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Old battery gets a high-tech makeover

Redesigned nickel-iron battery gives modern lithium-ion devices a run for their money

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2:18pm, June 26, 2012

A rechargeable battery patented by Thomas Edison more than a century ago is staging a comeback. The nickel-iron battery may yet prove to be a viable power source for electric cars, as the inventor had intended.

Thanks to a redesign, Edison’s battery can now store almost as much energy, gram for gram, as the lithium-ion battery in Nissan’s all-electric car, the Leaf. But the redesigned battery charges faster and promises to be cheaper and safer, researchers report online June 26 in Nature Communications

“People abandoned this type of battery in the 1970s because there were better batteries at the time,” says Hongjie Dai, a chemist at Stanford University. “We have made the Edison battery interesting again by drastically increasing the ability to charge and discharge it.”

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