Details of new type of electric car battery released

May 27, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

(PhysOrg.com) -- After being spun off from parent company A123 Systems last year; the new offspring, 24M has published a paper in Advanced Energy Materials, ending months of speculation about what it has been working on. It was no secret that the new project was to advance work on a new type of battery that A123 had been working on for a couple of years; namely a battery that could be used to replace the lithium-ion batteries currently used in electric cars. Now, with the paper’s release it's clear that the new battery, similar to a flow battery, uses a liquid material to hold the charge, rather than conventional dry fuel cells, and if successful could do away with a lot of the non-charge holding stuff that makes up nearly three quarters of the bulk of current electric car batteries.

Assisted by a grant from the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), to help fund research between the new start-up, MIT and Rutgers University, the new , based on research done by Yet-Ming Chiang who is both a professor at MIT and founder of A123 Systems and 24M, if successful, would allow for upsizing of car batteries without adding any non-chargeable material, greatly increasing its density, which would in turn, theoretically greatly reduce the cost of the battery pack in an electric vehicle. Current battery packs now constitute up to a third of the total vehicle price.

The new battery, as described in the paper, uses a sludge-like material contained in storage tanks, rather than dry cells; one positively charged, the other negative. To get the charge from the battery, the materials are pumped through channels allowing ions to move freely between the two and eventually to an external circuit. To facilitate the transfer of electrons from the sludge, nanoscale particles that help to form networks that give the electrons a path to follow were developed and added to the sludge mix. In this type of battery, the amount of storage capacity goes up as the tank size is increased, with no additional materials needed, in sharp contrast to batteries.

The battery is not yet ready for prime time though, as a current model of the battery would be bulky and the electrical conductivity, according to Change, is still far below what would be needed in a real world battery in an actual electrical vehicle; research is still ongoing, as he and his team try to figure out how to increase the concentration of the active materials in the sludge.

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More information: Semi-Solid Lithium Rechargeable Flow Battery, Advanced Energy Materials, Article first published online: 20 MAY 2011 DOI: 10.1002/aenm.201100152

Abstract
A new kind of flow battery is fueled by semi-solid suspensions of high-energy-density lithium storage compounds that are electrically ‘wired’ by dilute percolating networks of nanoscale conductor particles. Energy densities are an order of magnitude greater than previous flow batteries; new applications in transportation and grid-scale storage may result.

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finitesolutions
4.6 / 5 (5) May 27, 2011
Good solution. This design has the possibility to scale up to truck usage. The trucks will stop to a power station and replace the depleted sludge with fresh charged ones.
The future can be electric.
A power pickup line can be installed on highways and trucks and cars would pickup electricity as they go along : no need for batteries.
The batteries can only get better.
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (3) May 27, 2011
Another new battery tech that would be great if only it was better than it is. On the more optimistic view, at least there are a lot of potential solutions and we only really need one to pan out.
Na_Reth
not rated yet May 27, 2011
Basicly we can use any two substances that are reactive to each other. We can separate these two substances with energy. Then when we bring together these substances it will release energy. And it works Vice Versa to. If engineered properly, you wont need to replace the "sludge". you just charge it like a normal battery, if you would ionize these substances you will even store more energy.

I think this was the idea of fuel cells to?
david_42
not rated yet May 27, 2011
It would be interesting to know what the operating temperature range is. The sodium-sulfur flow battery, originally developed by Ford, would be fantastic for cars; except for the 600C operating temperature. That limits it to stationary storage when massive amounts of insulation can be used on the tanks.
Eikka
not rated yet May 27, 2011
This is basically a vanadium-redox-flow battery that you can find on Wikipedia.

The main technical issue is that the electrolyte weighs too much because the electrolytes in use don't have enough ionization potential, but the bright side is that it's fundamentally much much cheaper per kWh than modern Lithium-ion batteries. Right now it is 1/4 the price in sufficiently large installations, which makes it almost economically viable as a stationary battery. The only wild card is the market price of vanadium, which can go up if people start building them.

The main cost comes from the electrodes and membranes, not the bulk electrolyte, which is why it is currently too expensive to scale down to car size, but it is already in use in very short term grid energy storage applications in conjunction to windmills etc.

Other than that, the battery is rechargeable, the electrolytes are replaceable, it's nearly indestructible, chemically stable, has no self-discharge and has high power output.
Eikka
not rated yet May 27, 2011
It would be interesting to know what the operating temperature range is.


It's basically between the freezing and boiling points of the liquid that holds the ions in solution. I seem to remember a maximum temperature of 60 degrees C for the vanadium solution.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2011
Basicly we can use any two substances that are reactive to each other. We can separate these two substances with energy. Then when we bring together these substances it will release energy.


This battery doesn't use two different substances - it uses one and the same substance in both tanks.

It operates on the ionization potential of the substance. Electrons are stripped off from one tank and put into the other tank, and the potential is released by letting the two liquids come close so they can exchange the electrons back.
Na_Reth
not rated yet May 27, 2011
Basicly we can use any two substances that are reactive to each other. We can separate these two substances with energy. Then when we bring together these substances it will release energy.


This battery doesn't use two different substances - it uses one and the same substance in both tanks.

It operates on the ionization potential of the substance. Electrons are stripped off from one tank and put into the other tank, and the potential is released by letting the two liquids come close so they can exchange the electrons back.

