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MIT Battery Research To Enable 'Electric Phaetons'

I keep thinking that there is something missing from hybrid cars that would make them even more useful. What if they had enough battery power to let you choose, maybe just for the day, not to buy gas? As it happens, MIT researchers have been working on a new type of lithium battery for hybrid cars.

Existing lithium batteries take too long to charge, or they are unsafe for use in cars. Researchers, led by Gerbrand Ceder, R.P. Simmons Professor of Materials at MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, have modified the lithium nickel manganese oxide material's structure to make it capable of charging and discharging more quickly. The material has a structure that has an ordered crystalline structure, allowing lithium ions to freely flow between layers.


(Lithium nickel manganese oxide: layers of nickel and manganese {blue} separated from lithium {green} by oxygen {red} [Ceder Lab])

A battery made from the new material can charge or discharge in about ten minutes - about ten times faster than current, unmodified lithium nickel manganese oxide technology. It is also significantly safer than the lithium cobalt oxide batteries used to power many small devices like cell phones and laptop computers. Cobalt is also a relatively expensive material compared to manganese and nickel.

In his prophetic 1894 story A Journey in Other Worlds, John Jacob Astor referred to amazing vehicles that would silently carry passengers to their destination. All that was required was a source of power:

Another change that came in with a rush upon the discovery of a battery with insignificant weight, compact form, and great capacity, was the substitution of electricity for animal power for the movement of all vehicles. This, of necessity brought in good roads, the results obtainable on such being so much greater than on bad ones that a universal demand for them arose. This was in a sense cumulative, since the better the streets and roads became, the greater the inducement to have an electric carriage.
(Read more about John Jacob Astor's electric phaetons)

If you are interested in innovative battery technologies, take a look at the Smallest Implantable Body Batteries, related to Alfred Bester's internal body power pack from The Stars My Destination. Read more about MIT devises improved hybrid car battery or Dr. Gerbrand Ceder.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/19/2006)

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