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Ionic batteries could multiply battery life by 11

updated 04:40 pm EST, Fri November 6, 2009

Metal-air ionic liquid could extend batteries

A new development by partly government-backed Fluidic Energy could potentially extend the battery life of notebooks, cars and other devices well beyond existing lithium-ion cells. Known as Metal-Air Ionic Liquid (MAIL), it would improve energy storage beyond relatively efficient zinc-air batteries by using an ionic liquid salt to conduct electricity that is much more stable and isn't prone to drying out either by accident or by eventual decay. The move would let battery makers use metals denser than zinc and therefore hold a much larger charge in a given volume.

The researchers estimate they can boost battery efficiency to between 900 and 1,600 watt-hours (Whr) in a pack with a mass of one kilogram (2.2 pounds), or about 11 times the energy of lithium-ion. Notebook batteries are significantly smaller, but would in many cases still last for significantly longer. If the improvements scale linearly, the 1.25-pound battery in a 17-inch MacBook Pro would still hold about 511Whr, or more than five times as much as the 95Whr battery of today.

Cars are a particular focus and the reason for the government funding, as they could extend the driving range of an all-electric car to between 400 and 500 miles and thus compete with some gasoline vehicles. A modern electric car like the Tesla Roadster officially lasts for just 244 miles using lithium-ion cells.

Challenges still remain, such as picking an ionic liquid that generates the intended properties but is still inexpensive enough to make sense versus existing technology. MAIL packs nonetheless have the potential to cost less than lithium-ion and would in many ways look and feel like their predecessors.

It's not clear how soon MAIL would reach the market, but the project unlike competing university projects is intended to reach shipping products first. [via jkOnTheRun]

by MacNN Staff



  1. prl99

    Joined: Dec 1969


    great possibility, won't happen

    This sounds great and I'd love to see it happen but it's contradictory to the way business functions. An oil company will buy the rights and squash its development. Auto manufacturers (oh wait, Ford's the only one left in US) will be right behind s******* it up. I'd love to see a list of all the great inventions and technical advancements that were hidden away so current US companies could continue to survive. I want a Tesla but I doubt it will be affordable any time soon.

  1. siromega

    Joined: Dec 1969


    While its true Chevron owns a NiMH patent

    and they're effectively subverting it by charging very high fees to manufacture battery cells larger than 10Ah (necessary for EVs). That probably wont happen with Li-Ion and future battery technologies simply because there are too many firms researching different technologies.

    That said, Li-air batteries probably wont be here for another 7-10 years, if this ever turns out to be feasible for use in a vehicle.

  1. Eriamjh

    Joined: Dec 1969


    11, eh?

    Turn the volume up to 11, too.

    We've heard rumblings and rumors of high capacity batteries for years. When will it actually happen?

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Charge Times

    Sounds very promising. Since they are promoting this (to get that DoE grant) as a solution for electric cars, I have to wonder what the recharge time is on these types of cells. Neither the linked article on jkOnTheRun, nor the article *they* linked on ( ) addressed this question. For an electric car, one would hope the batteries are capable of being charged extremely quickly, in a matter of a few minutes. I hope we hear more about these new types of batteries.

  1. chas_m



    If true ...

    ... I propose that no Republicans be allowed to use this technology. They routinely vote down and don't support any government backing of high-tech or public investment in technologies that can save lives or improve our competitiveness in the global economy, so let em stew in their own piss for a while.

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