Sunday, December 10, 2023

Can Water Based Batteries Replace Lithium-Ion Batteries?

By Nidhi Agarwal

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Researchers have demonstrated a new aqueous battery device with 1000% storage difference that can replace metal batteries in future.

Chemical engineering professor Dr. Jodie Lutkenhaus and chemistry assistant professor Dr. Daniel Tabor have discovered significant storage capacity in water-based batteries. | Credit : Texas A&M Engineering

Lithium ion batteries are very widely used in the electronics industry. They are made up of metals like cobalt and lithium. In the future if there is shortage of these metals the prices of metal based batteries will show a significant hike. In such a case an alternative is desirable where the supply is more stable and in house production is feasible.

Chemical engineering professor Dr. Jodie Lutkenhaus and chemistry assistant professor Dr. Daniel Tabor at Texas A&M University have discovered a very efficient way to store charge using aqueous batteries. They found a 1000% difference in storage capacity of water based batteries as compared to the metal based batteries. The use of this safer chemistry would also avoid incidents of battery fires.

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Similar to other batteries, water-based batteries are also made up of an anode, electrolyte, and a cathode. Water-based batteries have polymer cathodes and anodes that store energy, and their electrolyte is a mixture of water and organic salts. The electrolyte enables ion conduction and energy storage by interacting with the electrode. As per Lutkenhaus the issue endured was swelling of electrodes too much during the process that leads to lower performance. Redox-active, non-conjugated radical polymers are promising for metal-free aqueous batteries due to their high discharge voltage and fast redox kinetics.

Researchers examined the nature of redox reactions by examining the aqueous electrolytes of changing chao-/kosmotropic character using electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring over different timescales. Based on the combined, theoretical and experimental results, researchers observed the cathode’s improved performance in the presence of specific salts by measuring the influx of water and salt into the battery during operation.

“We aim to extend our simulations to future systems. We needed to verify our theory on the driving forces behind the injection of water and solvent,” Tabor said. This new energy storage technology represents a stride toward lithium-free batteries. A more detailed molecular understanding of battery electrode performance provides compelling evidence for future materials design.

Reference : Ting Ma et al, The role of the electrolyte in non-conjugated radical polymers for metal-free aqueous energy storage electrodes, Nature Materials (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41563-023-01518-z


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