Go With The Flow
Purdue researchers have developed technology for an “instantly rechargeable” battery that is affordable, environmentally friendly, and safe. Currently, electric vehicles need charging ports in convenient locations to be viable, but this battery technology would allow drivers of hybrid and electric vehicles to charge up much like drivers of conventional cars refill quickly and easily at gas stations.
This breakthrough would not only speed the switch to electric vehicles by making them more convenient to drive, but also reduce the amount of new supportive infrastructure needed for electric cars dramatically. Purdue University professors John Cushman and Eric Nauman teamed up with doctoral student Mike Mueterthies to co-found Ifbattery LLC (IF-battery) for commercializing and developing the technology.
The new model is a flow battery, which does not require an electric charging station to be recharged. Instead, all the users have to do is replace the battery's fluid electrolytes — rather like filling up a tank. This battery's fluids from used batteries, all clean, inexpensive, and safe, could be collected and recharged at any solar, wind, or hydroelectric plant. Electric cars using this technology would arrive at the refueling station, deposit spent fluids for recharging, and “fill up” like a traditional car might.
Cleaner, Faster Battery Technology
This flow battery system is unique because, unlike other versions of the flow battery, this one lacks the membranes which are both costly and vulnerable to fouling. “Membrane fouling can limit the number of recharge cycles and is a known contributor to many battery fires,” Cushman said in a press release. “Ifbattery’s components are safe enough to be stored in a family home, are stable enough to meet major production and distribution requirements, and are cost effective.”
Transitioning existing infrastructure to accommodate cars using these batteries would be far simpler than designing and building a host of new charging stations — which is Tesla's current strategy. Existing pumps could even be used for these battery chemicals, which are very safe.
“Electric and hybrid vehicle sales are growing worldwide and the popularity of companies like Tesla is incredible, but there continues to be strong challenges for industry and consumers of electric or hybrid cars,” Cushman said in the press release. “The biggest challenge for industry is to extend the life of a battery’s charge and the infrastructure needed to actually charge the vehicle.”
When can we expect to see these batteries in use? The biggest hurdle isn't the materials, which are cheap and plentiful, but person power. The researchers still need more financing to complete research and development to put the batteries into mass production. To overcome this problem, they're working to publicize the innovation in the hopes of drawing interest from investors.