So, you think you know everything there is to know about rechargeable batteries? Not anymore! MIT has been working on battery technology that means recharging your EV still involves a good old “fill ‘er up.” Just not the kind of “fill ‘er up” you may be thinking of.
MIT’s battery research is going to turn your current notions about how batteries get charged upside down! Basically, MIT figured out a way to recharge batteries by using a reusable liquid that is pumped into a battery. The battery recharges in minutes. How’s that? Sounds good to us!
Most people like us want to know the technical details. If you’re reading this we’re sure you do too. So here goes: the electrodes and battery fluid [an electrolyte] are separate but mixed up as a liquid. It’s basically a sludgy electrode electrolyte mix. The tiny particle electrodes suspend in liquid electrolyte. To discharge you pump the fluid into a special filter. This allows the electrons to flow out of the battery. This is called a semi-solid flow cell. Ok, so it’s not BRAND new technology, right? However, no one but MIT has ever been able to achieve this kind of useful high energy density.
You may be asking how this compares to conventional batteries. Ok, conventional batteries have two solid electrodes immersed in a fluid-like substance. Sometimes they dangle other times they get sandwiched in a complex multi-layered
structure. This allows for chemical flow. When charged up the battery’s chemistry makes the liquid move up to the solid electrodes so the electrons flow out of the battery and into your circuitry. You push electrons back into the battery to charge it up and the internal chemistry re-arranges to ready itself for discharge.
Whew! Does that sound complicated or what? Most of this stuff is. However, here’s what you really need to know: MIT’s technology means we’ll have less bulky battery designs. EV components like batteries, electronics, and motors can
be put into conventional car designs. Imagine stuffing a useful EV battery into a Smart car and you’ll understand why this is useful technology. Remember this battery has two systems: one to store energy and one to extract and discharge
energy. What does this mean? You can swap out a charged fuel “tank” in minutes at a battery filling station. Using MIT’s technology you pump out the spent fuel and replace it with new fully charge battery chemistry. The spent fuel gets
charged up at a station and then the fuel gets injected into the next empty battery that drives up. How cool is that!?!
It will take just minutes to charge an EV instead of hours. The MIT science team calls their new battery sludge “Cambridge Crude.”