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MIT Develops Fast Charging Liquid Flow Batteries

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the now-if-only-we-could-run-it-on-oil dept.

Power 135

An anonymous reader sends this from the MIT News office: "A radically new approach to the design of batteries, developed by researchers at MIT, could provide a lightweight and inexpensive alternative to existing batteries for electric vehicles and the power grid. The technology could even make 'refueling' such batteries as quick and easy as pumping gas into a conventional car (abstract). The new battery relies on an innovative architecture called a semi-solid flow cell, in which solid particles are suspended in a carrier liquid and pumped through the system. In this design, the battery’s active components — the positive and negative electrodes, or cathodes and anodes — are composed of particles suspended in a liquid electrolyte. These two different suspensions are pumped through systems separated by a filter, such as a thin porous membrane."

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Wesley Snipes Flashbacks (1)

microcentillion (942039) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356540)

"That's pure capacitance gel..."

Dang it... (Demolition Man) (2)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356578)

You beat me to it.

The idea has been around a long time, but making it work is a wholly different kettle of electromotive potential.

Fuel cell? (1)

Thomas Shaddack (709926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359104)

Isn't this a kind of a fuel cell?

Nope, not a fuel cell. Nothing is consumed. (5, Informative)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359526)

A fuel cell basically "burns" (uses up) its reagent to make electricity directly.

This (according to the article) is a reversible reaction between two liquids, one acting as an anode and one acting as a cathode, where the reaction is bounded by a membrane. It is really more of the "capacitance gel" idea, only with two carries (which makes sense).

Think of it as two halves of a standard battery that can only interact when brought into proximity. While electrons (or maybe ions or something beyond my simple ability translate, not having seen the research or studied in the field) pass through the membrane by definition, the idea is that the charged medium is not part of the fixed assembly, so the fixed assembly (the reactor and membrane) is permanent while the charged part moves.

In a standard battery the anode and cathode are permanent parts of the battery. When the battery is discharged the whole battery is trashed. For instance, and alkaline battery is assembled in a charged state, the dissolving of the metals in the alkaline solution is what makes the voltage. Lead-acid batteries wear out because the lead is changed by the charging process (applying voltage in the presence of acid solution) and changed back by the discharge. This cycling slowly causes the lead to flake and degrade until there is either so much lead flakes in the battery that a cell shorts out because of the lead connecting the two parts, or the odd chemical impurities and available oxygen slowly make the lead into a chemical that will not react with the acid correctly any more.

In this arrangement the parts that would degrade are in the fluids, draining and replacing the fluids "assembles a new, fully charged battery". In this model the ideal of pulling into a service station and replacing your discharged battery pack with a new, charged one, becomes practical.

In the alternate, as a rechargeable battery the non-solid nature of the battery itself lets the battery be charged and cooled all at once. The anode and cathode material won't "flake" because it isn't sold to begin with. Plus nearly all of the anode and cathode material is used by weight, there is no "inner core" area acting as a superstructure. This should improve the energy density (how many kilowatt hours you can store per pound etc).

In the rechargeable battery usage the battery would probably need to be changed regularly, like an oil change, but _then_ one could probably use charged plates to separate/filter the degraded particles from the good ones, so the "battery" could be recycled in place instead of having to take it back to a factory.

There is a lot potential wins here, but it is _very_ unlike a fuel cell.

Re:Fuel cell? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360298)

Not quite. The fuel cell consumes fuel and an oxidizer in an electrochemical reaction. This is more a rechargable battery where anode and cathode are thick liquids. Unlike a fuel cell, if you exchange the liquids out, the spent ones can then be recharged in another battery. You can also just recharge it if you have the time.

Hopefully... (2)

cozzbp (1845636) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356582)

I sure hope they can develop this concept into a design that can be used by consumers. I seriously believe that the cheap and easy storage of electricity (and the ability to quickly recharge the storage system) is one aspect of technology that is preventing so many breakthroughs.

Re:Hopefully... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356714)

But technology has created breakthroughs. The entire electric model airplane [] market was created by Lithium-Polymer batteries. Prior to this technology no battery source had a high enough energy to weight ratio to support such a product.

Re:Hopefully... (2)

rmstar (114746) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356820)

Well, we are talking scales and scales here. The energy density of gasoline is still about a 100 times higher than that of the best batteries available. And it's not like there hasn't been any research on batteries.

Nitpic: the market for electric model airplanes took off before, with the NiMH cells. Of course, LiPo batteries are a lot nicer still.

Re:Hopefully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36357080)

The NiMH planes were a joke and you can't use gas engines indoors, which is actually the biggest market for the batteries. As a casual observer, the only advantage I see to the outdoor use of batteries is that it's much easier to build and maintain (just a battery and a motor).

Re:Hopefully... (1)

rmstar (114746) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357138)

- NiMH planes were hardly a joke. There was a lot of airracing done with them. Worked well.

- Many model planes get a lot of time out of their LiPo batteries, making the pilot want to have a break before the battery is empty. Gas, of course, runs much longer and you can sustain power for longer, but often the drawbacks (the mess) dominate.

Still, flying most distances of interest with a useful load is off limits for batteries.

Re:Hopefully... (2, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358380)

With a useful load is the real trick to electric anything.

Sure you can have an electric car today. Try loading up 2-3 of your friends, luggage for 4-5 days, to go anywhere?

The few cars that might get 200 mile range are suddenly cut down to 75.

Electric will come when two things happen. Better energy storage, and people get over nuclear power fears. With out nuclear power generation electric cars are worthless. Solar, wind hydro, geothermal, tidal, won't produce enough power to cover current needs, let alone tripling it by 30% of the population using electric cars.

Re:Hopefully... (2)

haruchai (17472) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358698)

If my math is right, you're off by nearly a factor of 10.
To replace every ICE passenger vehicle in America with an EV with double the battery capacity of the Nissan Leaf would increase annual US electric consumption by 40% not a 300% increase by replacing only a third.

