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Wright Electric and Columbia University receive $1.5M ARPA-E award for ultra-lightweight battery development

Wright Electric, in collaboration with Columbia University, has been awarded a contract from the US Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) to support development of an ultra-energy-dense aluminum battery and novel artificial intelligence system. The $1,499,098 funding is part of the Plane Electrification with 1K energy storage systems program (PROPEL-1K). (Earlier post.)

The aluminum-air flow battery under development has swappable aluminum anodes that allow for mechanical recharging. Aluminum air chemistry can achieve high energy density but historically has encountered issues with rechargeability and clogging from reaction products.

To overcome these barriers, Wright Electric is using a 3D design instead of a 2D planar chemistry to improve the contact between anode and cathode. The system also circulates the electrolyte, preventing the accumulation of reaction products within the cell structure to remedy limitations of static aluminum-air batteries.

Wright launched its battery program in 2023 after years of stealth development. (Earlier post.) The batteries are being designed to be 4x more energy dense than th Li-ion batteries that power EVs.


Depiction of Wright battery.

Wright has built power dense electric motors, inverters, and generators for aerospace and defense applications. Building on this work, Wright is applying its expertise in lightweight mechanical and electrical systems to battery development.

We have developed experience building lightweight thermally managed electric propulsion systems, and we see a way to apply that knowledge to the design of large molten battery packs.

—Colin Tschida, Head of Powertrain at Wright

Wright’s Automated Experimentation with Radical Electrochemical Systems (AERES) technology uses a combination of systematic screening and open-source hardware to scree electrolytes rapidly for these batteries.

It is straightforward to construct an aluminum battery with household ingredients. But it is hard to make one that has the efficiency and high power output necessary for vehicles.

—Jeff Engler, Wright CEO



I loath pressers which talk in terms of '4 times whatever'

Simple KWh per kg and liter is what works, instead of advertising ploys where the hack can pick virtually any baseline he or she fancies.


You did not read the previous post:
Propel 1K “ projects will develop energy storage systems with “1K” technologies capable of achieving or exceeding 1000 Watt-hour per kilogram (Wh/kg) and 1000 Watt-hour per liter (Wh/L)—a greater than four times energy density improvement compared to current technologies.”

On the Wright Energy web site (,
They state they will develop an Aluminum-Air battery with up to 1000 Whr/kg.
Primary Aluminum-Air batteries are nothing new and can develop this kind of specific energy. Wright Energy is looking at “ swappable aluminum anodes that allow for mechanical recharging. ”

This sounds like their Marine-1 battery and could rely on several techniques that extend the life of the battery.
Columbia University has a recent patent on Redox Flow battery (US11289729B2) and the lead author Colin Nuckolls has an article “ Molecular Materials for Nonaqueous Flow Batteries with a High Coulombic Efficiency and Stable Cycling”,

Jaephil Cho, a noted Korean battery researcher also has done work on Aluminum-Air batteries, reference:
“ Seed-mediated atomic-scale reconstruction of silver manganate nanoplates for oxygen reduction towards high-energy aluminum-air flow batteries”

Finally, MIT has a design for design extending the shelf life of single-use metal-air batteries: “Extending the life of low-cost, compact, lightweight batteries”,



Many thanks!

At 73 I am afraid I have a 4 times decrease in my ability to properly assess stuff, we won't go into the exact figures from what to what, as it would be even more embarrassing! ;-)

Clue: It was pretty rubbish to start with....:-(


As a somewhat less 'mea culpa' reply, I note that I had not complained that the information was not available somewhere from them, just that the presser was comparative not absolute in the information provided, and that was what I was moaning about, as I get tired of digging out basic info which is often well buried..

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