MIT develops process for manufacturing cheap, bendable batteries

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), yesterday announced a new breakthrough battery manufacturing process.

Their new process, developed in conjunction with spinoff company 24M, entails the production of a new kind of Lithium Ion (Li/Ion) batteries at low cost.

These new batteries, called ‘semisolid’ batteries, are a hybrid between an earlier MIT-developed technology called ‘flow batteries’ and industry standard solid-state batteries.

In these semisolid batteries, while the electrode material does not flow, it is composed of a similar semisolid, colloidal suspension of particles.

“We realized that a better way to make use of this flowable electrode technology was to reinvent the [lithium ion] manufacturing process,” said Yet-Ming Chiang, a Professor of Ceramics from MIT and co-founder of 24M.

The advantage of this new manufacturing technology is twofold – it is both cheaper and more flexible than tradition batteries.

Firstly, due to the reduction of the amount of electrode material used, the batteries can be produced at around half the price of pre-existing designs. This cost-reduction is based on a trial manufacturing facility set up by MIT which has already mass produced 10,000 of the new batteries.

Secondly, the batteries are also very flexible due to their construction. This allows them to be much more resistant to shock and puncture damage, and makes them a perfect fit for a new generation of flexible electronic devices.

In addition, MIT’s new manufacturing process is highly scalable, meaning that even small set-ups see similar cost reductions compared to traditional Li/Ion battery manufacturing.

The first target for these new batteries will be grid scale energy storage for intermittent renewable power sources such as solar

Already, MIT’s spinoff company 24M has received $50 million in for in the new tech by private firms, as well as the US Department of Energy, demonstrating significant interest in the tech.

24M believes that by 2020 they will be able to produce batteries with for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour of capacity. When compared to the approximately $350 per kilowatt hour being offered by Tesla’s new Powerwall, this would be a very significant cost reduction.