Passenger vehicles in US incl SUVs = approx 250,000,000 (2006)
Nissan Leaf battery capacity is 24 kWH so double = 48kWh
Assume full charge every 3 days so annual # of fillups = 120

(The vehicle number is somewhat low but the charging and capacity numbers are high)
Total electricity usage for EVs = 250000000 x 48 kW-hrs x 120 / yr = 1 440 000 000 000 kWh/yr or 1,440,000,000 MWh/yr
Annual US electricity usage for 2009 = 3,750,000,000 MWh/yr
Divide total projected EV usage / Annual current usage = .384 or 38.4%

Not that's current USAGE not current capacity; having only a fraction of those EVs enabled with Vehicle-to-Grid in large population centers would give the grid enormous benefits for distributed storage. Businesses and manufacturing may not be so happy as the cheap or free nighttime power they've enjoyed would become a thing of the past.

Re:Hopefully... (1)

indeterminator (1829904) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360092)

Yes, for now, real travel requires a "real" car. However, most car trips are short commute and shopping mall trips with 1 person in the car. Where electric would be more efficient than gas.

Electric will come when it's the most attractive alternative financially, i.e. when gas prices go high enough.

Re:Hopefully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356778)

It's not the easy storage, it's the energy densidy. There's a reason the Prius weighs more then my pickup. Once you get the energy density somewhat close to gasoline, you'll be there. Yes, gas and diesel cheat -- presumably the battery is goign to have to carry the annode and the cathode, while gasoline uses air for half of the reaction, but there's no free lunch.

could (1)

enderjsv (1128541) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356596)

I hate the word "could." It's so inconclusive. I always think of the Geico commercial. "15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance." Yeah, and if I buy a lottery ticket, I could win millions of dollars. I probably won't, but I could.

I'm probably just being too cynical. This is an interesting development, and I should be more supportive. But I can't get excited when there's so much "could" in an article. Just not in my nature.

Re:could (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357150)

At least Geico's honest. Everyone else says that people who switch to them "save hundreds."

Well fucking DUH. Why the hell ELSE would you switch?!

(One cynic to another)

Re:could (1)

agrif (960591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359222)

Though completely off-topic, another reason people often save money when switching car insurance is that their cars are re-valued in the process. Of course, the car's current value is less than it was when the first insurance was purchased.

I've seen this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356606)

Isn't this how car batteries work?

Re:I've seen this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356660)

If you've seen this, you're from the future. Give us the winning lottery numbers already!

Re:I've seen this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356752)


The lottery gets much easier in the future.

Re:I've seen this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36357438)


The lottery gets much easier in the future when you know the answer to everything.


Re:I've seen this (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356766)

Nope. The anode and cathode in a car battery are lead/lead oxide/lead sulfate plates. There's an aqueous electrolyte, like in any wet cell battery.

Dangerous in the wild (3, Interesting)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356630)

Don't spill that shit. Imagine the average "I always top off my tank" bone head at a "gas pump" spilling what is basically the first practical, room temprature binary explosive all over the outside of his Jetta. Granted it isn't a proper explosive, it would be more of a flash of heat and electrical potential as the two materials mixed without the interleaving membrane.

As a sealed cell this is a fine idea. As a dispensed material it has "technical issues".

Re:Dangerous in the wild (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356664)

> average "I always top off my tank" bone head
Explain this one.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (0)

drcheap (1897540) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356908)

> average "I always top off my tank" bone head
Explain this one.

Attempting to put more gas into your tank after the pump auto-stops because the liquid has filled up to the point of the nozzle (aka, it's full). At this point, that extra gas goes out of a little overflow hole, and typically runs down and onto the ground where it becomes your very own little $3.899/gal environmental mini-disaster.

"Topping off" is a bit of a misleading term, but that's what they call it, even on the stickers at the pump. Tell me you have pumped gas into your car 100s of times and not see "do not top off" warning labels? If not, you must be from NJ.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357176)

I've seen the sign.... and heard the gurgle as the froth from pumping a liquid at 5GPM settles down into the oddly-shaped, baffled tank.

WTF shitty gas station do you go to where topping up leads to gas on the ground? I've only done that ONCE in my life, and it was because the gas station didn't properly maintain their pumps.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357586)

Topping off leads to gas on the ground all the time. Look at the ground at your gas station, heck lick it (I cannot honestly recommend touching the ground with a light lighter but it _would_ be funny) and see if you can see or taste gas. That stuff comes from somewhere, and it isn't just the disk-shake-drop that most people leave when they pull out too soon.

A wait ten seconds and then trickle-pump some more top-off can be done with predictable results. It's never necessary. Most people who top off make a mess. The mess can be compounded by successive fouling of the vapor recovery lines.

People top off and gush all over the place all the time.

Its unnecessary. You aren't saving yourself anything by getting that extra tenth of a gallon into your tank. There is a good chance that when you top off, fully half of that extra tenth is actually ending up in the vapor recovery system instead of your tank anyway, and the gas station just gets to sell it on to the next guy.

Am I innocent of topping off myself? no. Do I know its dumb? yes. Am I old enough that sometimes I do it without thinking? yes. Is it _still_ dumb? yes. Should I do it? no. Do I try not to do it despite a lifetime of practice? yes, at least when I am paying attention. Do I always spill, or even usually spill? no. Is it _still_ dumb? yes.

You should not top off your tank. It's never the right thing to do, even if you can do it well. About half the people who do it do it worse than average. 8-)

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357760)

The reason to top off is because sometimes it clicks off for no apparent reason; you might only have filled half way up so far.

That's not "topping off" (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358458)

If you know your tank isn't anywhere near full, then you are not "topping off" technically or morally, you are continuing to fill your tank.

There are two primary reasons that the nozzle will trip "for no reason". (1) improperly inserted nozzles will self trip when their stream of gas hits the side of the pipe and causes back-pressure, and likewise for letting the nozzle back out of the pipe. (2) Someone before you topped off and got "just a little" liquid gas into the vapor recovery system, when those liquid drops hit the internal sensors the last-ditch anti-siphon system kicks in and trips the shutoff. Both conditions are the result of improper fueling technique by the current or previous operator. (A caveat here is that the equipment can, through continued mis-used get worn out but that's a compounded case of items 1 and 2.)

I had a car for a while that would only fill properly if I put the nozzle in at a slight angle because of item 1 and crappy design of the fill pipe.

If you put eight gallons of gas in a rated-ten-gallon tank that wasn't bone dry you have no reason to squeeze the handle again. And if you do and it trips _again_ and you squeeze the handle a third time you are wanking off.

