The Cape Town-based Institute of Energy Research has announced that researchers have discovered a new mineral element which will allow them to produce batteries at a tenth of the current price.
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The mineral, Hazenile, when combined with traditional lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (LiNiMnCoO2 or NMC), increases energy density,
Jan van der Merwe, head researcher at the Institute, says: "This discovery is one that will change the world. Hazenile, the active element of the battery, a close relative of the Fingerite, a rare earth metal made up of vanadium and copper. We believe this is a bigger discovery than unobtainium."
Hazenile, meanwhile, has been discovered in abudance in the area between the Crypte and Throne Room caves in the Congo Caves complex in the Western Cape province of South Africa.
Jim Jones, associate professor at the Institute says that commercial operations are anticipated to be 9 months away with the first battery banks rolling off production lines by early 2020.
"The desposits found lead us to believe that we have enough Hazenile to produce sufficient batteries to meet storage needs for the next 1,000 years," Jones says. "In addition, the addition of the Hazenile into a traditional LiNiMnCoO2 battery has increased the efficiency and self-discharge rate of 0.01% per month, compared to the traditional 1.5-2% per month of other lithium-ion combinations."
The Institute is in the process of finalising financing through the South Africa Bank of Innovation and Research and has already identified a factory space which can be converted within a matter of weeks for preliminary production trials.
"This discovery will put South Africa ahead in the battery storage race and will ensure we remain the world leaders in this technology for millenia," van der Merwe concluded.