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This new battery innovation could speed EV charging, extend range

Researchers at Northwestern University believe they've constructed a material that encompasses the best of both batteries and supercapacitors.

Chevrolet Bolt Powertrain Deep Dive
This is the Chevrolet Bolt's all-new, 60-kWh battery.
General Motors

We've come so far in the development of batteries for electric vehicles, but as far as we've pushed the technology, there's that much more to still discover. Researchers at Northwestern University may have found a way to combine the benefits of two major EV components that could extend vehicle range and speed up charging.

NU chemist William Dichtel and his team created a material called a covalent organic framework (COF), which is a crystalline organic structure featuring a number of pores suitable for storing energy. They added to that framework a conductive polymer, and the result is a "modified redox-active COF," which Dichtel believes can combine the benefits of batteries and supercapacitors, both of which are required in electric vehicles.

The researchers claim that their material is capable of 10,000 charge cycles before stability is a concern. The modified COF can store 10 times the electrical energy of an unmodified COF, and it can move that charge in and out between 10 and 15 times faster, as well. Thus, it's the best of both worlds, as batteries can hold lots of charge with a slow discharge rate, while supercapacitors hold little charge but discharge very quickly.

For those of you with a hankering to get down and dirty with the chemical nitty-gritty, the group's paper, "Superior Charge Storage and Power Density of a Conducting Polymer-Modified Covalent Organic Framework," is published in the journal ACS Central Science. It's going to be a while before this makes its way to a mass-produced, conventional application, but it's promising nevertheless.

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