I've watched people re-squeeze the handle like eight times. This is topping off at its most primal level of idiocy.

Re:That's not "topping off" (1)

Zebedeu (739988) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358574)

I don't think it's fair to call it idiocy, it's simple misinformation.

They probably figure that the more fuel they put in now, the more they can drive before having to refill again.

In my defense, I don't top off for two reasons: 1) those extra drops don't mean much in terms of extra distance traveled, and 2) some guy at a gas station one topped my tank so much that it blocked the fuel meter at half full until I used up the fuel in the tank until that level. On a related note, never buy Peugeot.

But I'd never heard that topping off too much leads to fuel leaking to the ground. Live and learn I guess.

Re:That's not "topping off" (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359622)

Oh you'll know it if it hits the ground. There is no secret hole it comes out of where you won't see it.

The thing you are likely not to see is when the fule gets sucked into the vapor recovery system. If there is a big hood thing you will see it clearly when you separate the noces and tank. If its the kind where there are a bunch of holes around the outside of the tip of the nozzle then a slow-fill top-off may send a non-trivial amount of that gas you are pumping back into the pump.

There is an ongoing design war to prevent topping-off from becoming an all-out spill. The vacuum in the recovery system getting stronger, the sensors getting more responsive. all sorts of little tweaks. blarg.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358406)

all those spills on the ground are caused by lawncare/ ATV people topping off secondary tanks.

Watch a truck pull into a gas station hauling three lawn mowers with 3 5 gallon spare tanks on the ground, and them climbing on the lawn mowers to top those off too.

or people hauling their boats and topping off at the gas station as it is cheaper, if not easier.

There is lots of reasons gas spills at gas stations.

Topping Off, An Aphrophal Correction (5, Interesting)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357240)

There is a reason it's called "topping off" if my father's long-ago explanation is to be believed...

First: there is no "drain hole" in the fuel system (at least in the US etc) since the fuel system is supposed to be vapor tight. There _is_ a small drain hole behind the typical fuel filler door which mostly exists to prevent water from getting caught inside the compartment and rusting things out. That said...

We pump gas _far_ too fast to be environmentally sound. It _froths_ out of the hose in a turbulent flow and a lot of vapor escapes because of the frothing, which is why we now have those vapor recovery hoods etc on a lot of pumps.

When the tank is nearly full, e.g. "as full as it ought to be", the froth boils up the fill-pipe and triggers the back-pressure sensor causing the nozzle to click closed. I few seconds latter the frothing settles and there is now a space in the tank. "Topping off" is the attempt to fill that space.

Back in the before time, that is, before gas was expensive and mileage was important, getting that quarter of a gallon into the car meant getting another three or four miles before needing to fill up. Nobody cared that the net effect was 3 cents of gas gushing out of the pipe and onto the ground because everybody thought "what the heck" because nobody knew that dispersing hydrocarbons did anything but smell nice and industrial. Plus gas fill points were low and typically at the bumper so it didn't even ruin the paint job.

Now days, "topping off" is as bad as it ever was, and worse too boot. The attempt to fill that last little bit not only causes gas to gush out onto your paint job, and pollute the environment, not it also can put liquid gasoline into the vapor recovery system. This can cause the back-pressure valve in the pump to "miss" the fact that froth is rising in the fill tube. You can end up pumping gas right back out of your car and into the gas station tanks ( this costs you money) and then when you separate the nozzle from the car a _lot_ of gas can have collected in that rubber hood thing which then goes everywhere.

Better yet, then next guy will get the same treatment if there is still liquid gas in the vapor recovery system. I filled up my Prius in a bad part of town the other day, and when I pulled the nozzle out, a good 3 cups of gas went everywhere. Some person before me must have "topped off" and that turned the vapor recovery system into a siphon. Who knows how many people that effected before me, and after as now _my_ gas was in the hose for the next guy.

Your gas tank is never supposed to be _full_ by absolute measure. Just like every other container of liquid you have ever dealt with, there is a little space at the top.

Topping off _any_ container is the act of trying to fill that last little bit between "properly full" and "absolutely full" and it _always_ results in waste and spillage due to over-filling.

In my grandfather's age, the tank wasn't full until some spilled out. Topping off was the norm. People still do it because that's how they learned to do it "no matter what the sign says, my daddy showed me good"; this is the law of the dumb.

Re:Topping Off, An Aphrophal Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36359198)

Your gas tank is never supposed to be _full_ by absolute measure. Just like every other container of liquid you have ever dealt with, there is a little space at the top.

Not every container. Haven't you ever seen a flexible canteen? The idea is to fill it completely, with no headspace (but with a bit of slack, so thermal expansion or physical abuse won't burst it), then it won't slosh like a rigid canteen. As you drink it, you flatten it to keep it full, you never put the lid on with any headspace if you can help it.

What would /. be without senseless pedantry?

Re:Topping Off, An Apocryphal Correction (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359632)

And one way or another, when you fill that canteen you either leave/trap a little air or waste some water due to overspill. In fact I bet you often do both.

And the word I meant to put in the subject was "Apocryphal"...

Not to be pedantic. Twice. 8-)

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

glodime (1015179) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358900)

At this point, that extra gas goes out of a little overflow hole, and typically runs down and onto the ground

I'm quite skeptical of your claim. How is it legal to make a car that intentionally leaks gas, especially in a non-obvious way? Also, how is it that I've seen gas spill out of the port (is that the right word?) used to insert the nozzle? Is the overflow hole an insufficient size for its intent?

Re:Dangerous in the wild (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356684)

Eh, have the dispenser lock itself in while pumping the liquid, unlock only when no liquid is being pumped. There's no way you could treat this like gas anyway, cause like you said, any spill would be a disaster. Gas dripping is practically unavoidable with our current pumps.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

enderjsv (1128541) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356888)

Could mean the end of self-serve pumps.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36357188)

We'll all wind up like New Jersey? Oh no!

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357222)

Not sure full service helps. The only time I've seen someone spill gas all over the ground is the guy at a full service pump. I've never done it myself.

