MIT Battery Breakthrough Could Revolutionize Electric Cars

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed battery cells capable of charging in under a minute, an astonishing 100 times faster than a regular rechargable battery.

The breakthrough could revolutionize electric car battery technology and pave the way for ultra-fast charging electric vehicles in as little as two years.

The discovery came when MIT researchers Byoungwoo Kang and Gerbrand Ceder found out how to get a common lithium compound to release and take up lithium ions in a matter of seconds. According to Ceder, the compound, known as lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4), has a crystal structure that creates “perfectly sized tunnels for lithium to move through,” allowing the team to reach “ridiculously fast charging rates.”

Ceder and Kang theorized that the lithium ions were having difficulty finding their way to the crystal structure’s ‘express tunnels’ and devised a way to assist the ions by coating the surface of the cathode with a thin layer of lithium phosphate glass, known to be an excellent lithium conductor. When the team tested the newly-coated cathode, they discovered it could be charged and discharged in as little as 9 seconds.

According to Peter Bruce, a chemist at the University of St Andrews, UK, “As far as I know, this is the fastest yet for this material.”

Speaking about the process, outlined in this weeks edition of Nature, Ceder has speculated that further improvements in modelling will enable the discovery of other candidates for ultra-fast batteries. “My guess is that there are more materials like this out there,” he says.

[Source: NatureNews]

Image Credit – Jesus Presley via flickr.com on a Creative Commons license

 

Andrew Williams

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.