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New Mysterious Battery Technology From MIT Professor Cuts Price by 85%

Yet Ming Chiang - the inventor of the new battery

When you think of electric cars, you generally mean two terms in which they exist: autonomy vs charging infrastructure. These two words compete with each other to a certain point, because higher autonomy means less infrastructure needed, hence faster adoption by the market.

24M, a company that has spun out of A123 Systems, an electric vehicle battery manufacturer, will start to develop a new type of battery that would cut the costs of energy storage by 85 percent. That’s a lot, if you take into consideration that only the battery pack of an EV is more than $10,000.

Having received $6 million from ARPA-E and $10 million from venture-capital funding, 24M (whose name stands for “24 molar”) is working with Rutgers University and MIT. Yet-Ming Chiang, the materials professor from MIT, who also founded A123 Systems, is behind the wheel and doesn’t yet reveal any in-depth technical details about the new battery.

All we know is that the battery uses a “semisolid” energy storage material and combines the best in conventional batteries, fuel cells and flow batteries. For example, solid batteries are heavy, fuel cells need smart and expensive containers and complex recharging infrastructure, and flow batteries (in which electrolyte flows past a membrane, just like in fuel cells) are toxic, corrosive and have low energy density.

Chiang says that his new batteries will have the energy density of lithium ion-based ones, and can store lots of energy without complicated supporting materials to extract it. “The final version of the device will look very different from both a conventional battery and a flow battery,” he says.

Work still has to be done to take the new batteries to the market, and for the moment Chiang only has a prototype device, which he used to get the ARPA-E funding. He also estimates that the team will need about five years before anything is sold to the public.

From my experience, there’s a lot less time needed for commercialization once someone with large pockets starts investing in any technology. It was the case for many inventions up to now and I don’t see why this should be different.

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