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Breakthrough Batteries?


The more time you spend talking with smart people about the energy future, the more you hear about the holy grail: great batteries. To that end, a couple of recent developments in BatteryLand are encouraging news. The first battery of interest comes from MIT:

A radically new approach to the design of batteries, developed by researchers at MIT, could provide a lightweight and inexpensive alternative to existing batteries for electric vehicles and the power grid. The technology could even make “refueling” such batteries as quick and easy as pumping gas into a conventional car. The new battery relies on an innovative architecture called a semi-solid flow cell, in which solid particles are suspended in a carrier liquid and pumped through the system. In this design, the battery’s active components — the positive and negative electrodes, or cathodes and anodes — are composed of particles suspended in a liquid electrolyte. These two different suspensions are pumped through systems separated by a filter, such as a thin porous membrane.

The second, courtesy of GeekWire, is from Clarian Labs in Seattle:

Bill Gates and inventors connected to Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures made headlines two years ago with a patent application for an electromagnetic engine.
Now a Seattle-based company, Clarian Labs, says it has developed a compact, electromagnetic hybrid battery  based on a rotary piston that can generate twice as much power as the one proposed by the former Microsoft executives. It runs on carbon-neutral fuels including hydrogen, and could power equipment including robots, electric vehicles and home generators.
Clarian says it has been developing the technology in stealth mode for the the past two years. Its own patent application was made public last week (PDF). The battery was originally developed as a power source for the Department of Defense Humanoid Robot Program.

I have no idea whether either of these batteries will be game-changers, but it is hard to imagine that with so many smart and motivated people working on the battery problem, we won’t make huge progress in the long run.