New Electric Battery’s Secret Sauce


A new research study from MIT aims to address many of the issues associated with current battery technologies. Their study, with the aim to reduce costs, increase efficiency and decrease weight, has resulted in a secret blend of liquids having the positive qualities of traditional batteries and current fuel cell technology.

According to Yet-Ming Chiang, MIT Professor of Material Science and Engineering and team leader of the study said, “It’s a flowing electrode that’s electrically conductive all of the time. That’s the secret sauce.” His team members include MIT Professors Craig Carter, Angela Belcher, Paula Hammond, Rutgers University Professor Glen Amatucci and MIT researchers Mihai Duduta, Bryan Ho, Pimpa Limthongkul, Vanessa Wood and Victor Brunini.

While the system used in the MIT study has been in use for decades. This produces low levels of energy. The new system has a semi-solid flow system that uses what is nicknamed “Cambridge Crude”, a flow of highly concentrated energy-dense suspension of particles.

This set-up provides advantages over current fuel cell and regular lithium-ion battery technologies. According to Chiang, the semi-solid set-up allows for a greater amount of energy to be stored in the batteries. On this he added, “We can go directly from the electrodes and entirely bypass the cell-making part.”

As for costs, this set-up would be cheaper as it is simpler to manufacture and reduces the use of expensive components that do not help in the energy storage capacity. Chiang said, “We can produce the flowing electrodes in a mixing operation and then simply use them to fill a device that’s basically bolted together.”

This slurry can also reuse this fuel as drivers can just trade in the spent tank for another that’s fully recharged. Since the batteries separately store the energy and the power aspects of the battery, fueling stations can be reconfigured to offer the customer different kinds of electro-chemical fuel.

The goal of the study is to find a battery that can provide power for any vehicle application with the longest range possible for the vehicle.

Another battery technology set-up is also being developed in the City College of New York under the guidance of Dan Steingart, an assistant professor in chemical engineering.

According to Steingart, “This battery is a sort of a hybrid of the best parts of a traditional battery and a fuel cell.” In essence, the battery can recharge the waste stream that is similar to capturing carbon and water and making it into gasoline.

There are still many issues with this technology, according to Steingart. First is the issue regarding clogging lines in the battery while another are the safety issues on the loading and unloading of the “Cambridge Crude” safely to and from the battery. Also, scaling up the production and supply would also be very integral to the success or failure of the design.

As of the moment, the MIT study is working with 24M Technologies to build the first commercial prototype in the next two years. Barring any technical issues, the batteries can be made available by the end of the decade.