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Getting There

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Science  24 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6037, pp. 1494-1496
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6037.1494

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Last month, researchers reported creating a new battery design called a semisolid flow cell that's like a battery with a fuel tank. Like today's batteries, the device contains lithium ions that shuttle back and forth either storing or releasing electrical charges on demand. But instead of packaging those ions along with the electrodes and other apparatus all together, as in a typical battery, the semisolid flow cell separates the energy-delivery apparatus from energy storage. The new setup can store up to 30 times as much energy as previous versions. The flow cell still faces a host of challenges, such as ensuring that lithium-containing particles don't settle to the bottom of the battery tank. But if the boldest projects now in labs around the globe succeed, they could provide at least 10 times the energy of today's lithium-ion batteries, enough to make fully battery-powered cars competitive with today's gasoline models.