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February 16, 2006

MIT Builds A Better Hybrid Car Battery

Courtesy of EE Times

MANHASSET, N.Y. — Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a lithium nickel manganese oxide battery that could become an alternative to nickel metal hydride batteries used today to power hybrid cars.

Researchers modified the lithium nickel manganese oxide material's structure to make it capable of charging and discharging more quickly. MIT is said to have designed and synthesized a material with an ordered crystalline structure, allowing lithium ions to freely flow between metal layers.

Lithium nickel manganese oxide consists of nickel and manganese layers separated from the lithium layers by oxygen. Normally the compound’s crystalline structure becomes too "disordered," allowing the nickel and lithium to be drawn to each other. This, in turn, interferes with the flow of lithium ions, thereby slowing the charging rate.

A battery made from the new material can charge or discharge in about 10 minutes — or about 10 times faster than unmodified lithium nickel manganese oxide technology, according to MIT. That brings it much closer to the timeframe needed for hybrid car batteries, said Gerbrand Ceder, MIT professor of materials science and engineering, who led the project.

Other potential applications for the new lithium battery include power tools, electric bikes, and power backup for renewable energy sources.

The research, to be published in Science on Feb. 17, was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Energy Department.

Others are also developing the technology in the automotive arena. For example, Altair Nanotechnologies Inc. recently said its facility in Anderson, Indiana, has begun producing and testing the first batch of lithium ion battery cells utilizing the company’s nano-structured electrode materials.

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