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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Edison’s Valuable Memorabilia Celebrates His Vision

Thomas Edison memorabilia and antiques are always good sellers, whether in private transactions or bid situations like on eBay or other forums. Memories of the great inventor are highly collectible. Recently, at auction, a 1911 photo of Edison, bearing his handwritten note and signature, went for over $31,554. The photo had been estimated to have a $5,000 value, so passion for the man’s memorabilia had clearly dominated the bidding. This photo [below] shows Edison cradling his famous nickel-iron, alkaline storage battery; and bearing the note, “I believe time will prove that the Alkaline Storage Battery will produce important changes in our present transportation systems.” The signature at the bottom is known as the famous Edison umbrella signature.

Edison’s Valuable Memorabilia Celebrates His Vision

According to Associated Press who reported this story, the photo was the property of Walter Holland, who worked with Edison on the battery and published his lab reports on the project. Holland was appointed chief electrical engineer of the Edison Storage Battery Company in West Orange, N.J., in January 1911. The photo is dated May 4 of that year.

At the time of this photo, Edison was involved with championing electric vehicles and their batteries as a clean alternative to gasoline powered cars, and of course the ubiquitous horse. Work on this battery, which became one of the most versatile products ever produced by Edison, had been a long and tedious affair, with many failures, and requiring tens of thousands of experiments. His work on this technology is believed to have given birth to one of his famous quotes, “I have not failed 10,000 times, I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” His work on the battery system had begun in the 1890s.

Edison’s Valuable Memorabilia Celebrates His Vision

His rugged batteries also are a popular item that folks collect. These products were used in miner’s hats, lighting railway cars, railway signals, maritime buoys, by the ARMY and Navy and merchant marine and in other applications. It was a forerunner of the durable alkaline batteries we use today. At his West Orange site there was a huge building devoted to nothing but the manufacture of these batteries. In his garage at his nearby home, Glenmont, visitors can see the electric vehicles [and his famous batteries] he and his wife Mina used—as well as one of the first garage-based electric vehicle charging stations he had integrated into the building, exactly what we are talking about today for our garages, but accomplished by Edison in 1908.

Edison’s Valuable Memorabilia Celebrates His Vision

Here we sit 100 years later, promoting the use of electric and hybrid vehicles as a way to reduce our dependence upon foreign oil. Old Tom as usual was right on the money when he speculated back then that we would run out of oil. This technology also fit in nicely with his philosophy about using clean alternate forms of energy like solar and wind. You have got to love the vision of this man, an American original!

Thomas Edison on Time Magazine“Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.
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Christmas at Glenmont -Thomas Edison’s Historic Home

Season’s Greetings from Glenmont. This 1882, 29 ½ room, Queen Ann Victorian mansion is the historic home of the Edison family; and this time of year, it is decked out in all the Christmas trimmings.

Christmas at Glenmont -Thomas Edison’s Historic Home

Check out the big, ten-foot Christmas tree in the first floor den. 

Christmas at Glenmont -Thomas Edison’s Historic Home

Stockings are hung by the chimney with care …

 

Christmas at Glenmont - Thomas Edison’s Historic Home
Found in the second floor living room

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays –  the Trustees and Staff at the Charles Edison Fund and the Edison Innovation Foundation,  from our offices in Newark , NJ.

Christmas at Glenmont - Thomas Edison’s Historic Home

 

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