Research improves old battery technology

June 26, 2012 at 5:29 PM
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PALO ALTO, Calif., June 26 (UPI) -- A rechargeable battery technology developed by Thomas Edison more than 100 years ago is gaining new interest with research improvements, U.S. scientists say.

Stanford University scientists report they've breathed new life into the nickel-iron battery by dramatically improving the performance of the century-old technology.

Designed in the early 1900s to power electric vehicles, the Edison battery largely went out of favor in the mid-1970s.

"The Edison battery is very durable, but it has a number of drawbacks," chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai said in a Stanford release Tuesday. "A typical battery can take hours to charge, and the rate of discharge is also very slow."

The Stanford researchers say they've created an ultrafast nickel-iron battery that can be fully charged in about 2 minutes and discharged in less than 30 seconds

"We have increased the charging and discharging rate by nearly 1,000 times," graduate student Hailiang Wang, lead author of the study, said. "We've made it really fast."

A high-performance, low-cost nickel-iron battery could some day be used to help power electric vehicles, much as Edison originally intended, Dai said.

"Hopefully we can give the nickel-iron battery a new life," he said.

Most electric cars now run on lithium-ion batteries, which can store a lot of energy but typically take hours to charge.

"Our battery probably won't be able to power an electric car by itself, because the energy density is not ideal," Wang said. "But it could assist lithium-ion batteries by giving them a real power boost for faster acceleration and regenerative braking."

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