Although i think using two different substances would increase the ionization potential, but would be harder to store seperated.
SteveL
not rated yet May 27, 2011
So, this technique might be more viable for home energy storage rather than for portable energy?
emsquared
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2011
Not knowing the volumes of "sludge" needed or what the toxicity of the sludge might be, I wonder what happens in a car wreck when this stuff leaks out?
that_guy
3.3 / 5 (3) May 27, 2011
I think that this battery has loads of potential. The battery is not your traditional wet cell design either.

Basically, you have the advantage that all the material is charge holding, instead of a fraction of it, and then a huge advantage that the matarial is mobile within the battery.

Consider this: if you try to start your car when you left your lights on, it might not start up the first time. But if you wait a while after turning off the lights, it might start up later. Why? Because the charge bearing ions have to migrate to the terminals. This could be a much more efficient (Read: hell of a lot faster) battery to charge and discharge, as opposed to say a lithium battery that might need hours to charge. (Or need higher amperage/voltage to charge faster)

*IF* material science can solve the issue with the electrolytes they're using, this could be a major advance.
Na_Reth
3.5 / 5 (2) May 27, 2011
Not knowing the volumes of "sludge" needed or what the toxicity of the sludge might be, I wonder what happens in a car wreck when this stuff leaks out?

as opposed to oil?
Tom327Cat
1 / 5 (1) May 27, 2011
Is it right to call this device a battery? I hate to see the engineering world degenerate the definitions of words. A battery is a group of things, like artillery guns on in the case of cars a group of electrolytic cells.
This seems more like a fuel cell to me.
emsquared
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2011
as opposed to oil?

There's things much worse than oil, or gasoline, you know it -so don't act incredulous-, I know it, I'm just wondering if this sludge is one of them. Not an unreasonable question is it?

People love to jump on the newest thing, but personal and environmental health are things that must be considered and are often pushed aside when touting the next big thing.
that_guy
not rated yet May 27, 2011
as opposed to oil?

There's things much worse than oil, or gasoline, you know it -so don't act incredulous-, I know it, I'm just wondering if this sludge is one of them. Not an unreasonable question is it?

People love to jump on the newest thing, but personal and environmental health are things that must be considered and are often pushed aside when touting the next big thing.


I'd like to point out that while they have the concept down, it sounds like there will still be some play in the exact materials used. It *seems* to be dependant on lithium, and chemicals that are pretty similar to those used in lead acid cells...So I imagine it will be pretty caustic and toxic just like any other good battery.
wealthychef
not rated yet May 27, 2011
Yet another potential technology stopped by the fact that it just doesn't quite work yet. LOL
Sonhouse
3.5 / 5 (2) May 27, 2011
Yet another potential technology stopped by the fact that it just doesn't quite work yet. LOL


Besides, even if it works perfectly, 1/10th the cost of the car rather than 1/3, you still have the minor problem of having to have energy to put into the battery. I would like to see work done (some already has)to make solar powered paint for cars. That way the car would partially recharge itself. If you had such a system on a motor home, you could maybe drive some distance, stay at a park for a couple days in the sun while the system recharges and you are on your way with no fossil fuel or CO2 problems.
SurfAlbatross
5 / 5 (3) May 27, 2011
I think that this battery has loads of potential.


No pun intended? So funny!
antialias
5 / 5 (3) May 28, 2011
Yet another potential technology stopped by the fact that it just doesn't quite work yet.

This is a research prototype. What did you expect?

Real life doesn't work like Hollywood super-hero movies where the hero just goes to the lab and builds a perfectly efficient battery, fully tested and usable, within a few hours.

No. In real life you do years of patient research and publish when the principle works. That's just what they did.

After that you go on to try and optimize it.
Kedas
5 / 5 (2) May 28, 2011
They worked on it for a couple of years.
I'm sure they already have made a lot of other prototype versions based on the same idea.
The question is why do they go public now while they still have serious problems, do they need more money?
whoyagonacal
5 / 5 (3) May 28, 2011
Is it right to call this device a battery? I hate to see the engineering world degenerate the definitions of words. A battery is a group of things, like artillery guns on in the case of cars a group of electrolytic cells.
This seems more like a fuel cell to me.


The term "battery" has inexactly become equivalent to an electric cell -- we call AA and 9V "transistor radio" units batteries, though the first is technically a cell.

A flow battery looks a good deal like a fuel cell. The primary difference is that a flow battery is rechargeable ... the secondary difference is that the power isn't derived by the combination of two materials (hydrogen etc and oxygen).
plasticpower
not rated yet May 28, 2011
Battery tech is something that would be a good idea for companies to invest their time into. Whoever comes up with the next big breakthrough in storage capacity, weight and cost will make billions. As far as electricity goes, we can always build out more power plants, nuclear or otherwise, to increase grid capacity.
Shon
not rated yet May 30, 2011
When can we expect those batteries to become public available?
Dan_K
not rated yet May 30, 2011
"The question is why do they go public now while they still have serious problems, do they need more money?"

I wondered the same thing. My first thought was that perhaps they are coming up short in solutions and wanted to have the problem in front of a larger audience to fish out possible solutions that others may have developed? I guess being short on money might be another possibility? Although I had heard that A123 was extremely well funded, and if they are close at all to a solution they wouldn't want to dilute their ownership one bit considering the vast income possiblities. All speculation on my part though :)
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2011
With conductive nanoparticles being a primary ingredient in this system you know its going to be toxic, the idea of having a new department just to send out hazmat teams to the site of a car crash is not going to be very popular not to mention electrified sludge doesn't inspire confidence in the safety of such a product.

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