About spilling gas, you wanna read this... (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359436)

After borrowing my father's 4WD (not some big city pretender, but a proper off roader, diesel, 2 tanks, etc.) I went to fill it up as thanks. So, I filled up the 1st tank with 75 litres. Then I started fillling up the 2nd tank, and at about 20 litres, this passer by points out some liquid on the ground. I looked around and found that I'd stuck the bowser into a hole in the wall of the car for connecting water. Literally just a hole in the side of the car. So I had filled the car floor with 20 litres of diesel. Oh, crap! My poor father. (Turns out that both tanks were supposed to be filled using the same hole.)

Insurance paid for the car to be disassembled, the parts cleaned and then reassembled. They had no problem accepting that as an accident, 'cos seriously, who on Earth would do something so stupid on purpose?

I really hope I'm not on track for a Darwin Award. But hey, I'm in software, and cars are hardware.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357526)

Or it just means that the pump nozzle will have to plug into the fill port creating a liquid tight seal. There would also be a better over flow sensor to shut off the pump when the tank is full.

Though, that means there will have to be a standardized fill port plug and it would have to accommodate both cars and heavy trucks.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359670)

That would be _FOUR_ liquids passing through the nozzle, not just one. Anode Charged and Cathode Charged going in, Anode Discharged and Cathode Discharged coming out. Mixing of the two charged liquids is the part I think would be hugely dangerous. Small amounts would invariably leak out in traces, and it only takes a some kid going "what's that daddy" for someone to touch the residue of both ports and shock or burn themselves.

Closed systems would be much safer.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359936)

You know what else is not safe. Gasoline in a atmosphere containing oxygen.

Honestly you would never get people to switch to gasoline today because of "safety concerns".

Re:Dangerous in the wild (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356914)

You're worried about a straw man that we've not even seen yet... only in your imagination.

Don't just make it all up and then worry about it. Wait till you at least know something is leaning in a dangerous direction.....

Someone has to taste the fruit to see if its edible...

Re:Dangerous in the wild (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36357000)

You would obviously use a specially designed nuzzle, probably with a latch system in place, this wouldn't even work with a normal nozzle used for gas pumps, nor would you want to, to avoid confusion (imagine putting this stuff into a normal engine or vice versa).

Reasons for a special nozzle:
1) this is basically two liquids that acts as one fuel hence basically a nozzle with a divider basically
2) need to remove old liquids that no longer hold a charge meaning the need to pump the old out as well as pump the new liquids in (this would allow recycling and recharging the liquids taking care of the issue of battery replacement since battery is now just a shell)
3) the reason you stated

Actually, no... but not a "stopper". (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357474)

I would expect a standardized interlocking cartridge thing, or in-place charging.

In the case of replacing the fluids:
(1) The quantity of the two liquids would need to be kept in balance, which would be very hard to do using a "pumping" paradigm.
(2) The liquid isn't "consumed" (e.g. burnt) so much as "exhausted" (reduced to a non-charged state) so the spent liquid would need to be returned at the same time as the new liquid is supplied, which would get you up to four connections in the system instead of two.
(3) Punctures to containment would be hugely problematic, unlike gas, so the storage mechanism would need to have internal isolations to keep "the whole charge" from going off at once. (gas is amazingly stable in an accident since the liquid itself does not burn, not so much for the charged binary liquid in question.)

The in-place charging is much more likely. The charge process could be _very_ fast if the fluids are pumped quickly through a charging manifold. This would be the orthogonal structure to (or indeed the same exact structure as) the discharging manifold. Since the fluid is in motion it can be charged and _cooled_ immediately. That is the fluid would be pumped pass the charge point and into a heat sink or heat exchanger. In a full charging loop it might be chilled to an optimal pre-charge temperature, charged, and then cooled in series. Each individual annode/cathode element in the suspension would not have to take a full charge in one pass as you could keep circulating the fluid until the feedback voltage, charging current, and temperature told you the fluid was a charged as it was going to get. (and indeed the "worn-out-ness" of the fluid could probably be measured in the same way, telling you when you need to have your fluid changed by a proper professional etc.)

The system could work in a gas-pump like time and user modality (e.g. I put this thing in my car, watch it go "ding" for a while, then take it out and drive away) but the chance that the four fluids being exchanged by an average-joe in an air-gap setting is quite low.

No fluid exchange coupling known to date is absolutely residue free. It would only take one kid "checking out" the interlock and getting both liquids on his fingers and then touching them together to call in the liability lawyers big-time.

Not "Flaimbait", just flames... (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357622)

I love this moderation... it shoudl be +1 Flaimbait as any arrangement where four fluids (two charged fluids going in, and two discharged fluids coming out) of varying electrical potentials are being exchanged by someone of the same technical competence as, say, my mother, is _bound_ to end in flames, or at least tears... So having my mom pump this stuff, were she still alive, would be baiting flames indeed.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

IICV (652597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359700)

Imagine the average "I always top off my tank" bone head at a "gas pump" spilling what is basically the first practical, room temprature binary explosive all over the outside of his Jetta.

Do you really think that will be possible? The nozzle is already going to have to be different (since it's a binary compound) so they're going to have to redesign refueling anyway; if this goes commercial, they would build in safeguards against that, along with safeguards against accidentally putting some in your gas tank (or putting gas in this tank).

Re:Dangerous in the wild (2)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360114)

Oh come on. Do you think LPG is tanked the same way petrol is? There already are working, foolproof, airtight connectors. You just need another one, that has four tubes - 2 in, 2 out. Add some sensors and you're off.

Re:Dangerous in the wild (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360304)

They'll have to make damned sure you can't accidentally add cathode to the anode tank or vice versa or it'll be like the Dell laptop scaled up to OMG RUN size.

"As quick an easy as pumping gas"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356648)

So, in what world does replacing a fluid in an enclosed system become as quick and easy as pumping gas? It's easy to pump gas because the gas goes away as you use up the potential energy, freeing space to add more. When you're replacing fluid, you have to both drain and replace the existing fluid--I would foresee this process as being more analogous to an oil change than a fill-up. Though, given the nature of the system, it might have to work more like changing your brake fluid--meaning you also have to bleed any air from the system after you're done (since losing power due to bubbles would be bad).

I recognize that this editorial garbage was in the article, but can we please get better journalism on the part of MIT News? I would expect this from PopSci, not an actual science producing organization.

