- Full disclosure: this was originally written for my other (other) blog, Gas 2.0, but wasn't published there. I like it, so I'm posting it here.
“The black goo” would be a great name for the gunk filling this battery; but (in a huge marketing blunder) it’s been called Cambridge Sludge, instead, proving (as if it needed proving) that you should never let the engineers get too close to the marketers (it’s not good for either of them).
That said, a group of MIT engineers created the black goo to function “just like” a conventional battery. The goo has charged particles within it (held in a suspension) and flows “like quicksand”. On one side of a thin membrane is a positive suspension of goo. On the other, a negative one. The electrons flow from one side to another (flow of electrons = electricity) until the two sides are “equal”.
All typical “battery stuff”, then … what’s exciting is what happens once the battery’s charge is spent. The MIT battery can be charged by simply emptying out the spent sludge, and pumping in some fresh goo (and that spent goo can then be “re-charged” at leisure) all at a greatly reduced cost compared to replacing Li-ion batteries.
How “greatly reduced”? According to MIT, “the new design should make it possible to reduce the size and the cost of a complete battery system, including all of its structural support and connectors, to about half the current levels.”
Obviously, a huge cost-reduction in initial purchase (and, later, battery replacement) would play a major role in advancing the case for EVs in the general marketplace. The target of the team’s ongoing work is to have “a fully-functioning, reduced-scale prototype system” operating in 2013.