Automotive

Lithium Ion Battery breakthrough promises 100-fold boost in performance

Lithium Ion Battery breakthrou...
It may not look like much, but this new battery material could enable EVs to charge in 5 minutes(Photo: Donna Coveney via MIT)
It may not look like much, but this new battery material could enable EVs to charge in 5 minutes(Photo: Donna Coveney via MIT)
View 2 Images
Image courtesy / Ceder LabScanning electron micrograph of a particle of the new battery material. Dark area indicates the inside of the particle surrounded by a lighter surface layer only five nanometer
1/2
Image courtesy / Ceder LabScanning electron micrograph of a particle of the new battery material. Dark area indicates the inside of the particle surrounded by a lighter surface layer only five nanometer
It may not look like much, but this new battery material could enable EVs to charge in 5 minutes(Photo: Donna Coveney via MIT)
2/2
It may not look like much, but this new battery material could enable EVs to charge in 5 minutes(Photo: Donna Coveney via MIT)

March 16, 2009 Researchers have developed a new advanced Lithium Ion battery that will allow mobile phone and laptop computers to be fully charged in seconds. Electric car batteries may be charged in as little as five minutes, removing one of the main barriers to wider uptake of EVs. Solar and wind power generation could also benefit as better batteries could be used to store surplus energy.

MIT researchers Byoungwoo Kang & Gerbrand Ceder have discovered a way to make a lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery charge and discharge about as fast as a supercapacitor. In a typical lithium ion cell when a current is applied to charge the cell, lithium ions move away from the cathode compound and are trapped at the anode storage medium. When the battery discharges producing current, those ions travel back to the cathode medium and in so doing produce current flow.

Speed of charging in typical lithium-ion cells is slowed by virtue of the fact that it takes time for the lithium ion to move off the cathode material. Various techniques have been tried to increase that speed including the nanoparticle doping strategy that A123 Systems uses.

The scientists noted that lithium iron phosphate forms a lattice that creates small tunnels through which the lithium ions flow, but that although the cathode seemed ideal it still took some time for those ions to travel. The novel solution they devised was to create a lithium phosphate glassy surface to coat these tunnels. This glassy surface acts as a speedway that rapidly transports the lithium ions on and off the cathode.

Extremely high rates can be achieved, at a 200C rate (corresponding to an 18 second total discharge) more than 100mAh g can be achieved, and a capacity of 60mAh g is obtained at a 400C rate (9 sec to full discharge). Such discharge rates are two orders of magnitude larger than those used in today’s lithium ion batteries. Typical power rates for lithium ion battery materials are in the range of 0.5 to 2 kW/kg. The specific power observed for the modified LiFePO4 (170kWkg at a 400C rate and 90kWkg at a 200C rate) is two orders of magnitude higher. At this point the researchers have only tested the cells to 50 cycles but have noted no degradation. They have made a small prototype cell which can be fully charged in 10 to 20 seconds, compared with six minutes for cells made in the standard way.

This new ability to charge and discharge lithium-ion batteries within seconds blurs the distinction between batteries and ultracapacitors. Besides being able to charge one’s cellphone in seconds, this will have a major impact on electric cars. If electric grid power was available, an electric car with a 15kWh battery could be charged in five minutes. This would require the delivery of 180 kw of energy in that time frame.

Two companies have already licensed the technology one of which includes A123 Systems. Because it involves a new approach to manufacturing lithium-ion battery materials, rather than a new material, it could be ready within two to three years.

Paul Evans

14 comments
wal
Recharge in seconds? Get real, the charge rate is ultimately limitted to the power socket from which you charge the battery. Refer to Ohm's law. Faster charging for sure. Quasi instant charging is changing the laws of physics. Any comments Scotty?
Loz
Amazing. You could "trickle" charge it from the wall socket at home, or fast charge using more expensive equipment at a service station. Which, once the infrastructure gets rolled out, is all you really need to make electric cars (and let's not forget motorcycles) viable for everything from commuting to touring.
nehopsa
Read more about this on other sources/blogs. Unfortunately, as many articles of this type this one is pure hype. At best, this one is one of MANY important discoveries needed to make what they are telling they have just made.
TexByrnes
Get real? Yet another interesting report savaged by someone leaping in, and stating the obvious, of course ANY electrical operation is dependant on the power source, [let's say 'source', rather than 'socket'], and of course Ohm's law tells us this. That covered, I see no mention of 'instant' charging, and if it were 'quasi', it would change nothing, least of all the laws of physics!
TogetherinParis
The proof is in the pudding, so we shall see in the fullness of time. A warning is due here: a two order of magnitude improvement is beyond the ken of limited minds. We should keep in unlimited mind that gradual, slow improvement in technology is due more to the limitations of mentation than any limitations of chemistry and physics. After all, there are infinite orders of magnitude, and the possibility for improvement is, indeed, unlimited. There are quote accepted norms unquote in psychology as well, but I can cure criminal behavior with 150 mg of adult male facial skin surface lipid provided to the criminal by mouth. Same for a drug addict or a sexual pervert. Pop some from the ends of your silly noses into a criminal and see for your silly little selves. Just because it has not been done is no reason it cannot be done. These kids at MIT tend to be fairly bright, so give them the benefit of the doubt, OK?
TexByrnes
Wonderful, TogetherinParis! Autotranslation from French? Can someone reverse it? Il brightened mon jour! OK?.
dexter
I don't see any problems with the capacity of the socket here. Why should I? You charge a battery pack with the socket - all day, and pump the charge from the stationary battery into the vehicle battery pack. The cable can be a limiting factor, but the socket? Come on, get real.
TexByrnes
I wonder if some people read and understand? Where is the reference to 'sockets' in the original article? Surely one should assume the charging current would be set by the designers? Where is the reference to transferring [pumping?], the charge from one battery to another which of course would completely defeat the object of having a fast charge battery in the first place? As to 'trickle charging' all day, well.....correct me if I'm mistaken, but haven't we been doing that for quite a while? Let's hope the scientists working on the project don't read these comments!
robinyatesuk2003
as usual, the quick to disparage,are quick to make hasty statements before reading the article and understanding what they have just read,,, and as usual, the more intelligent are here to put them right !,,,,,,, always good to read a well thought out, factual article, so thank you
Stuart Halliday
2011... still waiting....