Cambridge Crude and battery prototype with basic operational diagram of a flow battery
Battery technology continues to improve across all types of cells. Now the low energy density "Flow Battery" is getting a 10x increase from MIT researchers Mihai Duduta and Bryan Ho with professors of materials science W. Craig Carter and Yet-Ming Chiang.
A flow battery works by pumping an electrolyte containing a electroactive material through an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy into electricity. The flow battery is rechargable through a reversal of the chemical reaction. A rapid recharging can be done by replacing the electrolyte material in the tanks.
MIT's flow battery adds another solid component to the electrolyte liquid. The architecture is called "semi-solid flow cell," it is a semi-solid lithium-ion cell. The liquid is dark, and the team dubbed it "Cambridge crude." The energy densities experiences were in the 20 Wh/L or 50 Wh/kg. One of the final setups had LiCoO2 (20 vol% (10.2 M) and 1.5% Ketjen black) as the cathode and Li4Ti5O12 (10 vol% (2.3 M) and 2% Ketjen black) as the anode. Ketjen black is CH4, a electrocoductive carbon black pallet. It is cheap to manufacture, and the leading professors have already licensed the technology with their eye's placed on the automotive industry.
Licensing is being done through 24M Technologies, founded by Carter and Chiang. The company has raised $16 million USD in venture capital and federal research funds through a grant by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).
Sounds like they did, indeed, hit "Cambridge crude."