed by surprising ingredients – one of which most people have in their kitchen cupboards.
He predicts sodium – found in salt, seawater and baking powder – will become the frontrunner as the dominant battery type for cars and everyday gadgets.
‘In principle, we can retrofit an Airbus A320 or a Boeing 787 and only touch the wing to essentially substitute ammonia for jet fuel,’ Professor David said
Bill David, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford
The element is incredibly abundant – much more so than lithium, which is a metal obtained from mining and becoming increasingly hard to find.
Could this solve one of the major drawbacks of electric cars? Scientists GROW lithium crystals in a lab to create batteries that charge in one hour – READ MORE
The new electric car battery was created by growing uniform lithium crystals (pictured) on a surface it doesn’t ‘like’
However it does lack some of the punch of its current counterpart.
Professor David, who was part of the team that invented the lithium batteries in 1980, made his predictions ahead of a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Washington DC.
‘It’s not quite perfect in terms of performance, so we need both,’ he said. ‘Lithium will still be top of the pile, but there is more sodium around.
‘Sodium is on the way up and by 2030 most electric cars will have a combination of lithium and sodium batteries in them.
‘My finger in the air estimate is that by 2040 I would not be surprised if there were 10 times more sodium batteries than lithium, maybe even 100 times.
‘We can make sodium batteries from salt but prefer to use baking powder.’
He said there’s ‘no reason’ why we can’t have 400-mile-range cars powered on sodium batteries alone.
‘Sodium works better at lower temperatures and higher temperatures than lithium batteries, they can be recycled easier and they’re much cheaper,’ he added.
Air travel, meanwhile, will need to take a different approach.
‘We’re never going to have international and intercontinental travel with batteries, they’re just too heavy,’ he said.
While many companies believe hydrogen power is the way forward, Professor David believes ammonia – found in fertiliser – is the sustainable solution.
A report on Net Zero Aviation, released this week from the Royal Society, warned replacing traditional jet fuel with sustainable alternatives would require the UK to give up half of its agricultural land.
It also stated there is no single, clear alternative to kerosene – with hydrogen, anomia and synthetic fuels requiring an enormous increase in renewable energy production.
Cars powered by baking powder (stock image) and planes running on fertiliser are likely by the end of the decade, according to an Oxford expert
However the paper, which Professor David co-authored, did not include some of his most recent work on ammonia at Sunborne Systems in Oxford.
There, Professor David is part of a team aiming to make aviation travel, powered by existing ammonia supplies such as fertiliser, a reality.
‘I was part of that team that put that Royal Society report together and I didn’t include the technology that we’re developing because I didn’t want to put it in until we’re absolutely sure that we can offer it as an option,’ he said.
‘We are developing an ammonia-based plane and we have interest from internal combustion engine manufacturers.
‘In principle, we can retrofit an Airbus A320 or a Boeing 787 and only touch the wing to essentially substitute ammonia for jet fuel.
‘If you do the sums then at 500 miles an hour you get the same flame speed as jet fuel and the same amount of power – but just 40 per cent of the range.
‘However, even with the range hit a 787 could still go from London to New York. I think we’ll see the first one of these actually up in the air by 2030.
‘Currently, the Rolls-Royces of the world are talking about hydrogen, but how do you get hydrogen to Heathrow? Ammonia is already at Heathrow as it is used to do the heating and cooling of Terminal Five.
‘That’s the pipeline that goes all the way to Heathrow, we can reuse that, and the storage tanks are already there. The only thing that would suffer, in principle, is the fact that we would have 40 per cent of the range – but the infrastructure is there already.’
HOW DOES CHARGING A BATTERY WORK?
In their simplest form, batteries are made of three components: a positive electrode, a negative electrode and an electrolyte.
When a battery is charging, lithium ions are extracted from the positive electrode and move through the crystal structure and electrolyte to the negative electrode, where they are stored.
The faster this process occurs, the faster the battery can be charged.
The material a battery is made of can severely restrict this rate.
Graphite is a commonly used material for the negative electrode as it accepts positive ions well and has a high energy density.
In the search for new electrode materials, researchers normally try to make the particles smaller.
However, it’s difficult to make a practical battery with nanoparticles as it creates a lot of unwanted chemical reactions with the electrolyte, so the battery doesn’t last as long, plus it’s expensive to make.
Source: Read Full Article