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Breakthrough in battery technology could revolutionize electric vehicles

• Eric W. Dolan via

A new battery design developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could transform the way electric vehicles and the power grid store and discharge energy.

The MIT News Office reported that the new architecture suspends the active electrical components of a battery, such as positive and negative electrodes, as particles in a liquid. This black electric sludge, which resembles petroleum, has been dubbed "Cambridge crude" by its inventors.

The new design, called a "semi-solid flow cell," could allow electric vehicles to refuel by pumping the used electric sludge out and replacing it with fully charged electric sludge. Researchers say the new battery design should also make it possible to reduce the size and the cost of a complete battery system, making electric cars more competitive with contemporary gas-powered cars.

The new battery architecture is described in a paper published May 20 in the journal Advanced Energy Materials. It combined the basic structure of flow batteries with the high energy potential of lithium-ion batteries.

"The demonstration of a semi-solid lithium-ion battery is a major breakthrough that shows that slurry-type active materials can be used for storing electrical energy," Yury Gogotsi, Distinguished University Professor at Drexel University and director of Drexel’s Nanotechnology Institute, said. This breakthrough "has tremendous importance for the future of energy production and storage."

Gogotsi added that it "may take years" before commercial version of the battery can become available, but there are not any "fundamental problems that cannot be addressed" by additional research.


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