Re:"As quick an easy as pumping gas"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356856)

Really? All of the challenges that a technology like this faces and you think the engineering involved in designing a connector that pumps in new fluid, pumps out old fluid, and doesn't allow bubbles into the system while being as easy to use as a gas pump nozzle is the kicker? Any mechanical engineering graduate who couldn't design that connector should be stripped of their degree. Making it reliable over thousands of uses and cheap?Tthat may take a little more work, but I would hardly rank the idea as the most outlandish concept in the article.

quick and easy, sure, but not the same at all. (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358570)

Two fluids, out and in, reduce the mixing so that the fresh fluid is not diluted unacceptably by the stale, ensure none of the anode fluid _ever_ mixes with the cathode fluid, ensure that no person (including a curious child) is exposed to both fluids at once even if they "poke at" the nozzle. This is not a "fill the tank with gas" analog operation at all.

I think the material has great promise, and since it is fluid based, it is probably very able to be cooled quickly as it charges so a closed-loop fast charge in-place is probably _way_ more workable than replacing the fluid every time a charge is needed.

The gas-pump experience I would expect would be a "hose" from the pumping station which carried an electrical cable and a cooling loop. The fluids inside the closed system in the car would be pumped "briskly" though the charging manifold, the "nozzle" would sandwich the charging manifold and both apply the electric potential and aggressive chilling. The charged fluid would return to primary containment somewhat cool to the touch.

The cooling would alleviate the thermal degradation that limits current fast-charging of batteries. The closed system would eliminate the dangers inherent in letting untrained people move 100kwh of charged chemical danger out in the wild. It would be "as quick and easy as pumping gas" as far as the user experience. But it would not be "filling an empty tank with go-juice", and even the article doesn't say it would be.

The fluids would clearly have a replacement schedule, much like engine oil, and you would take your car in for that maintenance when the pump told you that the charging rate during your "fill up" was sub-optimal.

Much better than a true pump and nozzle arrangement.

Nothing new (1)

Jimbookis (517778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356708)

I was told about this sort of battery research 2nd hand about 8 years ago. Go to the 'petrol' station, attach a nozzle to the car, have the battery fluids replaced in a matter of a minute or two and off you go.

It's called a fuel cell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356770)

Once you're replacing the fuel it isn't a battery anymore.

Re:It's called a fuel cell (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358638)

It is, because the 'recharging' occurs at the 'petrol' station long after you've left.

Its then pumped in to someone else's car.

Err (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356890)

They claim this is a completely new kind of technology because the fluid composing anode and cathode can be easily replaced.... You know like you can easily replace pretty much any battery on the market.

This isn't a radical new concept, just another contender in the electrochemical cell family, but they sure are trying to oversell it.

Radically new approach? (1)

tragedy (27079) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356902)

It's hardly a "radically new approach". The idea has been around for a long time and is easy to come up with off the the top of your head. I did in
this slashdot post [] . I'm not going to try to claim to have come up with a radically new approach there either since the idea has, in all likelihood, been around for about as long as batteries have (which is millenia, incidentally). Making it work is another matter altogether. If they have, it may be of some interest. Of course, in the post I linked to above, I speculated that such an approach was almost guaranteed to end up as an environmental disaster in one way or another. My view on that may have softened a little since that post, but it would take some extraordinary proof for me to believe that it wouldn't end up resulting in thousands of plumes of heavy metal laden electrolyte under filling stations everywhere.

Re:Radically new approach? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36356964)

end up resulting in thousands of plumes of heavy metal laden electrolyte under filling stations everywhere.

Better than nuclear radioisotope laden plumes lingering over major metropolitan areas everywhere, bought and paid for by oil-rich terrorist states with our own money.

Re:Radically new approach? (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357102)

You have a high opinion of major metropolitan areas...

Re:Radically new approach? (2)

tragedy (27079) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357178)

Hard to tell which is more important: groundwater or air. I was actually arguing for sealed batteries as opposed to liquid flow battery juice. Concentrating the job of filling batteries with highly reactive heavy metal containing liquid compounds seems like a job best done in a small number of well-regulated facilities with serious containment and trained, careful personnel rather than at tens of thousands of little stations maybe inspected once every few years with the filling done by commuters in a rush or other careless people. I don't see why you can't have strings of batteries on serpentine chain belts that you can feed into cars while replacing the old ones.

If someone could develop an actual 100% efficient quick-charging battery that could compete with a tank of gas, that would also be great, as well as a complete miracle. The problem without such a battery, and the reason something else is needed, is that the energy transfer rate from a typical gas pump is on the order of 10 MW, which is possible because it's a simple transfer of an inert substance. Charging a chemical battery requires energy conversion. If the conversion is 99% efficient, then that means that, to keep up with a gas pump, around 100 KW of heat is produced, which is a lot of heat to handle without the car melting and the person filling it bursting into flame, not to mention that the 99% efficiency is probably a pipe dream. Aside from that, it means that the electric equivalent of even a small four pump gas station has to be wired for 40 MW (buffering power somehow with ultracapacitors or a flywheel or something sounds doable until you look at what's actually available and do the math and realize they just wouldn't cut it for the usage patterns of a typical gas station) and so does the one right across the street.

How about... (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 3 years ago | (#36356912)

Instead of refueling a battery, you change the whole battery every time you stop at a "gas" station. The system has been used for gas cans for decades now and it works.

I always wondered why do they assume that a car battery needs to be the same every time.

Re:How about... (2)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357074)

I'm not sure comparing 30lbm propane gas cylinder swaps to swapping batteries is a fair comparison. (Assuming that's what you meant; I'm not aware of anywhere that swaps gasoline cans.)

That said, there are many groups working on swappable battery packs. Part of the problem, though, is that you have structural issues, alignment issues, storage issues (it's a lot easier to store and move liquids than it is 100+ lbm battery packs), matching the correct battery pack to the correct vehicle, and issues like making sure that the terminals don't short to anything during the swap. Liquids also lend themselves much easier to continuous processes where swappable batteries are inherently batch. Managing an inventory of batteries is a lot more difficult than managing a giant tank.

There are pros and cons to both approaches, but in general liquid-based approaches are much more flexible.

Re:How about... (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357504)

That is the basic idea, but it's really simple:

I've seen working prototypes with working swappable batteries, so that shouldn't be an issue.

Same way every car either takes leaded gasoline, unleaded gasoline or diesel, just make 3 types of batteries (different power for different requirements).

