MIT develops a new high-capacity, fast-charging organic battery and Lamborghini licenses this tech

Conventional LCO, NMC, and LFP batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are an important solution for electrifying the transportation sector and storing renewable energy. As shown in the diagram below, a typical lithium-ion battery has an anode, a cathode, a separator, and a liquid electrolyte.

The structure of a typical lithium-ion battery with cobalt- or LFP-based cathode.
The structure of a typical lithium-ion battery with cobalt- or LFP-based cathode.

The anode is composed of graphene or silicon particles mixed with polymer binders and other additives. The cathode is made up of lithium cobalt oxide (LCO), nickel manganese cobalt (NMC), or lithium iron phosphate (LFP) particles that are blended with binders and other additives. The electrolyte has lithium salts and additives dissolved in organic solvents. The separator electrically isolates both electrodes and permits the transport of lithium ions between the electrodes.

Today, electric vehicles overwhelmingly use lithium-ion batteries with cobalt-based cathode that are high-capacity and fast-charging. However, the use of cobalt in these batteries presents several significant problems:

  • Cobalt is considered the highest material supply chain risk for EVs. It is mined as a secondary material from mixed nickel and copper ores. However, the extraction and early-stage processing of cobalt are concentrated in a small number of countries outside the United States.
  • The cost of cobalt can fluctuate dramatically due to its scarcity.
  • Cobalt mining has significant environmental impacts. The generation of toxic waste during cobalt extraction contaminates the surrounding air and water.
  • Cobalt is classified as a 'possible' carcinogen and being a radioactive element. Studies have shown that the risk of birth defects is greatly increased when a parent works in a cobalt mine, linked to high levels of toxic pollution caused by the extraction of cobalt.

Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) is a cobalt-free, abundant, and cost-effective cathode material. However, LFP batteries have a lower energy density compared to LCO and NMC lithium-ion batteries. This means they have a lower capacity to store energy per unit of weight or volume, making them bulkier and heavier for the same energy storage capacity.

MIT new cobalt-free organic battery

MIT researchers have made a big step forward in their search for cobalt-free alternatives by developing a new layered organic cathode material called bis-tetraaminobenzoquinone (TAQ) for lithium-ion batteries, as shown in the diagram below.

MIT’s cobalt-free lithium-ion battery with organic TAQ cathode.
MIT’s cobalt-free lithium-ion battery with organic TAQ cathode (ref. paper).

The optimized TAQ cathode contains 90 wt % TAQ and 10 wt % additives of carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) and/or styrene butadiene rubber (SBR). The TAQ battery is high-energy, fast-charging, and long-lasting because of the following benefits of TAQ:

  • TAQ has 2e⁻ redox couples that give TAQ a high theoretical specific capacity of 356 mAh g⁻¹.
  • The two-dimensional layered arrangement of TAQ molecules enables facile insertion/extraction of lithium ions between the layers and delivers excellent rate capabilities.
  • Strong intermolecular hydrogen bonding and donor–acceptor π–π interactions in TAQ make it insoluble in common battery electrolytes.
  • Impart extended electronic delocalization in TAQ leads to high bulk electrical conductivity.
  • The material's high electrical conductivity and complete insolubility in common battery electrolytes allow for the fabrication of battery electrodes with as little as little as 10 wt% additives.

TAQ's properties make it competitive with inorganic-based lithium-ion battery cathodes, demonstrating the operational competitiveness of sustainable organic electrode materials in practical batteries.

MIT organic battery performance

TAQ-based cathodes can deliver excellent performance even at high areal mass loadings up to 16 mg cm⁻² with an areal capacity up to 3.52 mAh cm⁻² at 25 mA g⁻¹. The optimized cathode can store 306 mAh g⁻¹ cathode, deliver an energy density of 765 Wh kg⁻¹ cathode, and charge-discharge in as little as 6 minutes.

The specific capacity of MIT's TAQ electrode compared to state-of-art organic and inorganic cathodes.
The specific capacity of MIT's TAQ electrode compared to state-of-art organic and inorganic cathodes.

TAQ cathode presents measurable advantages relative to the leading contemporary LIB cathode technologies because of the following advantages:

  • At rates from ∼0.1 C to 10 C, TAQ cathodes offer at least 20–30% more energy density, at the electrode level than most cathodes based on NMC811, or even state-of-the-art cobalt-free oxides.
  • TAQ has a higher energy density in grams than graphite-coated LiFePO₄ cathodes and can be charged at least 10 times faster.
  • TAQ electrodes deliver a higher volumetric energy density than similar LiFePO₄ electrodes.

Lamborghini licenses MIT organic battery

The development of TAQ as a cathode material for lithium-ion batteries is a big step forward. Its high capacity, fast charging times, and long-lasting performance make it a promising candidate for use in electric vehicles and other applications that require high-energy, fast-charging batteries. TAQ is also a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional inorganic cathode materials because it is made of organic materials. This fits with the global push for cleaner and more sustainable energy solutions.

Lamborghini has recently licensed this new high-capacity, fast-charging organic battery technology developed by researchers at MIT.

Lamborghini has been actively involved in the development of advanced battery technologies for its electric vehicles. This includes exploring innovative supercapacitors and "anode-free" sodium-based batteries. Lamborghini's move towards this organic battery technology is part of a broader trend in the automotive industry to find more sustainable and efficient alternatives to traditional lithium-ion batteries. This could potentially reduce the industry's reliance on scarce and expensive metals like cobalt.

Lamborghini Terzo Millennio

The Lamborghini Terzo Millennio, unveiled as a concept, represents the brand's vision for the future of electric supercars. This concept car emphasizes energy efficiency and innovative materials, aiming to dictate the requirements of the third millennium. Lamborghini's approach to electric drivetrains focuses on generating torque directly at the wheels while managing the unsprung mass. The Terzo Millennio combines an electric power source with the goal of ensuring high levels of performance, embodying Lamborghini's pursuit of an innovative supercapacitor to bridge the gap in terms of energy density compared to current battery technologies.

Lamborghini Lanzador

The Lamborghini Lanzador, another step towards electrification, is a concept car equipped with two electric motors providing all-wheel drive. This vehicle is part of Lamborghini's broader strategy to reduce CO₂ emissions and embrace electrification without compromising the brand's hallmark performance, cutting-edge technologies, and exclusive design. The Lanzador represents Lamborghini's vision for an Ultra GT segment, offering a unique driving experience with groundbreaking technologies.

MIT organic battery patent

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