Lithium Air Battery Gives IBM Hope of Power Without Fire
Comment of the Day

February 21 2013

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Lithium Air Battery Gives IBM Hope of Power Without Fire

This article by Christopher Martin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section
“We could see a radical advance if our prototype excites a manufacturer with a compatible technology,” Narayan says. “We'll have a prototype ready next year, and then with our partners we'll look at the engineering timeline. Five to 10 years is a reasonable time to commercialization.” IBM is not alone. Researchers at universities, government laboratories and auto companies are also vying to produce the next-generation battery.

Rival Projects
Toyota Motor Corp. and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG on Jan. 24 announced plans for lithium-air batteries. Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on a product using carbon nanotubes replacing lithium-ion. Seeo, a start-up backed by billionaire Vinod Khosla, is building lithium-ion units that use a lighter, dry electrolyte instead of liquid. There's skepticism whether any of them can succeed. Laboratories working on batteries have failed to replicate the successes they've had with semiconductors in multiplying

That's because storing electricity is a chemical process where improvements come slowly, unlike the efforts to scale up efficiencies in manufacturing electronics, said Tom Gage, who led production of the Tesla drivetrain at AC Propulsion Ltd. “Moore's Law doesn't apply to batteries,” said Gage. It may take another 10 years to 20 years before the industry can produce an electric vehicle with the range and flexibility consumers expect, he said.

Eoin Treacy's view Historically high energy prices drive consumers to find more efficient means of producing, storing and using electricity. In addition the growth in demand for portable gadgets such as phones, laptops and tablets has refocused attention on delivering efficient, durable and light weight batteries. Given the considerable difficulty evident in the development of a new battery type, the prospects for lithium based technologies remains upbeat for the foreseeable future.

Among the better performing lithium companies FMC Corp posted a downside weekly key reversal three weeks ago and remains in a process of mean reversion. A sustained move below the 200-day MA, currently near $55 would be required to question the consistency of the medium-term uptrend.

Rockwood Holdings rallied impressively from mid-November to test its 2011 high near $62 where it encountered resistance on Monday. An unwind of the short-term overbought condition appears to be underway, but a sustained move below the 200-day MA, currently near $50, would be required to question medium-term scope for an eventual reassertion of the medium-term uptrend.

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