A Michigan-based start-up wants to bring the venerable lead-acid battery back to life by offering a less toxic, instant replacement for the sulfuric acid electrolyte that has been a staple for over a century.

Hydrolyte sees its new electrolyte used in applications ranging from automatic stop-start batteries to forklifts and golf carts. “The main difference is that batteries containing sulfuric acid tend to degrade quite quickly,” said Paul Bundschuh, CEO of Tydrolyte. Design News recent Show battery. “Whereas batteries with our material tend to degrade much more slowly. “

The new electrolyte chemistry would also have a lower charge resistance, allowing it to charge faster. And it is less reactive with plants and animals. At the company’s booth at the show, Bundschuh demonstrated the low toxicity of the liquid by splashing it on his face and placing it on his tongue. This low toxicity would be a safety benefit at the manufacturing facilities where lead-acid batteries are made, Bundschuh said.

At the Battery Show, representatives of the hydrolyte presented a new electrolyte with a pH similar to that of sulfuric acid (about 1.0). The CEO of the company also splashed the liquid on his face to show its low toxicity. (Image source: Design News)

Tydrolyte declined to detail the chemistry of the new material at this point, saying only that it is new and that a patent is pending. The company only said the material has a pH similar to sulfuric acid (between 0 and 1) and uses sulfates to react with the lead and lead dioxide plates in a similar way to batteries. common lead-acid.

If vendors adopted the startup’s new technology, it would represent a major change for the battery industry. Lead-acid batteries, invented in 1859, have used sulfuric acid as the flow of electrolyte for much of their history.

Of course, the industry’s reaction to the new chemistry is unknown. But the management of Tydrolyte is optimistic. Independent test engineers from Electrical Applications, Inc. showed that batteries using the new electrolyte had similar capacity and numbers of cold cranking amps to those using sulfuric acid with similar specific gravity. Tests also showed less water loss, better pulse charge acceptance, higher charging efficiency and longer life at high operating temperatures. The life factor could translate into cycle life, calendar life, or longer shelf life, Bundschuh said.

If successful, the new technology could offer a dose of innovation for a very large market. While the use of lead-acid is largely taken for granted, it is still a $ 36 billion market that accounts for about 80% of the industry in terms of capacity.

“There is a lot of lead-acid battery life left,” Bundschuh said. “We don’t talk about it a lot in the media because it’s mature. But it is still the dominant player and there is a lot of room for innovation.

Senior Technical Writer Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987 and has covered electronics, automation, hydropower and automotive.

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