A breakthrough battery developed at Purdue University in Indiana may change how we power our electric vehicles and enhance global energy security.
It’s a flow battery — a type of rechargeable battery composed of chemicals dissolved in positively or negatively charged liquids. These liquids usually are separated by a barrier membrane, often made of metal.
The new Purdue battery lacks a membrane. That’s an advantage. Membranes corrode, limiting a battery’s life and eventually causing it to malfunction.
Here’s how the Purdue battery — called the IFbattery — works. IF stands for “immiscible fluid.” Immiscible means the battery components — the fluids — don’t mix, just like water and oil don’t mix. It’s a simple cocktail of ethanol and water, with added salt. The salt renders the positively and negatively polarized solvents immiscible, creating a natural barrier.
“It’s a very different approach,” said team leader John Cushman at Purdue. This “membrane less” flow battery is the first of its kind.
What’s more, the battery generates “super capacitance,” which means it can store a lot of energy. “That allows you to get much stronger current, much higher power than you would with a normal battery,” Cushman said. And that makes it suitable for vehicles.The IFbattery has a lot going for it. Unlike the lithium-ion batteries powering everything from mobile phones to electric vehicles to power-grid storage, the IFbattery poses no fire or explosion risk. It is safe. It is also much cheaper to make, using widely available materials. It does not require charging like the lithium–ion battery and does not pollute the environment with greenhouse gases or hazardous waste. All components are biodegradable.