Science continues to evolve and develop new ways of solving common problems and a new technology developed by Purdue researchers could provide an “instantly rechargeable” method that is safe, affordable and environmentally friendly for recharging electric batteries might just be the next breakthrough in the global power scene. For now, this new invention is used in electric cars but early indications hint that this new innovation can have wide applications.
A Purdue University professor named John Cushman, who majors in atmospheric, planetary sciences presented the research findings at an International Conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands. On explaining the batteries usefulness to electric cars he said:
“Electric and hybrid vehicle sales are growing worldwide and the popularity of companies like Tesla is incredible, but there continue to be strong challenges for industry and consumers of electric or hybrid cars,” said Cushman, who led the research team that developed the technology. “The biggest challenge for the industry is to extend the life of a battery’s charge and the infrastructure needed to actually charge the vehicle. The greatest hurdle for drivers is the time commitment to keeping their cars fully charged.”
“Designing and building enough of these recharging stations requires massive infrastructure development, which means the energy distribution and storage system is being rebuilt at tremendous cost to accommodate the need for continual local battery recharge,” said Eric Nauman, co-founder of If battery and a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering, basic medical sciences and biomedical engineering. “If the battery is developing an energy storage system that would enable drivers to fill up their electric or hybrid vehicles with fluid electrolytes to re-energize spent battery fluids much like refueling their gas tanks.”
As an alternative source of power, the spent battery fluids or electrolyte could be collected and taken to a solar farm, wind turbine installation or hydroelectric plant for re-charging. While discussing
“Instead of refining petroleum, the refiners would reprocess spent electrolytes and instead of dispensing gas, the fueling stations would dispense a water and ethanol or methanol solution as fluid electrolytes to power vehicles,” Cushman said. “Users would be able to drop off the spent electrolytes at gas stations, which would then be sent in bulk to solar farms, wind turbine installations or hydroelectric plants for reconstitution or re-charging into the viable electrolyte and reused many times. It is believed that our technology could be nearly ‘drop-in’ ready for most of the underground piping system, rail, and truck delivery system, gas stations and refineries.”
This sort of innovation would be particularly useful in a country like Nigeria which relies heavily on gas powered plants and whose transmission network is not particularly remarkable. It might even lead to independent companies offering small scale power solutions to select consumers by using this innovation. With policies being very uncertain in Nigeria, this would be major game changer. For all the optimism though, this is still a long way off of even nearing execution anywhere in Africa as the batteries are still in their testing phase.
Mike Mueterthies, Purdue doctoral teaching and research assistant in physics and the third co-founder of Ifbattery, said the flow battery system makes the If battery system unique.
“Other flow batteries exist, but we are the first to remove membranes which reduce costs and extends battery life,” Mueterthies said.
If battery‘s membrane-free battery demonstrates other benefits as well which includes Membrane fouling and how that can limit the number of recharge cycles and is a known contributor to many battery fires,” Cushman said. “Ifbattery’s components are safe enough to be stored in a family home, are stable enough to meet major production and distribution requirements and are cost effective.”
This is definitely a game changer in the energy scene and it is refreshing to see such innovative ideas that can transform the way power is being generated. In the local scene, however, our very own students of UNilorin have gone on to innovate a solution to a common problem in the power sector – which is electricity theft. Their new invention which is set to checkmate electricity piggy bagging which is one of a kind in the country and certainly worthy of commendation. Read all about it here