As reported on by Smithsonian.com, Purdue University Scientist John Cushman is developing a new type of ‘flow battery’ that is recharged simply by filling it up with a new tank of a solution made up of water, salt, ethanol and dissolved metals. Cushman’s dream is to conert existing gas stations into electric battery recharge stations that will dispense the fluid that will instantly charge up batteries in electric cars.
The battery is a type of flow battery, which typically use two chemical compounds dissolved in liquids in order to provide the positive and negative charged sides, although typical flow batteries usually require a membrane to separate the two sides. Cushman’s new design, however does away with the membrane altogether by using salt in order to force the two liquids to separate, giving this design an advantage over traditional flow batteries because the membrane is typically a weak point in the design. When the membrane breaks down, the battery then shorts out, possibly frying the entire car’s electronic systems. This is obviously not good for high use applications where vibration and heat stresses could cause the membranes to break down prematurely such as electric vehicles. Although the battery may not be able to reach the power output levels of current lithium batteries, such as high acceleration levels that cars like the Tesla Model S P100D can achieve, but should be adequate for most light passenger vehicles. Cushman states that while his battery may not be able to provide 0-60 times less than 4 seconds, that is not a huge deal because most gasoline cars cannot provide that amount of speed either.
Cushman and his team that developed the new battery created a company called Ifbattery LLC and the company is currently in talks with the military to develop electric powered vehicles that could be used for quiet stealthly vehicles that could be used in reconnaissance and battle. They also plan to develop systems more suited for civilian applications and help bring the technology to market.
A battery such as this will obviously be a great thing for electric cars, as the solution needed to recharge the batteries can be dispensed by existing gas stations and transported by existing gas pipelines. It would alleviate the typical ‘range anxiety’ that is associated with current electric cars, allowing people to travel freely anywhere they can currently go, without having to stop to recharge for long periods of time. And to eliminate waste, the solution could be dumped into tanks at recharge stations in order to be shipped back to refineries that would make it into a usable solution again.