Gallery: Northwestern University Researchers Create Breakthrough Batter...


Researchers led by professor Harold Kung at Northwestern University have just developed a breakthrough battery technology that could allow electric cars to run 10 times longer and recharge 10 times quicker. The new lithium ion batteries use several techniques to pack more power capacity into batteries while vastly improving both their charge speed and their ability to hold a charge over time. The result is a battery that could be ready for use in 3 to 5 years that could keep your cell phone charged for a week and recharge in 15 minutes, or give your electric car a 500-mile range with 10-minute charging. We already know Nissan is set to release a quick-charger that powers up current EVs in 10 minutes, so we’re excited to see how these two breakthrough technologies will interact.

These are game-changing numbers, and it seems that the technology isn’t different enough from current batteries to make its success all that improbable. You can read a full explanation of the new batteries here, but basically the researchers arranged the current materials in a lithium ion battery differently to maximize their potential. They sandwiched clusters of silicon between graphene sheets to stabilize it and maximize charge capacity, which allows for a greater number of lithium ions in the electrode. Then the researchers created tiny holes in the sheets to give the lithium ions a “shortcut” to the anode, which gives the batteries their quick-charging capabilities.

Harold Kung, the professor of chemical and biological engineering who published the results in the journal Advanced Energy Materials, said that “[e]ven after 150 charges, which would be one year or more of operation, the battery is still five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today.” We can’t wait to see this technology come to market along with all the other recent battery breakthroughs.

+ Northwestern University

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  1. alaasadek November 26, 2011 at 5:00 am

    I agree that this a huge amount, but how about using ultracapacitors to charge these batteries? I also agree that this will put a strain on the grid, but if we can genrate our own electricty localy say from solar or wind and then store it in ultracapacitors then we solve the grid problem. As for the energy density of ultracapacitors, well since they will be stationary there is no need to worry about how heavy or large they are. I also suspect that the price of ultracapacitors will drop dramaticaly in the near future. So all in all we are getting closer to not being dependet on Oil.

  2. drew_va November 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    quinny, this is true, but that doesn’t really come into play for personal uses. If cars had a 500 mile range, even at 70mph it would take over 7 hours to deplete the car batteries. So for home use, 7 hours would be the absolute fastest you would need the charging station batteries to recharge (unless you have more than one car driving around that much). I would be surprised if more than a handful of people would need to recharge their car for a full 500 miles of use within 24 hours. Most wouldn’t even drive that much in a week or two. The only way that limitation would really come into play would be at commercial charging stations, but I feel like they would have different electrical hardware requirements anyway. I do think putting out that much power in that short of a time span would put a huge strain on the power grid, which I see as a problem in the very near future if these technologies ever see any real world progress.

    I just feel like this is another battery technology that I’ll get my hopes up for and will ultimately be disappointed. Batteries are the technology that has the highest amount of theoretical advancements and fewest real world, commercial advancements of any technology. We’ve been hearing about nano battery technologies for almost 5 years that were supposed to increase battery capacity 10x, but we haven’t even seen a doubling of capacity in commercial batteries yet. Starting to lose hope…

  3. quinny November 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    This extremely fast charging is not going to happen without a very large buffer.

    This is even more extreme than the 10 minute charging of the 24kWh Leaf battery. 500 miles would take approximately 125kWh (at 250Wh/mile, that’s what the Chevvy Volt does). To charge a battery with that much power in 10 minutes would take 750kW!

    You’d need a second 125kWh battery in the charger itself, able to put out 750kW. That battery you’d have to charge as fast as your main fuse allows… Most houses in the Netherlands (where I live) have a 3x25A fuse at 230V, that’s about 17.2kW (almost 44 hours to charge the 125kWh battery…). The biggest main fuse I can get is 3x80A, then it would take ±2.3 hours to draw 125kWh… Still nowhere near 10 minutes…

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