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The Origins of Breakthrough Battery Technology

Carlo Segre, while Duchossois Leadership Professor of Physics at Illinois Institute of Technology, received a $3.4 million award in 2013 from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) to develop a breakthrough battery technology that may more than double the current range of electric vehicles (EV), increase safety, reduce costs and simplify recharging.

The future founders of Influit Energy, Segre and his collaborators John Katsoudas, also of IIT, and Elena Timofeeva were working to develop a prototype for a rechargeable ​“nanoelectrofuel” flow battery with the objective of extending the range of EVs to at least 500 miles and provide a straightforward and rapid method of refueling. Current EV ranges are 100-200 miles, with recharging taking up to eight hours.

Flow batteries, which store chemical energy in external tanks instead of within the battery container, are generally low in energy density and therefore not used for transportation applications.  The IIT-Argonne nanoelectrofuel flow battery concept used a high-energy density ​“liquid” with battery-active nanoparticles to dramatically increase energy density while ensuring stability and low-resistance flow within the battery.

Segre’s expertise was in the structure and properties of materials using synchrotron radiation techniques. He had a wide variety of ongoing research projects, including fuel-cell catalysts and battery materials. Segre was the deputy director of the Materials Research Collaborative Access Team (MR-CAT) beamline at the Advanced Photon Source (APS), located at Argonne; and director of the Center for Synchrotron Radiation Research and Instrumentation (CSRRI) at IIT.

Katsoudas and Timofeeva began their work on the IIT-Argonne nanoelectrofuel flow battery at Argonne, leveraging Timofeeva’s expertise in nanofluids engineering and electrochemistry. Katsoudas is an expert in instrumentation design, automation of experiments and materials characterization.