Battery With More Oomph
August 29, 2012
A group of Polish researchers have developed a new type of lead-acid battery with a capacity almost 50 percent higher than that of traditional batteries.
The research team is led by Prof. Andrzej Czerwiński from the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Warsaw, who also works at the Institute of Industrial Chemistry in Warsaw. The invention has won gold medals at exhibitions in Geneva, Brussels and Warsaw.
The battery has a wide range of applications, from power tools to electric vehicles. One example of how this device may be used is electric wheelchairs, which could travel 50 percent further on the new battery, he said.
The battery uses a modified version of the reticulated vitreous carbon (RVC) material with high porosity, electrical conductivity and high chemical resistance. This modern, pumice-like material can be used instead of much heavier lead grates where chemical reactions that generate electricity occur.
In a lead-acid battery, lead and lead dioxide enter into reactions with sulfuric acid, Czerwiński explains. During these reactions, electric energy is produced.
Traditional batteries rely on lead grates that are heavy and account for a large part of the battery’s weight.
In Czerwiński’s battery, lead grates have been replaced by carbon material which is 10 times lighter. This made it possible to substantially decrease the weight of the battery, meaning that an electric vehicle with a battery of the same weight as the older type will have a range of 150 km instead of 100, the researcher says.
According to Czerwiński, RVC has been produced in the United States since the 1980s, but before the material was used in the new type of battery, it had to be modified. Czerwiński made the modifications in collaboration with fellow researchers from the University of Warsaw and the Institute of Industrial Chemistry—including Szymon Obrębowski, Zbigniew Rogulski and Jan Kotowski. As they worked to solve the technology problems involved, the researchers were helped by the Jenox Akumulatory company from Chodzież, which produces lead-acid batteries.
“In the last three years we have managed to overcome all difficulties and our battery has passed all the tests, which showed that it can compete with batteries currently available on the market,” Czerwiński said.
According to the inventor, lead-acid batteries are still the most commonly used type of battery. Lithium batteries last longer, but they have a more complex design and are several times more expensive than lead-acid batteries in terms of the cost of 1 kWh of energy.
Czerwiński’s battery is more environmentally friendly than other lead-acid batteries, as less lead is used in the production process. The costs of producing the device are also lower.
Czerwiński has already obtained three patents for his invention together with the University of Warsaw, and has applied for more. The invention has only been patented in Poland.
A research consortium made up of the University of Warsaw, the Institute of Industrial Chemistry, the Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals/Central Laboratory of Batteries and Cells, and Jenox Akumulatory, has received funds from the National Center for Research and Development to develop the new battery technology.
Over the past two years, the invention has won four gold and four silver medals and two prizes at international technology and innovation exhibitions, including those in Brussels, Paris, Taiwan and Nuremberg. “We particularly value the golds from Geneva and the 50th International Poznań Fair,” says Czerwiński.