Another Lithium-Ion battery tech story...

An advanced manufacturing approach for lithium-ion batteries, developed by researchers at MIT and at a spinoff company called 24M, promises to significantly slash the cost of the most widely used type of rechargeable batteries while also improving their performance and making them easier to recycle.

“We’ve reinvented the process,” says Yet-Ming Chiang, the Kyocera Professor of Ceramics at MIT and a co-founder of 24M (and previously a co-founder of battery company A123). The existing process for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, he says, has hardly changed in the two decades since the technology was invented, and is inefficient, with more steps and components than are really needed.

"the new formulation produces battery cells that can be bent, folded or even penetrated by bullets without failing. "

The new process is based on a concept developed five years ago... In this so-called “flow battery,” the electrodes are suspensions of tiny particles carried by a liquid and pumped through various compartments of the battery.

The new battery design is a hybrid between flow batteries and conventional solid ones: In this version, while the electrode material does not flow, it is composed of a similar semisolid, colloidal suspension of particles. Chiang and Carter refer to this as a “semisolid battery.”

Reducing nonfunctional material by 80%

This approach greatly simplifies manufacturing, and also makes batteries that are flexible and resistant to damage. Using fewer, thicker electrodes, the system reduces the conventional battery architecture’s number of distinct layers, as well as the amount of nonfunctional material in the structure, by 80 percent.

Cutting manufacturing costs by half

In addition to streamlining manufacturing enough to cut battery costs by half, Chiang says, the new system produces a battery that is more flexible and resilient. While conventional lithium-ion batteries are composed of brittle electrodes that can crack under stress, the new formulation produces battery cells that can be bent, folded or even penetrated by bullets without failing. 

Applications: Energy Grid, also well suited to weight and volume sensitive applications like EVs (Drones too?)

The company is initially focusing on grid-scale installations, used to help smooth out power loads and provide backup for renewable energy sources that produce intermittent output, such as wind and solar power. But Chiang says the technology is also well suited to applications where weight and volume are limited, such as in electric vehicles.

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  • Gary, in most applications LiPo's are able to deliver more current than motors can consume without windings turning into fuses. (The 3S batteries in my hex can deliver 520 amps continuously!) The gains need to come in the form of energy density.  More energy stored in a lighter package will dramatically increase flight times.

  • Yet another long term battery technology, but it sounds good and if anybody can do it MIT can.

    It will be interesting to see if this filters out to be usable in our "drones", existing Lithium Ion are a bit light on C rating.

    The ability to make these in less expensive and smaller factories should help the technology expand (if the patent holders encourage it.)

  • Interesting! I wonder if the energy density is affected, and what about the C rating?
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