Multi-level energy analysis of emerging technologies: a case study in new materials for lithium ion batteries
Journal article, 2011
A range of new nanomaterials to replace the active materials in lithium ion batteries are currently being studied and employed in an attempt to overcome various performance limitations of previous technologies. Nanomaterial production and manufacturing techniques appear to fit into a general trend towards more energy intensive production methods for high-tech goods. This does not necessarily imply an increase in lifecycle energy use; artefacts that consume or transform energy during use could possibly regain this increased initial input via increased efficiency in use. In particular, this paper highlights that larger gains could be possible if the artefact in question allows a given service to be provided via an alternative and more efficient system entirely. The lifecycle energy efficiencies of lithium ion batteries constructed from several new advanced materials are analysed with several different system boundaries. Although nanomaterials require more energy input to produce, the implications of nanomaterials for energy flows in the use phase (i.e. driving), and higher levels such as the architecture of future transport fuel production systems are much larger in magnitude than the initial lifecycle inputs for producing the materials in question.