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Iron phosphate  (Source: MIT)
The new battery isn't ready for commercial development, but it shows great promise

A new battery material created by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) could lead to much faster recharge times for batteries.

MIT professor Gerbrand Ceder and researcher Byoungwoo Kang said the material can discharge energy and recharge nearly 100 times faster than batteries currently used in mobile phones.  Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in laptops as well, and could allow longer battery life and faster recharge time if a user is away from a power source for long durations of time.

"The ability to charge and discharge batteries in a matter of seconds rather than hours may open up new technological applications and induce lifestyle changes," Ceder and Kang sad in the latest edition of Nature.

The duo created a small battery that normally takes six minutes to charge, but used their new traffic flow to recharge the same battery in just 10 to 20 seconds.

It was widely believed the ions and electrons inside the battery moved too slowly, but the researchers noticed that wasn't the case.  They focused on how ions enter nano-scale tunnels aimed at moving electrons around the battery, and eventually created a lithium phosphate coating that helps push ions to the nano-scale tunnels.

Rechargeable lithium batteries used today have the ability to store high amounts of energy, but don't normally release that power, so they discharge very slowly.    

The battery has been supported with federal research money, and two companies have already licensed the technology, MIT announced.  It'd be possible to start mass producing the batteries in two to three years, the MIT researchers said. 

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RE: Good
By Doormat on 3/13/2009 10:53:27 AM , Rating: 3
LiFePO batteries have other positive aspects. Like their 2000 charge cycle life (to 80%). Compare that to the 300-500 cycles of standard lithium batteries.

One of the facts that came out of this study was that you don't need to recharge the battery in 10 seconds. If you cut down the charging rates (but still charge them faster that you otherwise could without this discovery), the Wh/kg and Wh/L go up. As you increase the charge/discharge rate the battery capacity goes down. This isn't generally a problem though for PHEVs considering the fastest you could charge one is limited by what kind of electrical service enters your home and what outlets you have available (240V/30A is probably the highest).

The simplest example would be to replace the Volt's batteries with these in a few years. You could get the same range, a smaller battery (12kWh instead of 16kWh), and not have to worry about replacing the battery in the 100,000 mile warranty period (the battery would last about 3,000 cycles before 80% capacity, or about 108,000 miles).

I would bet they'd still be fairly expensive - $18,000 for a 12kW pack. But considering that GM expects to have to replace the battery pack (parts and labor at their expense) at least once in the warranty period of the first few years worth of Volt production, and they're paying about $10K per pack, its an improvement.

RE: Good
By gsellis on 3/16/2009 7:58:43 AM , Rating: 2
Good points.

You made me think of another. With such a fast recharge rate, hybrids can get bigger. Regenerative braking on something like a tractor trailer or locomotive are less likely to put too much into the charging system too fast. Hmmmm...

(I still like the hydraulic hybrid that U of Minn or was it U of Wisc did in the 70's with a 16HP Briggs and Straton engine - regenerative braking and brilliant gas mileage on a not so efficient engine. Size made it a two seater in a Bradley GT body - but it still did 0-60 in 8 sec. - if you want to research it, it was covered in Mother Earth News in the 70's.)

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