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Posted: Jun 15, 2011

Reinventing rechargeable batteries

(Nanowerk News) University of Leicester researchers are spearheading the development of a novel type of sustainable zinc-based rechargeable battery for electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid EVs.
The €3.5 million research project, PolyZion, is funded under the EU Seventh Framework Programme and combines world-class research organisations in investigating ionic liquids, conducting plastics, zinc deposition, pulse charging and batteries.
At present, commonly used lead acid, nickel metal hydride or lithium ion rechargeable batteries in electric vehicles have technological, cost and environmental limitations, in addition to short circuiting issues. With predictions that the rapid growth of the global market for EV and hybrid EVs is expected to top $2 billion by 2015 there is good promise for new battery technologies.
A postgraduate researcher with the Department of Chemistry, Claire Fullarton is focused on the design, production and properties of a new type of prototype battery, which would offer an improved performance, safety and environmental sustainability.
"This research involves the development of a new class of fast rechargeable batteries based on a zinc-plastic system incorporating a novel, inexpensive, environmentally sustainable solvent," said Miss Fullarton.
"This approach is necessitated by the problems associated with petrol and diesel powered vehicles, such as environmental impact, rising fuel prices, the looming shortage of oil and the limitations of batteries available for electric vehicles."
The project combines a new low-cost, air and moisture insensitive and environmentally sustainable class of electrolytes (ionic liquids) together with nano-structured zinc deposits and novel ultra-fast charging conducting polymers.
Several small and medium enterprise partners collaborate in the project with expertise in technology development and specialised materials, as well as large industrial partners with industrial experience of battery manufacture and state-of-the-art testing facilities. The consortium also includes two organisations with world-class research expertise from an 'Emerging Economy' (Russia) and a 'High Income' country outside the EU (Canada).
Overseeing the project, a reader in Physical Chemistry, Dr Karl S Ryder added:
"This is an exciting new project aimed at exploring and developing new energy storage technologies for a range of power applications but focused particularly on electric vehicles. The problem with many electric cars is that the battery technology is often quite heavy and needs frequent recharging. Newer technologies such as lithium ion are very good but are quite expensive and surrounded by serious safety concerns - they are prone to burn fiercely on impact!
"Our work is aimed at developing an exciting and totally new battery technology that is light-weight and environmentally sustainable as well as both effective and safe."
The institutions and organisations involved with the project are: University of Leicester, C-Tech Innovation, Fundacion CIDETEC, Celaya Emparanza y Galdos SA (Cegasa), University of Porto, KEMA Nederland BV, AE Favorsky Irkutsk Institute of Chemistry, Institute de Recherche d'Hydro-Québec, Rescoll.
This research is being presented at the Festival of Postgraduate Research on Thursday, 16 June. The annual one-day exhibition of postgraduate research offers organisations and the public the opportunity to meet the next generation of innovators and cutting-edge researchers. More than 50 University of Leicester students will explain the real world implications of their research in an engaging and accessible way. The event is open to the public and free to attend. More information at http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ssds/sd/pgrd/fpgr.
Source: University of Leicester
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