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MIT lines up battery of options

Better lithium ion batteries, solid-state batteries and new materials that could make rechargeable batteries for electric cars cheaper and safer are among MIT's most recent battery innovations.

MIT battery researcher Donald R. Sadoway, the John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Science, has said that eliminating all liquid from solid-state batteries could double or triple their capacity over the best existing commercial batteries.

"We think that there are opportunities for looking at multilayer thin-film laminates with no liquid, using a polymer as the electrolyte separator. You're looking at something that's similar to a potato chip bag, a polymer web coated with a different layer of chemistry. We can make that by the square mile -- it's not difficult to do," he said.

Sadoway has worked with Gerbrand Ceder, the R.P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, on new battery materials that could be used for electrodes on rechargeable batteries.

Ceder and other colleagues report in the Feb. 17 issue of Science on a new type of lithium battery that could become a cheaper alternative to the batteries that now power hybrid electric cars.

By spiking the common material lithium iron phosphate with tiny amounts of metal, MIT researchers led by Yet-Ming Chiang have also created a material with high potential for the next generation of rechargeable batteries in electric cars and other devices. Chiang, the Kyocera Professor of Ceramics in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, boosted lithium ion phosphate's electronic conductivity by eight orders of magnitude -- some 10 million times better than the starting material.

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