Nanoscale Conductors Enable New Battery Architecture


"Tenfold improvement seen in liquid-flow batteries energy density."

IEEE Spectrum, Dexter Johnson

Semi-solid flow cellResearchers at MIT have developed a new architecture for batteries that combines the design of liquid-flow batteries with that of conventional lithium-ion batteries resulting in a tenfold improvement in the energy density of liquid-flow batteries. It also reduces the size of a battery system, such as those now found in electric cars, to about one-half their current size.

The research was able to overcome the low energy density of liquid-flow batteries by creating a semi-solid material that kind of oozes. The new material is able to store energy in suspensions of solid storage compounds and the charge transfer is accomplished via dilute, yet percolating networks of nanoscale conductors.

The result is that the cathodes and anodes of the battery are particles that are suspended in the liquid electrolyte. And the two different suspensions are pumped through systems separated by a thin porous membrane.

The design also separates the storing and discharging of the battery into two different physical structures. This separated architecture will enable batteries to be designed more efficiently.

Because the design is expected to reduce the size (and cost) of a battery system by as much as one-half, it's being touted as a way to make electric vehicles more competitive with internal combustion engines.

The researchers have developed what appears to be a new design architecture for batteries and have demonstrated that slurry-type active materials can be used for storing electrical energy.

If the research has the potential for commercial development, it seems the right research team developed it.

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