The management part should be possible to overcome, especially because the adoption would be slow. The infrastructure would have to be built, but that doesn't meant it isn't doable. The up side is that you wouldn't require a gas post - every store could trade your depleted pack for a new one.

The only reason I see this not working is because of patents/money. Patents would be in the way of a standard, big oil would be in the way of widespread use of this idea.

Re:How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36357174)

Because it's frigging hard to swap out structural members in 5min. Remember a current generation lithium ion battery pack large enough to power a car weighs the better part of half a ton.

Re:How about... (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358326)

Instead of refueling a battery, you change the whole battery every time you stop at a "gas" station. The system has been used for gas cans for decades now and it works.

Trick is, a natural gas tank is just a can full of natural gas. and 30 pounds of natural gas is pretty much like any 30 pounds of natural gas.

Batteries, on the other hand, age. As they get older, they hold less energy. So, you take your brand new battery (which you paid a pretty penny for when you bought your new electric car, and which will take your car 200+ miles), and swap it for a five-year-old battery which only holds enough energy for 150 miles. Or 100 miles, if it's a cheap knockoff. Or less, perhaps.

As long as not all batteries are identical in performance, hot-swapping them will only be popular with people who currently have crappy batteries...

Re:How about... (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359884)

I think of it like a propane tank for a gas-fired barbeque grill:

It's (usually) cheaper to refill the same tank over and over, but that takes more time, and can only be done at a limited selection of locations. Plus you've got to keep the thing free of rust, have it inspected periodically, and sometimes apply a new coat of paint. Eventually, the tank will fail inspection anyway, and needs replaced.

And while some folks do all that, others just toss their empty tank into the car, and exchange it for a full tank when they do their shopping. It's easy, it's fast, it (usually) costs more, and it's done.

The propane distributor handles details like inspection and painting. They are paid for this with the premium that they charge for the service. I'm sure they make more money on some exchanges than on others, but on average they must do reasonably well or there wouldn't be a propane exchange at every single corner gas station, convenience store, grocery store, and home center in my town. (Of course, large batteries are too costly to handle to make things up in a game of averages, but I'll get to that.)

Back to the topic: It's also easy to analyze batteries The battery in my Dell laptop currently 7 years old, and it has a pretty good idea of the actual power availability that it has (which is not very much). At work, we use dedicated a battery analyzer to rate used battery packs for customers.

It's also possible to design a battery so that it can be repaired. I once saw a gentleman replacing a single failed lead-acid cell in a Pandur [] . Each cell was containerized, and they were connected together in series with short jumper straps. (I forget it it had 6 or 12 individual 2.1V lead acid cells, but it doesn't matter...)

Combine these three concepts, and you wind up with a battery exchange program which works as follows:

1. The customer pulls in, and wants to exchange the battery in his electric MoonGoblin.

2. The service attendant looks (visually, and electronically) at the condition of the battery and its current state of charge.

3. While this is happening, the driver can select from a range of different batteries, priced differently (and predictably) based on their condition -- which should include new, or nearly new batteries as well as anything else.

4. The battery gets swapped. Money changes hands (more money changes hands when getting a better battery than you came in with). Driver leaves in his MoonGoblin with his new (or at least newly-charged) battery.

5. If warranted, the exchange station will repair a battery that is in poor condition, or send it out to be fixed (depending on their skill and the extent of the repair), but if it is a reasonably good battery it will just be placed back onto the charging rack, re-rated, and exchanged with the next guy.

Here are the problems with my plan that I anticipate folks will be willing to point and laugh at:

First, changing batteries. How the hell is this supposed to be done, exactly? A forklift? A gantry crane? Magic robots? I don't know either, sorry. Argue about something else please. :)

Second, lies and deceit. There is a financial incentive, on all sides, to make batteries appear to be in better condition than they actually are. But the market will sort that out quite well enough, I think: The stations can keep track of individual cars and their exchange habits, so if the ol' MoonGoblin gets hacked by its owner to lie about the condition of the battery, stations will stop doing business with him (databases are cool). This provides a disincentive to counter the incentive for the costumer to lie.

On the other hand, if a station has a tendency to be misrepresenting the batteries they offer, their reputation will keep people away. (On the other hand, the local Department of Weights and Measures will audit them periodically anyway, just like they do with gas pumps and deli scales). The system can also be self-audited (again, databases are cool), since the next station to receive a misrepresented battery will also take a hit. This also provides a disincentive to counter the incentive for the station to lie.

Of course, some folks will lie, anyway, damn the consequences...just as some bars water their booze, and some people steal gas. This isn't new, but at least there's a system (tersely described above) to keep that in check.

Third, yes: These packs should be repairable, even if they're not easily exchangable. Anything else is just hugely wasteful of energy and materials.

Fourth: "Oh my God! Can you imagine the lines at an exchange station if everyone had to go through all of that?" No, I can't imagine it at all. I don't see a battery exchange as being a replacement for home charging, just a supplement for it. A plug-in EV would suit my normal driving needs Just Fine, even for my work truck (if they ever made an EV big enough), but every now and then I do need to travel further than that. The exchange will be used for folks who are driving long distances, or as a simple way to replace a tired old MoonGoblin battery with something fresher (and pay accordingly).

hurray (1)

xmousex (661995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357038)

another amazing, wonderful, world changing, society fixing, all or our problems are solved, idea i heard about this week that ill be wondering what the hell ever happened to.... ten years from now when gas is $50/gallon to power a car that still doesnt fly and my cell phone charge still wont last more then an hour and all my friends are still obese and dying from cancer, lack of health care, with an upside down mortgage and no jobs and a microwave dinner that still fucking frozen in the middle.

someday you should print an article when one of these brilliant mit/scientists/researchers/whoever people does something that actually makes it to market and changes the world.

It's got what cars crave... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36357050)

It's got electrolytes!

Better than public transportation (3, Insightful)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357112)

I'm a big believer in the personal freedom offered by owner-driven vehicles, even if the driver is often the only person in the vehicle. Therefore, I am in favor of advanced battery technology that will allow a gradual transition of the world's fleet of personal vehicles to all electric drive rather than gasoline and diesel. Gasoline and diesel require a state of constant war in the Middle East to sustain.

