Janna Maranas awarded Department of Energy grant to power electric vehicles

07/01/2015

Janna Maranas, professor of chemical engineering, has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the Department of Energy for her research proposal “Superionic conduction using ion aggregates.” 

The research aims to engineer solid polymeric electrolytes that are capable of replacing organic solvent electrolytes in rechargeable metal-ion batteries, particularly those designed to power electric vehicles. 

Replacing organic solvents with polymers will not only increase the safety and efficiency of the batteries, it will also provide an increased energy density allowing vehicles that are currently capable of traveling 100 miles on a charge to travel up to between 400 and 500 miles on the same charge.

Cost reduction and sustainability will also be major considerations. 

“Currently, the cost of an electric car is highly correlated with the battery it employs,” said Maranas. “It can generate up to 50 percent of the total vehicle cost.”

For this reason, Maranas’ model will focus on sodium rather than lithium to engineer the polymers. Lithium is a limited resource with reserves located mostly in South America, while sodium is located domestically and is a relatively inexpensive and abundant material. 

Work on the project is already underway, and an experimentation phase is scheduled to begin in fall 2015. The project will follow a three-year model concluding in 2018.

 

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