Thursday, May 23, 2013

Solid-state batteries and a China-Japan dispute

Remember news of the dispute between China and Japan over what are known as Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China?  I'd forgotten about it.

This morning my interest had turned to what might be the next breakthrough after lithium-ion batteries, and the internet bits are about solid-state batteries. 

Wikipedia gives a list of candidates for solid-state batteries, including "Ag4RbI5 for Ag+ conduction, LiI/Al2O3 mixtures for Li+ conduction, and the clay and β-alumina group of compounds (NaAl11O17) for Na+ and other mono- and divalent ions."

Clearly the cheapest is not going to be the one with Ag (silver) or the one with Li (lithium) so let's look at the sodium-aluminum-oxide.

NaAl11O17 turns out to be the mineral  diaoyudinite.  
Uhoh. Yes, it was first identified on Diaoyudao Island, part of the Diaoyu Islands.

The island isn't necessarily a mother lode, exactly, but that term may have to do. 
 "There is strong suspicion that diaoyudaoite, from all its known localities, is an INDUSTRIAL WASTE product (from chromium refining, corundum synthesis, etc.) and not a natural mineral." per Mindat.

What should we call an illegal industrial dump site that is now so attractive that countries may risk war over access to the seafloor sediments?

Meanwhile the US has some diaoyudinite in Newark Bay (New Jersey) and the Chester Emery Mines slag (Massachusetts). (Thanks again to Mindat.)

So this only confirms my usual suspicion that nearly any political, even military, position is driven by economics. Why fight over uninhabited islands unless they are key to a technological advantage and possible future market dominance?

This also may indicate that some people are taking solid-state batteries mighty seriously.

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