In previous articles on Aquion and Ambri we discussed the importance of new battery storage technologies for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Another need for improved battery technologies is in the electric vehicle space. Companies such as Altair Nanotechnologies are providing nano lithium titanate batteries to the growing electric bus company we highlighted recently, Proterra. One interesting startup that is building energy storage systems for grid and transportation applications is 24M Technologies.
Founded in 2010, Cambridge Massachusetts based 24M Technologies has taken in $16 million in funding so far from Charles River Ventures, North Bridge Venture Partners, and the U.S. Department of Energy. The company was co-founded by MIT professor Dr. Yet-Ming Chiang who was also the co-founder of A123 Systems. Founded in 2001, A123 was a manufacturer of lithium-ion (lithium iron phosphate) batteries for the transportation, electric grid and commercial markets and grew to 3,000 employees by 2012 but went bankrupt the same year. 24M’s technology was conceived at A123 Systems by Dr. Chiang and further developed over two years of research at MIT.
24M has developed a flow battery technology that uses a black goo solution nicknamed “Cambridge crude”. The battery is a semi-solid flow cell, in which solid particles are suspended in a carrier liquid and pumped through the system. Distributed throughout the black goo are positive and negative posts which are stored in two tanks in the form of nano-particles. The two oppositely charged liquids are then pumped past a special membrane and the resulting output is clean electricity to power an electric vehicle as seen below:
24M’s battery promises a 10-fold improvement in energy density over present liquid flow-batteries, and lower-cost manufacturing than conventional lithium-ion batteries. One potential of this battery technology is that it could allow an electric vehicle driver to “refuel” their battery by simply pumping out the decharged black goo and then pumping in freshly charged replacement goo. Alternatively the tanks could simply be swapped and the decharged goo recharged by the fueling station. While A123 lost investors a great deal of money over its lifetime, 24M may prove to be a lucrative investment should the Company be able to successfully commercialize their “black goo battery”.