Re:Better than public transportation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36357402)

I guess you don't believe in the tragedy of the commons? In a big city when everybody tries to drive to work everybody loses. Witness LA, Seattle. The personal convenience of having a car isn't so convenient when you're stuck on the wrong side of a 1-hour traffic jam, not to mention the human cost of making a car the only way home for drunk folks coming home from the bar.

Not that there's anything wrong with wanting convenience. When we get self-driving cars and vehicle trains working well, we can have the best of all worlds. Be a while yet for that though, and in the meantime public transit makes a lot of sense for a lot of people.

Re:Better than public transportation (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357896)

Right, but cars do work very well for the majority of this country's 300 million population. Only a small fraction have to live in the overcrowded metroxplexes that do not have adequate road systems for their populations.

Ever tried driving a car in say, Lubbock, Texas? It works AMAZINGLY well. You can get anywhere in the city you want in 15 minutes, and delays are minimal.

Re:Better than public transportation (1)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357984)

I'm in a town of 60,000 and we do not have traffic problems here. We have basically no public transportation, and our roads are poorly designed and confusing, and yet we rarely have traffic problems. You can get around any where you want with a car in about 20 minutes at maximum. Most driving trips are actually quite relaxing - I like it because it gives me an excuse to be uncontactable.

Re:Better than public transportation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36359334)

Yeah, my problem with GGP is not that driving is inherently evil. Of course there are a lot of communities where it's essential in the US right now. It's that they're a "big believer in the personal freedom offered by owner-driver vehicles" -- that's like saying you're a big believer in the freedom to wave your arms like a maniac. It's pretty much irrelevant what you think, if you try it in a crowded pub, you're going to start a fight.

You can't fight the tide. That's all I'm saying. If you live in Lubbock, that's great, you're clearly not in the big city I was talking about. "Better than public transportation" is a statement that completely misses the point: we don't need public transportation to save gas. Public transportation isn't efficient unless it has ridership, and it doesn't have ridership unless there's population density.

Or did someone in this thread think that driving empty diesel buses back and forth along a route all day would somehow save the environment? I don't.

Re:Better than public transportation (1)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359604)

You clearly understand the issues. Some people don't understand the ridership issue. I suggest you get a slashdot account so people can see your posts.

Re:Better than public transportation (1)

schlameel (1017070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357916)

And where will the electricity come from? Oil is energy; transportable and relatively dense, but it still accounts for more than 35% of US energy use. A "transition... to all electric" does not mean energy independence anymore than a "hydrogen economy" does.

Re:Better than public transportation (1)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357952)

Not oil, that's for sure. Right now, most electricity comes from gas and coal, nuclear and hydro. Oil makes up less than %1 of electricity generation. Even on a coal grid, there are less CO2 emissions from electric cars than gas cars. By the time all cars are electric, all electricity will come from solar and wind and hydro.

Re:Better than public transportation (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358936)

2009 figures for U.S.: more than 2/3 from fossil fuels:
coal 44.9%
natural gas 23.4%
nuclear 20.3%
hydroelectric 6.9%
other renewables 3.6%
petroleum 1.0%

Re:Better than public transportation (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359346)

And where will the electricity come from? Oil is energy; transportable and relatively dense, but it still accounts for more than 35% of US energy use. A "transition... to all electric" does not mean energy independence anymore than a "hydrogen economy" does.

I expect electricity generation to get cleaner, greener, and cheaper over the next 100 years as we finally figure out safe nuclear that can run without lies and coverups.

Re:Better than public transportation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36358246)

I like bicycles, they're even more free than cars.

Re:Better than public transportation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36358314)

I'm a big believer in the personal freedom offered by owner-driven vehicles...

I'm not. Public transport is cheaper for society, and takes care of most of my transportation needs. For those rare occasions when that doesn't work out, I can catch a taxi. If I someday need to go somewhere a taxi won't go, I'll hire a car.

Modern society gives you the personal freedom to go wherever you want to go, regardless of whether you own your own vehicle or not.

Re:Better than public transportation (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359124)

Gasoline and diesel require a state of constant war in the Middle East to sustain.

Not for the US. The vast majority of our oil comes from Canada, Mexico, Venezuala, and other locations in the Americas.

Re:Better than public transportation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36359584)

Gasoline and diesel require a state of constant war in the Middle East to sustain.....Not for the US.

And the only reason US started fucking "war in the Middle East" was because of 'weapons of muss distraction'. And then we sent US companies to pump their oil was because...

In fact, never mind that. As a single largest consumer US jacks up oil prices all around the world, it does not make a difference where oil in --your-- tank actually came from.

Am I the only one who saw this? (3, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357124)

I have a very big issue with what appears to be publicly-funded research being siphoned straight off into some corporate treasuries.

This BS needs to stop. Repeal the Bayh-Dole Act [] . It has done nothing but harm the public and our economy.

Re:Am I the only one who saw this? (3, Interesting)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357276)

I once called MIT to inquire about getting license to a patent developed under a DOE grant. I was immediately transferred to their public affairs office where someone newly hired was rattling off the benefits of this act. I asked specifically about the process of bidding on the patents and was informed that for all intents and purposes it is by invitation only. The company getting all of the patents from the publicly funded research was owned by the head research scientist. Go figure.

Re:Am I the only one who saw this? (2)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360052)

You can either have academic labs researching things which are commercially interesting, and then give the professors working on it the perk of having the opportunity to commercialize it first (or at least royalties), or you can have academic labs researching things which the professor is academically interested in, and hope that it is commercially interesting. It is difficult to get both.

Either you get people complaining that publicly funded research isn't free to the public to use, or you get people complaining that stuff invented in academia has no practical application. And since there aren't any industrial research labs left, that means either no commercially interesting research, or encumbered research.

Not to mention that it would be *damn* hard to get professors to work for peanuts (seriously, I've seen what these people make for their qualifications) while training basically all high-skill future scientists, and under a contract where all work they do they can't even commercialize because some big company will snap it up underneath them.

No, I'm afraid that I have to disagree with your position. Yes, I have a bias because I am working very hard to commercialize technology that my lab invented, but I also think that is is more than fair to give the actual inventors first dibs on trying to commercialize something. I would have left academia in a hurry and just did all my work as a trade secret pretty quickly otherwise.

