It’s been too long since I’ve done a “how cool is that?” expression of awe and wonder at a piece of ingenious creativity. You may recall that early automobiles were battery-powered — the origins of the electric car are deep and over a century old. One battery technology, courtesy of (you guessed it) Thomas Edison, was nickel-iron; Edison was a proponent of electric vehicles.
Stanford researchers have been working on improving the performance of Edison’s nickel-iron battery, contributing to the portfolio of battery technologies that can improve electricity storage, which is the Holy Grail of electricity technology. As described by Stanford News,
“The Edison battery is very durable, but it has a number of drawbacks,” said Hongjie Dai, professor of chemistry. “A typical battery can take hours to charge, and the rate of discharge is also very slow.”
Now, Dai and his colleagues have dramatically improved the performance of this century-old technology. The Stanford team has created an ultrafast nickel-iron battery that can be fully charged in about 2 minutes and discharged in less than 30 seconds. …
Carbon has long been used to enhance electrical conductivity in electrodes. To improve the Edison battery’s performance, the Stanford team used graphene – nanosized sheets of carbon that are only 1-atom thick – and multi-walled carbon nanotubes, each consisting of about 10 concentric graphene sheets rolled together. …
“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.”
This approach to energy storage, using strongly-coupled nanomaterials, has a lot of promise for battery researchers working to improve efficiency, density, and charge decay over time.