A new type of battery incorporating low-cost aluminium could offer cheaper, safer and more environmentally friendly storage of renewable energy, its developers have said.
Aiming to provide a better alternative to market-dominating lithium batteries, the Cornell University researchers led by Professor Lynden Archer explored the use of more affordable materials. A new technique to incorporate aluminium resulted in rechargeable batteries offering up to 10,000 error-free cycles, a research announcement said.
Aluminium is abundant in the Earth’s crust and is trivalent and light, meaning it has a high capacity to store more energy than many other metals. It can be tricky to integrate into a battery’s electrodes, however, as it chemically reacts with glass fibre separators, which divide the anode and cathode to prevent short circuits.
The researchers' solution was to design a substrate of interwoven carbon fibres that forms an even stronger chemical bond with aluminium. When the battery is charged, the aluminium is deposited into the carbon structure via covalent bonding – the sharing of electron pairs between aluminium and carbon atoms.
The new technique includes a ‘non-planar’ architecture to create a deeper, more consistent layering of aluminium that can be finely controlled.
“The aluminium anode batteries can be reversibly charged and discharged one or more orders of magnitude more times than other aluminium rechargeable batteries under practical conditions,” the announcement said.
The work was published in Nature Energy.
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