National labs of course are a totally different story. Usually their inventions are licensed under reasonable terms in only non-exclusive licenses. But those inventors are *working* for the government as opposed to just having a small fraction of their costs paid for by a government grant.

Another "upside" of this technology... (2)

ferongr (1929434) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357260)

Various governments around the world can impose a tax on the liquid, effectively being able to keep that huge income stream intact. When the price at the pump is 75% tax (in my glorious socialist EU country), at 1,70€/liter...

Electric cars can use 20Amp 3-phase chargers to charge the batteries (albeit slowly) without requiring any changes in the electrical systems of a house. This makes government budget centers iffy, since they cannot easily tax you (despite the fact that in many EU countries you already pay for a yearly tax in excess of 150€).

Cars with liquid-rechargeable batteries would allow them to control distribution of the liquid and keep taxing it.

Re:Another "upside" of this technology... (2)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#36359488)

At-home charging doesn't help when you're driving a distance larger than a single fill-up range. Nor does any charging scheme where the wait time is significant.

There is a legitimate market for fuel substitutes that are easily flowed in & out of a vehicle.

Re:Another "upside" of this technology... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360172)

Electric cars can use 20Amp 3-phase chargers to charge the batteries (albeit slowly) without requiring any changes in the electrical systems of a house. This makes government budget centers iffy, since they cannot easily tax you (despite the fact that in many EU countries you already pay for a yearly tax in excess of 150€).

Obviously you don't read your monthly electric energy bills. There is VAT on it, so your government is taxing your electricity already.

If home-charged electric vehicles become reality and government sees fall of fuel-tax budgetary income, they will probably introduce additional special energy tax, to "recover their losses".

The Keywords Are "Lightweight and Inexpensive" (1)

Weaselgrease (2050100) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357454)

As soon as some corporate battery behemoth hears this, they'll buy up the patent and lock it away so it can't be manufactured until the current battery designs stop making so much money.

Am I the only one who thought... (1)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357626)

that these positively and negatively-charged gels would make fine additions to Portal 2?

Pre-peer puffery (2)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357842)

"The new semi-solid flow batteries pioneered by Chiang and colleagues overcome this limitation, providing a 10-fold improvement in energy density over present liquid flow-batteries, and lower-cost manufacturing than conventional lithium-ion batteries."

It's statements like this that make me cringe when I look at the puffery which comes out of academia. 10 * better than A, and cheaper than B. Is it 10 * better than B? Or as good as B? Or (more likely) 1/10th as good as B.

Charge time isn't the problem (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36357954)

Charge time isn't the problem. We have capacitors that can take millions of volts in milliseconds after all. The problem is Getting enough power to the refilling station to top off 20 cars at once. We're talking kilowatts here. And the cable going from the station to the vehicle would be the size of a tree trunk unless we get super conductors involved.

This tech helps solve exactly the issues you raise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36358298)

RTFA, much? The whole point of the described liquid flow batteries is that you can refuel the car by exchanging spent 'slurry' for fresh stuff. The recharging of the slurry could happen at the filling station (with load smoothed over the whole day), or presumably it could be distributed in liquid form just like gasoline is today (by tanker truck). Also, I think you meant megawatts.

Re:Charge time isn't the problem (1)

glorybe (946151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358438)

There are several problems but charge time is still one of them. We have crowded gas stations with lines at times already. Suppose that we had a twelve minute charge time as opposed to the three minute fill time for gasoline. It would be enough to clog cities with cars that could not move from lack of charge. Then there are the numerous power generating stations that would be needed to supply electricity to the charging stations. It gets worse. Even if each car must gather solar energy on its roof to propel the car spinning electric motors still heats the environment. Really population is at the root of all of our woes and population size can not be regulated without totalitarian systems of government. Maybe it is more important for universities to find ways to keep people from reproducing than designing better batteries.

Re:Charge time isn't the problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36359136)

I think many people would choose to charge at home while their car is in the garage. Filling stations would be most often used for longer trips which is the vast minority of vehicles on the road.

Also, yes electric motors generate heat. If that electricity came from solar, you know where most of the energy would have gone were it not for the solar collection? Heat. A tiny bit of reflection might escape the planet, but it would mostly go to heat.

Re:Charge time isn't the problem (1)

headpushslap (583517) | more than 3 years ago | (#36358512)

Congestion actually helps solve the core issue. As congestion increases drivers begin to find other ways to get around. One electric bus could take up to 40 times the passengers of a single occupant vehicle, and transit becomes the best alternative for many commuters. In the long run cities become smaller and more accessible simply to overcome the inconvenience.

Not news, just an MIT news release (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36359504) []

When will the MIT news monkeys learn that the rest of us can use the web to see what ideas they have "improved upon"?

Interesting idea, with some flaws (2)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360168)

I just read the Advanced Energy Materials article (which you can easily find by googling the title and filtering for pdf).
The idea itself is interesting, and could potentially remove some manufacturing problems (i.e. no need to dry, calender, cut electrodes and then assemble single cells and wire them in a pack) but I see a couple of big flaws in it:
1) Let's get off the table the idea of "refueling". Li-ion batteries are assembled in their discharged state. The slurries containing LiCoO2 and Li4Ti5O12 (as per the article), when put in contact, produce exactly 0 energy. You have to either charge them using electricity, or prepare slurries of Li0.5CoO2 and Li7Ti5O12. Neither of the two materials is stable in air, thus I don't think it's possible to prepare a "refueling" system with current Li-ion battery materials.
2) The beauty of Li-ion batteries is that they have 99.995% efficiency round-trip. This system seems to be based on very thick slurries which probably require strong pumps to circulate in a system, thus killing such efficiency.
3) What's more, the slurries are prepared with highly flammable solvents (dioxolane). Not sure I'd like to carry around two tanks of the stuff, considering that a breach in the separator or in the "fuel" lines could ignite the whole thing.
It is true that changing materials is a simpler problem than designing a completely new system, but as the authors themselves admit this is just a readaptation of an old system.
I think it would be much more practical to redesign redox flow batteries to use non-aqueous electrolytes, thus allowing to work in a larger potential window (water only allows about 1.5V).
I'm not sure things are looking up for A123, and I hope Prof. Chiang won't sink with this idea either. Good luck to all the researchers involved.

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