After solid and sand, liquid batteries could solve the problems of the electric car. we would like to believe it

One of the most interesting alternatives to lithium ion batteries are liquid flow batterieswhich have been in development for years but have never made it to production.

Until now, what la start-up Influit Energy (born under the umbrella of the Institute of Technology of the University of Illinois in the USA) has just announced that they are very close to achieving it thanks to their fast recharge non-flammable technologywhich promises to be “up to 23% more efficient than lithium batteries, at half the price”.

Its operation from the so-called “nanoelectrofuels” (NEF, for its acronym in English) is designed both to power electric cars and other means of transport such as airplanes. The NASA and the US Armed Forces have collaborated in its development.

“The world’s first electric, safe and rechargeable fuel”.

Equipment
Source: Energy flows

The work of the Influit Energy team began in 2009 as a pure basic science exercise in a humble laboratory that has already outgrown them.

More than a decade later, the facilities and the team led by the company’s researcher and CEO, John Katsoudashave evolved so much as to ensure that they have created “the world’s first safe and rechargeable electric fuel”.

And it sounds as promising as it sounds, although as often happens with technology that promises to be revolutionary, it has some “but”.

The truth is that flow batteries or “liquid batteries” are nothing new. are you normally start from two chemicals liquids that are pumped into two containers or tanks separated by an ion exchange membrane to create an electrical current, although they usually have a low energy density.

Broadly speaking, this is because it is only possible to dissolve a certain amount of battery material before it begins to settle to the bottom of the tank, rendering the fluids useless.

Mainly for this reason, flow batteries they had not passed the development phase or they had not been applied in relevant projects until now.

Bateria2
Source: Energy flows

Influit Energy scientists say they have solved this pitfall by using solid nanoparticles of battery material (specifically, active metal oxide) suspended instead of dissolved in its base fluid.

for the call random brownian motionit is achieved that these tiny particles do not settle on the bottom.

“We have created a new type of flow battery that is based on a composite material that we have invented, which is a high-density nanofluid in which nanoparticles are active materials for the battery, which we have called nanoelectrocombustible o NEF“, explains John Katsoudas.

Thus, the NEF would function as a fuel that can be removed from the battery and replaced with already charged fuel: and not just for the same purpose.

It can be reused in different vehicles and is not flammable

Equipo2
Source: Energy flows

One of the three founders of Influit Energy, who is also the company’s chief operating officer and director of research and a professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois, Elena Timofeeva, develop this interesting point of its technology:

“The unique format of NEF flow batteries allows the same fluids to be used in different devices. This means that the fluid, charged from renewable energy sources or from an electrical grid, can be used to quickly refuel vehicles or for the stationary storage and other portable applications.

Thus, according to the scientist, the discharged fluid can be returned to a refueling station to be recharged when necessary, or recharged inside the vehicle or device in which it is plugged directly into a power source. It can also be recycled.

In addition, Katsoudas affirms that the nanoparticles are modified on their surface to prevent agglomeration and reduce the viscosity of the battery solution, “to the point that the NEF they flow more or less like oil would in an engine”.

According to data published by Influit Energy, its flow batteries are non-flammable, can operate between -40°C and 80°C of temperature and have “an energy density by volume 23% higher than lithium-ion batteries”, between 350 and 550 Wh/l with a cost of almost half that of these.

Recraga
Diagram of what one of the serial recharging systems could look like. Source: Influit Energy

Influit is not only developing liquid batteries, but also fuel cell-like devices needed to extract energy, as well as a fuel management system that keeps fluids separate and retains spent fuel for recycling.

In the first version of the flow battery baptized with the commercial name of DARPA project has been supported by NASAwhich financed the development of fast charging systems.

For its part, the US Armed Forces contributed to the development of the nanoparticle system and the US Government itself contributed more than 10 million dollars in funding. And it is that these flow batteries could be used to power future military electric vehicles.

On paper, these liquid batteries have many advantages over lithium-ion batteries beyond the higher energy density they promise.

Among the main ones, we find that they are neither flammable nor explosive, for if the liquids are accidentally mixed, nothing happens except a slight increase in temperature by a few degrees.

In addition, by not using rare materials or scarce raw materials, sare cheaper to produce.

In the same way, they are easy to recharge quickly and they can also be recycled through a simplified process. However, one of the most important questions remains to be cleared up: its longevity, which has not been revealed by the company.

In addition, there is still a long way to go before reaching the final stage for mass production, starting with a properly sized facility and more staff. They’re already working on it, but in the meantime, the outlook is encouraging for Influit.

The researchers are already testing what would be the second generation of DARPA to see if it is viable. According to them, “it will offer an energy density four or five times higher than conventional lithium batteries (up to 550-750 Wh/kg) at a third of its cost”.


Source: Motorpasión by www.motorpasion.com.

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