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Aluminium battery could charge mobile devices in 60 seconds

Tue 7 Apr 2015

Battery charging

A team of researchers at Stanford University have released details of its new aluminium battery prototype whose flexibility, low cost and efficiency could see it replace traditional lithium-ion and alkaline batteries.

“We have developed a rechargeable aluminum battery that may replace existing storage devices, such as alkaline batteries, which are bad for the environment, and lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally burst into flames,” said Stanford chemistry professor Hongjie Dai, adding that the “new battery won’t catch fire, even if you drill through it.”

The research, which was published in the latest issue of online academic journal Nature, explains how the battery uses an aluminium anode and a graphite cathode held in an ionic liquid electrolyte and cased in flexible polymer. The researchers claim that the technology will allow devices to be recharged in a matter of minutes and will produce voltage at the same quality even after thousands of charging cycles.

A conventional lithium-ion battery is expected to last for around 1,000 charging cycles before its performance takes a hit. However the aluminium alternative has been proven to cope with over 7,500 charges before it shows any wear, which the Stanford scientists hope will open up the possibility for commercial uses.

“The grid needs a battery with a long cycle life that can rapidly store and release energy […] Our latest unpublished data suggest that an aluminum battery can be recharged tens of thousands of times. It’s hard to imagine building a huge lithium-ion battery for grid storage,” Dai explained.

For the time being the team is looking to replace typical batteries with their environmentally-friendly alternative to curb the poisoning effects of old alkaline models sitting in landfills. The aluminium version is a clear winner when compared with alkaline batteries: “Millions of consumers use 1.5-volt AA and AAA batteries. Our rechargeable aluminium battery generates about two volts of electricity. That’s higher than anyone has achieved with aluminium,” said Dai.

However, when put up against lithium-ion, the aluminium battery only “produces about half the voltage.”

“But improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage and energy density. Otherwise, our battery has everything else you’d dream that a battery should have: inexpensive electrodes, good safety, high-speed charging, flexibility and long cycle life,” Dai added.

“I see this as a new battery in its early days. It’s quite exciting.”

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