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Is the quest for safer, cheaper, more powerful batteries closer?

The aluminium foil battery should, in theory, enable electric vehicles to run longer on a single charge.

A battery-powered Nio EP9 sports car. EV firms offer more than 300 models on the Chinese market. — © AFP
A battery-powered Nio EP9 sports car. EV firms offer more than 300 models on the Chinese market. — © AFP

Aluminium materials have shown a promising performance in the bid for safer, cheaper, more powerful batteries. Georgia Institute of Technology scientists have succeeded in using aluminium foil to create batteries with higher energy density and greater stability.

The test batteries indicate that the technology could enable electric vehicles to run longer on a single charge. In addition, the materials required mean that the batteries would be cheaper to manufacture compared with comparable devices.

The more efficient the battery then the better its energy density (which is necessary to power devices) and its stability (which influences both safety and the ability of the battery to be recharged).  

Lithium-ion batteries are the current top performing everyday use batteries, and they are used in smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles. The trouble is we have reached the limits of lithium-ion. While lithium-ion batteries are widely used for various applications challenges are associated with the stability of cathode materials have hindered their overall performance and lifespan.

Limitations with batteries will hamper progress towards next-generation long-range vehicles and electric aircraft – unless alternatives are developed. Today’s batteries, for instance, do not hold enough energy to power aircraft to fly distances greater than 150 miles.  On a bigger scale, large-scale energy storage could provide back-up systems to guard against disruption to electrical grids.

The aluminium foil battery should, in theory, enable electric vehicles to run longer on a single charge. An advantage of using aluminium as a battery material relates to the material being cost-effective, highly recyclable, and easy to work with. This is as solid-state batteries.

To create the battery, the researchers added small amounts of other materials to the aluminium to create foils with particular “microstructures”. For this, they tested over 100 different materials to understand how they would behave in batteries.

It was observed that the aluminium anode could store more lithium than conventional anode materials, and therefore more energy.

To advance a more energy-optimized and cost-effective battery cell architecture the researchers are seeking to understand further how size influences the aluminium’s behaviour. The researchers are also actively exploring other materials and microstructures with the goal of creating very cheap foils for battery systems.

The research appears in the publication Nature Communications, titled “Aluminum foil negative electrodes with multiphase microstructure for all-solid-state Li-ion batteries.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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