A new approach to battery design has been unveiled by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the new design of batteries, a lightweight and cheaper alternative to current battery technology especially for electric cars would be made available.
The research is to be published in the Advanced Energy Materials journal and the design objectives would be to increase battery capacity several times higher than current batteries and would allow easy recharging of these batteries as simple as pumping gas in internal combustion engine cars.
The central innovation is the design called the semi-solid flow cell. In this battery design, solid particles are suspended in a carrier liquid that flows throughout the battery structure. In the design, the active components of the battery, namely the positive and negative electrodes, would be particles floating in a liquid electrolyte. Each particle suspension would be pumped throughout the battery separated by a filter allowing electricity to be created.
The new design essentially separates the two functions of the battery – the storage of energy and the discharge of the battery when used in two separate chambers, instead of the current design where both functions are done in one chamber. With the dichotomy of the functions, the efficiency can be maximized and allow the reduction of the overall size and cost for a complete battery system. All in all, efficiency is doubled and the cost halved with the building requirements for each battery.
Another improvement would be charging times for batteries would be decreased dramatically as refueling the battery would be done by replacing the charged particle liquid with a freshly charged replacement. Alternatively, it can be simply done by changing battery tanks in a gas stop.
These changes, when opened to the market, would allow for a more competitive costing for electric vehicles at par with conventional vehicles. The flow battery technology has been in the market for quite some time but the problem is the low energy capacity of existing liquids, requiring greater space for the tank to create the same amount of energy. The new semi-solid technology batteries from the MIT group has improved on this ten fold and is cheaper compared to lithium ion batteries.
The next step for the team headed by Mihai Duduta and Bryan Ho under the guidance of Professors W. Craig Carter and Yet Ming Chiang, would be marrying the liquid flow battery design for the lithium ion battery technology, proven technologies for the future market.