Researchers at Work on a Cheaper Non-Lithium Battery
In the race to research, develop and implement new energy technology that isn’t dirty (renewable & low-polluting) and inexpensive (scalable on a large scale), researchers are developing a new battery put together by low-cost materials.
Renewable energy is where we will eventually turn to for powering our everyday lives and projects such as the recently approved offshore floating windmill farm off the cliffs of Scotland, the biggest in the world of its kind makes for a good forecast. While wind and solar energy are the obvious sources to harness, storing the electricity generated by windmills and solar cells are an expensive proposition.
Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere these days, from cars to laptops to the billions of smartphones being used in the world. Tesla has led the way to make those batteries bigger and scale them down to consumer-grade technology. The Tesla ‘Powerwall’ is already seen as a success in its pilot phase, with some 100,000 pre-orders for the lithium-ion batteries. However, at $3000 a piece minimally, they don’t come cheap.
Maksym V. Kovalenko and his colleagues are already working towards making large-scale energy storage cheaper by not having to rely on lithium-ion cells. The new battery could also potentially have a higher energy density than lithium-ion grade batteries, according to the American Chemical Society via EurekAlert.
A Sodium-Magnesium Hybrid Battery
The researchers chose magnesium as a cheap, safe node material with high-energy density. For the cathode, the researchers used pyrite, a mineral made of iron and sulfur. The electrolyte used to conduct the electricity contains sodium and magnesium ions.
The published article “Efficient and Inexpensive Sodium–Magnesium Hybrid Battery” in the Chemistry of Materials can be found here.
When tested, the battery’s energy density factor came close to that of the more expensive lithium-ion batteries.
The researchers also contend that the battery could get an additionally substantial two- to three-fold boost if the magnesium electrolytes are developed further.
Due to the relatively low costs of the materials used to build the battery, Kovalenko and his team of researchers see the potential for a battery of its kind to support large, grid-scale energy storage for industry and neighborhoods.
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