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Advanced Thermo-Adsorptive Battery

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
ARPA-E Award: 
Cambridge, MA
Project Term: 
12/13/2011 to 09/30/2016
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

The transportation sector is the dominant source of U.S. dependence on foreign oil and a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. Enabling more widespread use of electric vehicles (EVs) would reduce both our dependence on foreign oil and our harm to the environment. Inefficient heating and cooling systems can limit the driving range of EVs by acting as a drain on their batteries. Rechargeable, thermal energy storage-based hot-and-cold batteries can provide efficient heating and cooling to EVs without draining the on-board battery packs, in effect extending the driving range of EVs per electric charge. These will also enable thermal management of internal-combustion engine vehicles.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing a low-cost, compact, high-capacity, advanced thermo-adsorptive battery (ATB) for effective climate control of EVs. The ATB provides both heating and cooling by taking advantage of the materials' ability to adsorb a significant amount of water. This efficient battery system design could offer up as much as a 30% increase in driving range compared to current EV climate control technology. The ATB provides high-capacity thermal storage with little-to-no electrical power consumption. MIT is also looking to explore the possibility of shifting peak electricity loads for cooling and heating in a variety of other applications, including commercial and residential buildings, data centers, and telecom facilities.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, MIT's ATB technology has the potential to transform on-demand cooling and heating in EVs, while increasing their driving range up to 30% relative to today's best cabin climate control technology.


Increased use of EVs would decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil--the transportation sector is the dominant source of this dependence.


Greater use of EVs would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 28% of which come from the transportation sector.


This technology would increase the marketability of EVs--helping spur growth in the automobile industry.

Innovation Update: 
(As of March 2017) 
MIT is focusing on commercially viable solutions that can be easily integrated into the automotive supply chain. The team is demonstrating its ATB prototype at a Ford facility to determine pathways to commercialization. In addition, EV designers are experimenting with climate control strategies that emphasize more precise delivery of thermal services, such as modular HVAC systems that potentially would have different performance profiles compared to conventional systems. The ATB could potentially enhance these alternative climate control designs. 
MIT set out to develop a compact and light weight ATB. The design integrates an adsorbent bed with a condenser, an evaporator, and a water reservoir. The team first identified several highly adsorptive new materials and selected a commercially available material for prototype development while considering performance, availability, and cost. Analysis and experimentation resulted in a copper foam in which the adsorbent material would be poured, layered in between heat dissipating fins. With guidance from Ford, the adsorbent bed was configured into an operational heat pump prototype for testing at the Ford facility. 
For a detailed assessment of the MIT project and impact, please click here.

ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Eric Rohlfing
Project Contact: 
Dr. Evelyn N. Wang
Ford Motor Company
Northeastern University
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Texas, Austin
Release Date: