published in December 8, 2018 |
December 8, 2018 per Steve Hanley
Lithium is an element that is good for making batteries, but it is not the only one. Flouride – the most electro-negative element of the periodic table – is also quite suitable for the task. In fact, fluoride batteries are capable of being 10 times denser energy than lithium batteries. But so far, they needed to be heated to 150 ° C (300 ° F for those living in former British colonies) to function.
A joint research team of engineers from Honda, NASA and Caltech has solved this problem by creating a new liquid electrolyte that they call BTFE, which allows fluoride to dissolve at room temperature, according to Engadget. When used in a prototype battery made of copper, lanthanum and fluorine, the new battery could be discharged and recharged at room temperature. The prototype also has a "more favorable environmental footprint" than a lithium battery, according to Honda. No word on performance in winter when the thermometer is well below the "room temperature".
Can you imagine what a battery with 10 times the energy density of the current batteries could do for the driving range of electric cars? The prospects are encouraging, no doubt. But there are some obstacles to be eliminated first. On the one hand, the anode and cathode of the battery prototype tend to dissolve completely in the electrolyte.
This is a problem, but the team is working hard to try to find a solution. If they can solve the riddle of high operating temperature, making anodes and cathodes that do not dissolve should be child's play.
Making discoveries in the laboratory is one thing. Turning these advances into products that are easy to manufacture and commercially viable is another thing altogether. Do not look for fluoride batteries in EVs anytime soon. Many laboratory miracles never go away. This could be another dead end in a long line of battery research that has never been anywhere.
Still, the prospects are tempting and Honda, NASA and Caltech are not amateurs playing with Bunsen's beaks and beaks in a late-night garage. We need the next step in battery development to occur as quickly as possible to push the clean energy revolution forward, but Nature does not give up its secrets on demand. Patience, grasshopper.