Volume 1 Issue 9, September 2016

Volume 1 Issue 9

Batteries at the crossroads

Post lithium-ion battery strategies have long been proposed to achieve higher energy output and longer lifespans than lithium-ion batteries. Despite tremendous research efforts and improvements, questions remain as to whether they will realise their full market potential. In this issue, we highlight important advances in key aspects of fundamental processes in four representative post lithium-ion batteries, which lay foundations for their future development.

See Nature Energy 1, 16147 (2016).

Image: Monty Rakusen/Cultura/Getty. Cover design: Alex Wing.


  • Editorial |

    Challenges remain in understanding battery processes that govern operation and limit performance, but fundamental research holds the key for further development of beyond-lithium-ion technologies.


  • Comment |

    Solid-state batteries have recently attracted great interest as potentially safe and stable high-energy storage systems. However, key issues remain unsolved, hindering full-scale commercialization.

    • Jürgen Janek
    •  & Wolfgang G. Zeier

Research Highlights

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    For uptake of electric vehicles to increase, consumers' driving-range needs must be fulfilled. Analysis of the driving patterns of personal vehicles in the US now shows that today's electric vehicles can meet all travel needs on almost 90% of days from a single overnight charge.

    • Willett Kempton
  • News & Views |

    The solar-driven generation of water steam at 100 °C under one sun normally requires the use of optical concentrators to provide the necessary energy flux. Now, thermal concentration is used to raise the vapour temperature to 100 °C without the need for costly optical concentrators.

    • Wen Shang
    •  & Tao Deng
  • News & Views |

    Fuel cells typically function well only in rather limited temperature and humidity ranges. Now, a proton exchange membrane consisting of ion pair complexes is shown to enable improved fuel cell performance under a wide range of conditions that are unattainable with conventional approaches.

    • Young Moo Lee
  • News & Views |

    Increasing the penetration of distributed generation and smart grid technologies requires substantial investments. A study proposes an innovative approach that combines four regulatory tools to provide economic incentives for distribution system operators to facilitate these innovative practices.

    • Carlo Cambini

Perspective & Review


  • Article |

    Redox-flow batteries with organic-based electrolytes hold many advantages over conventional-flow batteries. Here the authors report a high-performance flow battery based on alloxazine, an aqueous-stable and soluble redox-active organic molecule resembling the backbone structure of vitamin B2.

    • Kaixiang Lin
    • , Rafael Gómez-Bombarelli
    • , Eugene S. Beh
    • , Liuchuan Tong
    • , Qing Chen
    • , Alvaro Valle
    • , Alán Aspuru-Guzik
    • , Michael J. Aziz
    •  & Roy G. Gordon
  • Article |

    Large-scale adoption of electric vehicles will only occur if the needs of individual drivers are met. Here the authors present a model of the energy consumption of personal vehicles in the USA, allowing an evaluation of the adoption potential of electric vehicles.

    • Zachary A. Needell
    • , James McNerney
    • , Michael T. Chang
    •  & Jessika E. Trancik
  • Article |

    Silicon has long been recognized as a high-energy battery electrode but its commercialization faces significant barriers. Here the authors report scalable synthesis of silicon-nanolayer-embedded graphite electrodes that display cycling stability at the industrial electrode density.

    • Minseong Ko
    • , Sujong Chae
    • , Jiyoung Ma
    • , Namhyung Kim
    • , Hyun-Wook Lee
    • , Yi Cui
    •  & Jaephil Cho
  • Article |

    Carrier recombination in organic solar cells usually limits their optoelectronic performance, in particular their fill factor. Gasparini et al show that adding an ordered polymer to a ternary blend reduces carrier recombination, achieving a fill factor of 77%.

    • Nicola Gasparini
    • , Xuechen Jiao
    • , Thomas Heumueller
    • , Derya Baran
    • , Gebhard J. Matt
    • , Stefanie Fladischer
    • , Erdmann Spiecker
    • , Harald Ade
    • , Christoph J. Brabec
    •  & Tayebeh Ameri
  • Article |

    There is intensive research underway into the development of fuel cells. Here, the authors present a proton exchange membrane fuel cell based on quaternary ammonium-biphosphate ion pairs, offering promising performance under a wide range of conditions that are unattainable with conventional technologies.

    • Kwan-Soo Lee
    • , Jacob S. Spendelow
    • , Yoong-Kee Choe
    • , Cy Fujimoto
    •  & Yu Seung Kim
  • Article |

    Solar energy can be used to evaporate water and generate steam, however this usually requires expensive optical concentrators. Ni et al. demonstrate a low-cost solar receiver based on thermal concentration that generates steam at 100 C without the need for optical concentration.

    • George Ni
    • , Gabriel Li
    • , Svetlana V. Boriskina
    • , Hongxia Li
    • , Weilin Yang
    • , TieJun Zhang
    •  & Gang Chen