The battery invented 120 years before its time

At the turn of the 20th century, Thomas Edison experimented with an electric car. It was not the first electric car, but Edison's battery was different. This battery had its drawbacks, one which may turn out to be a benefit 120 years later.

Edison had outfitted his car with a new type of battery that he hoped would soon be powering vehicles throughout the country: a nickel-iron battery. Building on the work of the Swedish inventor Ernst Waldemar Jungner, who first patented a nickel-iron battery in 1899, Edison sought to refine the battery for use in automobiles.

Edison claimed the nickel-iron battery was incredibly resilient, and could be charged twice as fast as lead-acid batteries. He even had a deal in place with Ford Motors to produce this purportedly more efficient electric vehicle.

But the nickel-iron battery did have some kinks to work out. It was larger than the more widely used lead-acid batteries, and more expensive. Also, when it was being charged, it would release hydrogen, which was considered a nuisance and could be dangerous.

In the 21st century, you've heard about the possibilities of hydrogen power. The problem is that it's difficult to produce hydrogen. A research team from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands are revisiting Edison's nickel-iron battery to assess its function in both power storage and hydrogen production, and the results so far look pretty good. They named their version of the battery the "battolyser," a gadget that Batman would be proud to use. Read about the potential of the battolyser at BBC Future.

[via Damn Interesting]