MIT Nanotech Battery – an Edison Style Innovation

Over 100 years ago, Edison’s work with storage batteries for electric vehicles often took on mythic proportions. Tens of thousands of experiments were conducted and untold man-hours expended to develop his legendary and rugged nickel-iron storage battery; a product that was widely sold and adapted to many applications and industries. Were Edison alive today he would be clapping loudly at the new MIT Flow Battery-emerging from the research lab to be commercialized by 24M Technologies.

A sample of 'Cambridge crude' — a black, gooey substance that can power a highly efficient new type of battery. A prototype of the semi-solid flow battery is seen behind the flask. | Photo: Dominick Reuter

A sample of 'Cambridge crude' — a black, gooey substance that can power a highly efficient new type of battery. A prototype of the semi-solid flow battery is seen behind the flask. | Photo: Dominick Reuter

Researchers at MIT have used nanotechnology and proven lithium-ion chemistry to completely revolutionize how we think about the venerable storage battery. It could be the holy grail for making electric vehicles very competitive. Called a flow battery, the two thick-gooey chemical mixtures of this system are kept in separate containers until energy is needed – then the reactants flow through a special reactor to produce electricity. What this means is re-charging a battery is no longer about long waits as it is stuffed with electricity, but simply pumping fresh liquids into the separate tanks…..perhaps not so different in the future as saying “filler ‘er up” as we do now at a traditional gasoline station.

The technological magic resides in the gooey black liquids, which for all purposes can be envisioned as liquefied versions of the anode[negatively charged] and cathode [positively charged] of a battery. The positive and negative posts are distributed throughout the black goo in the two tanks in the form of nano-particles. In the energy making process, the two oppositely charged liquids are pumped past a special membrane in the reactor and out comes clean electricity to run your car.

Source: Internet announcements of MIT Flow Battery-showing the two storage tanks and reactor for producing clean electricity.

Source: Internet announcements of MIT Flow Battery-showing the two storage tanks and reactor for producing clean electricity.

This reinterpretation of a battery into separate structures changes lots of things. For one, it could be much cheaper to make these systems than traditional batteries. The energy storage capability or energy density of these systems could be radically improved over traditional batteries….maybe pushing electric vehicle range to being on par with gasoline vehicles. One could make different grades of black goo for better performance and improved mileage. The system might last longer than expensive storage batteries of today. Certainly, this MIT advance changes the battery universe…..a disturbance in the force, ala` Star Wars. Energy storage for such things as wind and solar system applications may also realize significant gains.

Lots more testing and demonstrations are no doubt being planned for this technology, but this is one of the most promising battery advances to come down the road. It just might make it possible for Edison to realize his dream of an electric vehicle transportation system; and for our nation to kick the oil habit.

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineEditor’s Deep Dive:

“Great ideas originate in the muscles.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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Help Restore the Edison Electric Cars

An historic treasure of Edison’s electric cars from the 1900-1914 period are awaiting restoration in the Edison garage. Check out this article, and suggested levels of giving below. Be a part of this restoration!

It was built in 1908, and to this day houses one of the earliest electric vehicle charging stations….testimony to Edison’s vision about the importance of electric vehicles and the ability to charge them at one’s residence. Energy savvy folks and writers opine today about electric vehicles being charged in one’s own garage, while Edison was doing it every day … four generations ago. The Edison garage remains home to a variety of the great inventor’s personal cars as well as his wife’s vehicles. This stately structure is on the grounds of his historic home Glenmont.

Front view of garage

Front view of garage

Mina Edison’s Personal Electric Vehicle

Mina Edison’s Personal Electric Vehicle

The Edison Innovation Foundation is busy developing plans to conserve this structure; and inaugurate a new education center for teachers and students on the second floor where visitors will learn about Mr. Edison, the Glenmont site, electric vehicles, practice STEM principles, do special design/invention challenges, and delve into the use and application of alternate energy technologies. The first floor of the structure can hold six vehicles. Special features of its construction include poured concrete walls, a vehicle turntable, a revolving overhead washing system with hose, a battery charging station and a gasoline pump. The second floor of the building once housed the Edison family live-in chauffer and his family.

Edison Battery charging station

Edison Battery charging station

Famous Edison Nickel-Iron Storage Batteries

Famous Edison Nickel-Iron Storage Batteries

Today, the building houses a:

  • 1908 Locomobile
  • 1911 Detroit Electric Model L-1
  • 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47
  • 1922 Ford Model T
  • 1936 Brewster (once belonged to Edison’s son- former. Gov. of NJ 1941-44)

These cars will be conserved, as well as the interior of the garage itself which will be cleaned and re-painted.

Ford Model T, a gift from Henry Ford

Ford Model T, a gift from Henry Ford

1936 Brewster, vehicle owned by Charles Edison

1936 Brewster, vehicle owned by Charles Edison

To show the immense advances in electric vehicles since Edison’s pioneering work, several new state-of-the-art electric vehicles will be obtained and displayed near the original vehicles; and have their own re-charging station. These vehicles will be used for transportation duties, visitor demonstrations, and educational purposes within the Thomas Edison National Historical Park [TENHP], which includes the Glenmont estate and garage.

Readers are encouraged to make a donation to underwrite this projected $2.5 million historic restoration effort-see suggested levels of giving below. We hope you will contribute to making this restoration project a success. Use the “Donate” button on this page, or directly contact the:

Edison Innovation Foundation
Riverfront Plaza
1037 Raymond Blvd.
STE #340
Newark, NJ 07102
973-648-0500

 

Thomas Edison on Time Magazine

We thank you on behalf of the 70,000 visitors who come every year to see the home of the world’s greatest inventor.

“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

Garage Restoration – Suggested Levels of Giving

Level 1: $1 – $999

  • Recognition of gift on website.
  • Commemorative “Thank You” letter.

Level 2: $1000 – $9999

  • Photograph of Donor with any Edison electric vintage car.
  • Recognition of gift on appropriate signage at the Edison Garage.

Level 3: $10,000 – $99,999

  • Photograph with any Edison electric vintage car.
  • Photograph at Edison’s original desk in his Library.
  • Your name/organization listed on www.edisonmuckers.org.
  • Recognition of gift on appropriate signage at the Edison Garage.

Level 4: $100,000 – $999,999

  • Photograph with any Edison electric vintage car.
  • Photograph at Edison’s original desk in his Library.
  • Your name/organization listed on www.edisonmuckers.org.
  • Recognition of gift on appropriate signage at the Edison Garage.
  • Cocktail party for ten (10) people chosen by you at the Edison Garage on the Edison home lawn including tent.  Drive and display your vintage car.

Level 5: $1 Million and above

  • All of the above.
  • Naming recognition of the Edison Garage with appropriate signage.
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