A new aluminum battery technology has the energy capacity of twice as many materials as before and will result in decreased costs of production and environmental effects. This technology has abundant material content. The concept can be used in large-scale applications, including solar energy storage. The concept is funded by researchers at the Technical University of Chalmers, Sweden, and the Slovenia National Chemical Institute.
The use of aluminum battery technology could provide many benefits, including a high potential energy density and the fact that a well-established production and recycling industry already exists. The new concept of the researchers could lead to significantly lower production costs compared to today’s lithium-ion batteries.
“We expect our new concept to have substantially lower material costs and environmental impact than we do today to make them feasible for wide use, such as solar cell parks and wind energy storage,” says Patrik Johannsson, Professor in Chalmers Physics department.
In addition, we have two different energy density standards in our battery system in contrast to the aluminum batteries today that are the ‘state of the art.” Aluminum has been used as an anode (non-electrode), with graphite as a cathode (positive electrode), in previous battery designs.
In the new concept, presented by Patrik Johansson and Chalmers, the graphite was substituted for an organic, nanostructured cathode made of carbon-based molecule anthraquinone in conjunction with the research group in Ljubljana led by Robert Dominko.
Jan Bitenc, a guest researcher in Chalmers from the community at the National Institute of Chemistry in Slovenia, has been developing the anthraquinone cathode extensively.
The benefit of this organic molécule in the cathode material is that the solution in which ions pass between the electrodes allows the storage of positive charge carriers from the electrolyte to create greater energy density in the battery.
“We can continue the work by searching for an even better electrolyte, and we want to get rid of that in the present version-we want to remove it,” says Chalmers researchers Niklas Lindahl, who studies internal mechanisms which control energy transfer, “is made possible by the new cathode material for a more suited carrier charging the battery.
So far, aluminum batteries are not available on the market and are still fairly new in the field of science. The question is whether aluminum batteries will replace lithium-ion batteries at long last.
“We do hope they will do it. However, they can, above all, be complementary to ensure that the batteries of lithium-ion are only used where strictly necessary. Until now, the batteries of lithium are only half as energy-dense as the batteries of lithium-ion.
Electrolyte and improved charging mechanisms remain at work, but aluminum remains a considerably better carrier than lithium, as it is multivalent — this ensures that each ion ‘compensates’ many electrons. Aluminum does so in theory. In addition, batteries can be substantially less harmful to the environment, “says Patrik Johansson.
Written by: Nimra Siddiqui