Could China’s standard EV plants build super batteries for weapons?

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Could China’s standard EV plants build super batteries for weapons? - Informative Updates™

China is the largest producer of electric cars and leads the world in lithium battery technology. In the first quarter of this year, it overtook Japan to become the world’s largest car exporter, thanks to strong demand for its electric vehicles.

Chinese brands dominate the global electric vehicle supply chain, with more than three-quarters of the world’s battery production capacity located in China.

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The car industry played an important role in WWII, with some historians attributing the allied forces’ victory to the role of Cadillac tanks, Buick plane engines and Ford B-24 bombers.

In the US alone, about 1,000 car factories completely switched to military production, producing more than 20 per cent of the total materials needed to fight the war.

As more cars go electric, some Chinese military researchers believe the updated vehicle technology will have a similar impact on the modern defence industry, although actual production line progress has rarely been disclosed to the public.

The battery is based on a revolutionary design and has a record power density that was previously thought impossible, according to the project scientists.

Most commercially available lithium batteries have limited output power and take at least an hour to discharge all of their stored energy, restricting their applications to mostly civilian use.

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But the researchers said the 40165 battery can release all of its energy in 12 to 36 seconds, with a full recharge taking just three minutes.

This performance gives it a C-rate – used to measure the speed at which a battery is fully charged or discharged – of 100C to 300C, or less than 100th of an hour. For comparison, a C-rate of 1C means that a battery takes one hour to discharge from 100 per cent to zero.

The battery was developed using existing manufacturing equipment and a mature raw material supply chain, making it suitable for mass production at a relatively low cost.

It will be a lightweight, compact power source for “weapons such as high-energy electromagnetic guns, subsonic weapons, electromagnetic launchers, laser weapons and active phased array radars that have extremely high requirements for power supply,” the paper said.

China is already building these futuristic weapons, including the world’s most powerful warship radar, capable of detecting a missile more than 4,500km (2,800 miles) away.

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Chinese naval scientists have accelerated a missile-sized projectile that can reach high speed sin the blink of an eye with the world’s largest electromagnetic coil gun. They are also developing microwave and laser-based weapons that could destroy drones or even satellites in near-Earth orbit.

A senior naval researcher in China earlier this year proposed that these weapons could be carried by a nuclear-powered “super ship” that would roam the world’s oceans to suppress traditional aircraft carrier fleets.

But high energy weapon systems require a power source that can release a large amount of energy quickly, and it needs to be relatively cheap, safe and available on a large scale.

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China’s high speed rail industry is reportedly producing high-performance supercapacitors for some of these weapons, but although they have a fast discharge they can only store a small amount of energy.

To achieve repeated firings during a battle, these capacitors usually need to work with a traditional battery pack – a hybrid structure that is complex, bulky, costly and sometimes unstable, according to Yang’s team.

The new battery can reduce the size and weight of existing energy sources for weapons by two-thirds, a “groundbreaking engineering achievement”, the researchers said.

The China Automotive Engineering Research Institute in Chongqing was deeply involved in the development, testing and production of the “supercapacitor-like” 40165 battery, according to the paper.

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The state-owned agency, that oversees the technical service and manufacturing operations of China’s car industry, including electric vehicles, used the latest technology already operating in the sector for the research, the paper said.

While the battery required a reinvention of the lithium battery, all of their innovations were based on the capabilities of a mainstream production line in China, the researchers said.

“The production process includes pulp making, coating, rolling, cutting, winding, welding, injection, formation and capacity sorting. This is ordinary lithium battery technology without any special process, ready for mass production.”

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Such a powerful lithium battery was previously thought to be unfeasible because of the physical limits on the flow speed of electrically charged ions. Exceeding this limit could burn critical components or even cause an explosion, Yang’s team said.

To solve the problem, they redesigned almost everything, including the electrolytes’ chemical composition, the electrodes’ structure, and the welding materials.

One 40165 battery is about the size of a mini drink can. Testing has suggested it could operate at temperatures as low as minus 60C (-140F) and have a lifespan of up to 8,000 recharging cycles – considerably higher than most lithium batteries – according to the paper.

The researchers said a battery pack can be scaled up to meet the energy demands of different weapon systems. They also expect the technology to have civilian applications, such as in heavy-duty vehicles that need a lot of power.

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