Honda, NASA, & Caltech Claim Fluoride Battery Breakthrough
Lithium is one element that goes well in making batteries, but it’s not the only one. Fluoride – the electro-negative element in the periodic table – is also well suited for this task. In fact, fluoride batteries can be ten times more energy dense than lithium batteries. Until now, however, they had to be heated to 150 ° C in order to function.
A joint research team of engineers from Honda, NASA and Caltech solved this problem by developing a new liquid electrolyte called BTFE, which, according to Engadget, allows fluoride to dissolve at room temperature. When used in a prototype battery made from copper, lanthanum, and fluorine, the new battery could be discharged and recharged at room temperature. According to Honda, the prototype also has a “cheaper ecological footprint” than a lithium battery. Not a word about how well it works in winter when the thermometer is well below “room temperature”.
Can you imagine what a battery with 10 times the energy density of current batteries could do for the range of electric cars? The prospects are, without a doubt, exciting. But there are a few hurdles that must be overcome first. For one thing, the anode and cathode of the prototype battery tend to completely dissolve in the electrolyte.
This is a problem, but the team is working hard to find a solution. If they can solve the high operating temperature problem, it should be a breeze to make anodes and cathodes that won’t dissolve.
Making breakthroughs in the lab is one thing. Turning these breakthroughs into products that are easy to manufacture and commercially feasible is a whole different matter. Don’t be looking for fluoride batteries in electric vehicles anytime soon. Many laboratory miracles never work. This could be just another dead end in a long line of battery research that has never gotten anywhere.
Even so, the prospect is enticing, and Honda, NASA, and Caltech aren’t amateurs fooling around with bunsen burners and mugs in a garage late at night. We need the next step in battery development to advance the clean energy revolution as quickly as possible, but nature doesn’t reveal its secrets on demand. Patience, grasshopper.
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