Technology.am (May 13, 2009) — A University of Rhode Island chemistry professor has discovered a new salt to develop an advanced lithium ion battery for use in the hybrid and electric vehicles.
The URI professor and his research group have been studying the mechanism that causes lithium ion batteries to degrade over time. The best salts for lithium ion batteries are those that have high conductivity and excellent stability. “Few molecular structures are both,” Brett Lucht, co-director of the URI Energy Center, said.
“The lithium ion batteries that power laptops and cell phones and PDAs work well for those applications because those devices have short life spans, typically less than five years,” he said.
Lithium ion batteries have greater energy density than the nickel metal hydride batteries currently used in hybrid vehicles, which means they can provide the same amount of power as batteries nearly twice their size and weight.
Smaller, lighter weight batteries will help to extend the range and gas mileage of hybrid vehicles.
“Most of the problems associated with the aging of batteries are due to the electrolyte – the liquid in the battery that contains dissolved salts and that allows the lithium ions to go back and forth between the electrodes,” explained Lucht.
Lucht has also developed additives for lithium ion batteries that stabilize the salt in the battery electrolytes and inhibit its degradation due to heat. These additives have been successfully tested in small lithium ion batteries, and testing in larger batteries is now under way.
Brett Lucht recently received a $731,000 contract from the Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies program, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Vehicle Technologies.