Designed in the early 1900s to power electric vehicles, the Edison battery largely went out of favor in the mid-1970s. Today only a handful of companies manufacture nickel-iron batteries, primarily to store surplus electricity from solar panels and wind turbines.
"The Edison battery is very durable, but it has a number of drawbacks," said Hongjie Dai, professor of chemistry. "A typical battery can take hours to charge, and the rate of discharge is also very slow."
Graduate student Hailiang Wang, lead author of the study, said the team managed to increase the charging and discharging rate by nearly 1,000 times.
"We've made it really fast," Wang said.
The high-performance, low-cost battery could someday be used to help power electric vehicles, much as Edison originally intended, Dai said.