TU researchers, Frontier Electronic team up on 'revolutionary' lithium ion battery
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
7/17/12 at 3:56 AM
Researchers at the University of Tulsa and engineers at Frontier Electronic Systems Corp. in Stillwater are working on new technology that could power the next generation of cars, gadgets and just about everything else.
In a mixture of pure science meets practical manufacturing know-how, the team is working on a "revolutionary" lithium ion battery that could multiply the juice needed to supply such items as cell phones, electric cars, medical devices and missiles.
"Since the lithium ion battery came into prominence in the 1990s, there really haven't been any changes," said professor Dale Teeters, head of the TU chemistry and biochemistry program and an avid researcher into battery technology.
"There's a lot of research right now into batteries because they're so important in the world of technology."
Teeters has been researching battery technology for more than 12 years. Recent innovations in nano-technology, including a growing supply of equipment at TU, are promising breakthroughs in the technology.
Teeters thinks he has developed a nano-material - nano meaning materials measuring about a hundred-thousandth of a meter in width - that will help a battery charge faster and discharge slower, as well as hold more power.
For instance, the state-of-the-art Tesla Roadster has a battery that weighs nearly 4,000 pounds to give the vehicle a 300-mile charge. It takes the vehicle about eight hours to get a full charge.
Tesla and other electric vehicle manufacturers are focusing keenly on reducing battery size and increasing efficiency - primary ways to increase range and marketability of electric cars.
At TU, Teeters believes he has been able to create a super-thin lithium material with greater surface area than the chemical used in current technologies.
Because the new technology enables a battery to hold more power, it will be able to supply more electricity at a time to devices, such as cars that sometimes need a burst of speed.
Now Teeters is working with the Stillwater aerospace and defense company Frontier Electronic Systems to try to turn the lab work into a reality.
The state's Center for Technology Advancement in Science and Technology found the program so promising that it gave TU and Frontier Electronic a $500,000 a year grant for three years to help turn the promising lab work into a functioning and marketable product.
Brenda Rolls, president of Frontier Electronic, said eventually the company hopes to spin off a branch dedicated to the manufacture of the new battery technology, creating research and production jobs in Stillwater.
"We have a good solid technology and, we think, have the expertise to get it off the ground," Rolls said. "We've been able to make progress into turning it into a commercialized product."
Frontier Electronic has a large team of engineers in a variety of fields, many of whom have previously worked on getting products to market.
Teeters' technology creates a nanometer sheet of lithium that must be folded thousands of times to make a battery unit. The challenge now is creating the nano-lithium material in a manufacturing environment and making enough of it to make batteries.
The state's contract program helped Frontier Electronic join up with a potential customer, VADovations Inc. of Oklahoma City, which hopes to use the batteries to power a miniature heart pump.
Rolls said she isn't at liberty to talk about what kind of step forward in battery power the new technology could provide because of contracts with potential customers and the partnership between TU and Frontier Electronic, but she said it is significant.
"I can tell you that it is a revolutionary difference, it's not just an incremental," Rolls said.
Original Print Headline: Big effort in nanotech
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
University of Tulsa student Mark Poyner works with a "glove box" on nano battery technology in a TU lab. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Nanotech work tied to lithium ion batteries is being performed in a TU lab. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Dale Teeters (left) and student Erik Burton work with an electron microscope on nano battery technology at the University of Tulsa. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World