What if cars could have portable power banks?

Imagine you’re planning to go on a long drive. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, along with extra sandwiches and water bottles for yourself, you could pack in extra battery packs for your car so that you wouldn’t have to look for fuel stations along the way?

If research scholar Sowmiya Theivaprakasam from the IITB-Monash Research Academy has her way, such a scenario is likely sooner than we thought.

The Academy, a Joint Venture between IIT Bombay and Monash University, operates a graduate research program in Mumbai that fosters research partnerships between Australia and India. Research is conducted by scholars in both countries, whilst studying for a dually-badged PhD from both organizations.

Sowmiya is working on a project titled, ‘High Energy Density Lithium Ionic liquid Batteries’ under the supervision of Prof Sagar Mitra and Prof Douglas MacFarlane. The project is sponsored by Reliance industries, Mumbai, and her industry mentor is Dr Parasuveera Uppara.

What’s special about lithium ion batteries?

Says Sowmiya, “They are basically the rechargeable batteries that we see in portable electronic devices like mobile phones, cameras, laptops and power banks. We are now looking to use them to power electric vehicles.”

Currently Li-ion batteries are limited in their application due to their capacity, and issues such as operation temperature, safety and stability. Sowmiya is hoping that her project would lead to the demonstration of viable Hybrid Electric Vehicle and Electric Vehicle batteries performing satisfactorily in many city environments.

“Increasing the energy density and voltage of Li-ion cells places extreme demands on all components of the device, particularly when operated over a wide range of temperatures and loads,” she explains. “The key aspect of this project is to focus on high energy density by balancing the safety of lithium ion batteries with the help of ionic liquid electrolytes. Hopefully, this will lead to safer, more stable devices with improved cycling capacity.”

Figure illustrating the lithium ion battery based on ionic
liquid hybrid electrolytes

Explaining her work so far, Sowmiya says, “Apart from the physiochemical understanding on the effect of ionic liquids, we plan to take them as electrolyte ingredients as well. In order to bring in ionic liquids as efficient ingredients in battery electrolytes, specific factors such as viscosity of the electrolytes, compatibility with electrode chemistries, thermal stability, electrochemical potential window and the electrode-electrolyte interfacial compatibility need to be looked at more carefully. This project hopes to create an understanding on the addition of ionic liquids to the battery electrolytes so as to understand the electrochemistry between the battery electrodes with a constant eye on the thermal stability without compromising the battery performance.”

Says Prof Murali Sastry, CEO, IITB-Monash Research Academy, “The Academy was conceived as a unique model for how two leading, globally focused academic organisations can come together in the spirit of collaboration to deliver solutions and outcomes to grand challenge research questions facing industry and society.”

Sowmiya couldn’t agree more. “I always wanted to do something that would have an impact on the life of the common man. I hope our research findings will energize the whole world!”

Research scholar: Sowmiya Theivaprakasam, IITB-Monash Research Academy

Project title: High Energy Density Lithium Ionic liquid Batteries

Supervisors: Prof Sagar Mitra and Prof Douglas MacFarlane

Industry mentor: Dr Parasuveera Uppara

Contact details: sthe18@student.monash.edu / sowmiya@iitb.ac.in

This story was written by Mr Krishna Warrier based on inputs from the research student and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.