Inventions Thomas Edison Would Love: Storage Batteries

Sprayed-on Batteries: 

Solar photovoltaic panels are not the only thing scientists and engineers are trying to paint on surfaces. Engineers at Rice University are reporting being able to spray paint batteries onto virtually any surface, making it possible to achieve all kinds of new designs and possibilities for incorporating battery storage into products and systems.

Inventions Thomas Edison Would Love: Storage Batteries

The battery [photo above] was sprayed onto a surface layer by layer in a process akin to 3D printing. Applied to bathroom tiles [gold surfaces in the photo] and hooked up to a solar panel, a set of the batteries provided a steady 2.4 volts, lighting up a set of LEDs that spelled out the word “Rice” for six hours.

After a few dozen charge / discharge cycles, the batteries retained most of their capacity. Much work remains to be done to improve battery performance; but since spray painting is a well-understood industrial technology, it should be easy to incorporate sprayed-on battery applications into existing and new manufacturing processes.

Revised Edison Nickel-Iron Batteries:

At Stanford University, scientists are taking Thomas Edison’s venerable old nickel-iron storage battery and turbo-boosting it, increasing its charging/discharging rate almost 1,000 times. All this means if you use these batteries for powering electric vehicles, you can fully charge the battery in about 2 minutes….not hours as required by conventional batteries. This technology could also make it possible to use such batteries as storage on the electrical grid.

The secret sauce here is nanotechnology, and while the new batteries are small and experimental, they should scale up nicely. Nickel, iron and carbon nanotubes, the main constituents of the battery along with a potassium hydroxide electrolyte makes this battery a potentially cheap system. It is envisioned to work in tandem with lithium-ion batteries now considered the ideal electric vehicle power source.

Stanford scientists have developed an ultrafast Edison battery by growing iron oxide crystals on graphene sheets and nickel hydroxide crystals on multi-walled carbon nanotubes.

Stanford scientists have developed an ultrafast Edison battery by growing iron oxide crystals on graphene sheets and nickel hydroxide crystals on multi-walled carbon nanotubes.

Can you just see Thomas Edison smiling! Here he is below inspecting his nickel-iron storage batteries used to power his wife Mina’s 1914 electric vehicle. The car and batteries today are on display in his historic garage in West Orange, NJ; also the site of the first home garage charging station, all the way back in 1908. Now that was vision.

Inventions Thomas Edison Would Love: Storage Batteries

Editor’s Deep Dive

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said … “Surprises and reverses can serve as an incentive for great accomplishment. There are no rules here, we’re just trying to accomplish something”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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