Friday, April 12, 2024

Aluminum Based Batteries Surpass Lithium-Ion

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  • Dive into a technology that could redefine the future of electric vehicles and aircraft. 
  • With improved energy storage, stability, and an eco-friendly approach, these battery materials are getting a new role in the battery world.
Graduate student researcher Yuhgene Liu holds an aluminum material for solid-state batteries. Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology

An effective battery requires both a high energy density to power devices and stability to ensure it can be recharged thousands of times without fail. Lithium-ion batteries have been the top choice for three decades, showcasing their prowess in smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles. The potential of lithium-ion is nearing its peak. With the emergence of next-gen long-distance vehicles and electric aircraft, the quest for battery technologies that are safer, more affordable, and more potent than lithium-ion is intensifying.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology batteries use aluminum foil, presenting a more affordable and eco-friendly substitute to lithium-ion batteries. These aluminum-anode solid-state batteries have enhanced energy storage and increased stability. This development could allow electric vehicles to travel longer distances on one charge and make electric aircraft viable. This battery system is not only cost-effective to produce but also benefits the environment. Using aluminum as a battery component is fascinating; it’s economical, highly recyclable, and user-friendly.”

In traditional lithium-ion batteries, aluminum tends to fracture and deteriorate after just a few charge-discharge cycles because of the expansion and contraction caused by the movement of lithium within the material. Unlike lithium-ion batteries, which have a combustible liquid that can result in fires, solid-state batteries use a non-flammable solid substance, making them potentially safer. These batteries provide the opportunity to incorporate high-performance materials, as demonstrated in recent research.

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The research group recognized the potential advantages of using aluminum in terms of energy, affordability, and production when incorporated into the battery’s anode – the side that houses lithium to produce energy. However, batteries with pure aluminum foils were degrading swiftly during tests. To overcome this, the team opted rather than using unadulterated aluminum in the foils, they integrate trace amounts of various materials into the aluminum, crafting foils with distinct “microstructures” or configurations of the incorporated elements. They examined over 100 different materials to gauge their performance within the battery context. This showcased better efficiency and durability compared to regular lithium-ion batteries.

The researchers noted the aluminum anode’s ability to house more lithium than typical anode materials, translating to more excellent energy storage. Ultimately, they devised batteries with a high energy density, showing potential to surpass the performance of lithium-ion batteries. This will inspire fresh perspectives on crafting battery cells that are both energy-efficient and economical.

Currently, the team is focusing on increasing the battery size to examine the impact of size on the behaviour of aluminum. They are also delving into other materials and microstructures with the aim of producing cost-effective foils for battery configurations. This revolves around a material known for ages but mostly set aside during the initial stages of battery research. By combining fresh insights with an emerging technology — the solid-state battery has revitalized the concept and attained impressive outcomes.

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