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BATTERY STORAGE Researchers develop a 3D alloy anode for battery storage

Author / Editor: Luke James / Johanna Erbacher

Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a new three-dimensional alloy anode that could completely change the future of battery technology and lead to more innovative energy storage devices.

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Researchers in the Oregon State University College of Engineering have developed a battery anode based on a new nanostructured alloy that could revolutionize the way energy storage devices are designed and manufactured.
Researchers in the Oregon State University College of Engineering have developed a battery anode based on a new nanostructured alloy that could revolutionize the way energy storage devices are designed and manufactured.
(Source: gemeinfrei / Unsplash)

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are at the core of our modern lives. They currently power everything from our laptops and smartphones to Electric Vehicles (EVs). However, as we’ve covered before, there’s a big safety catch: They have a fundamental flaw that can cause them to short circuit and even catch fire.

Now, researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) say that they’ve developed a new anode structure that could lead to a way for the design and manufacture of new innovative energy storage devices.

Aqueous battery technology

The team’s research has culminated in what they’re calling an aqueous battery. Aqueous battery technologies are favorable when compared to non-aqueous batteries because they’re not flammable. This puts a stop to the possibility of combustion when dendrites form and cause internal ruptures, making the batteries significantly safer.

Working in collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Central Florida and Houston, the OSU team claims that the battery includes an anode composed of a zinc- and manganese-based alloy arranged in a novel nanostructure.

According to Zhenxing Feng, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at OSU, aqueous batteries, which use water-based conducting solutions as the electrolytes, are a quickly emerging and safer alternative to Li-ion batteries. However, the energy density of these aqueous batteries has been comparatively low, and the water in the battery can react with lithium, which is a major hindrance.

The OSU team’s zinc-M alloy aqueous battery.
The OSU team’s zinc-M alloy aqueous battery.
(Source: Oregon State University)

A new alloy anode

In a bid to combat the challenges facing the broader adoption of aqueous batteries, the OSU research team developed a new alloy anode material with a unique nanostructure. The material is made up of a three-dimensional (3D) “zinc-M alloy”, with the M representing manganese and other transition metals.

According to Feng, the use of this alloy and its unique nanostructure not only helps to suppress dendrite formation but also demonstrates high stability over thousands of charge cycles under harsh electrochemical conditions. “The use of zinc can transfer twice as many charges than lithium, thus improving the energy density of the battery,” he claims.

The OSU researchers conducted further tests on the alloy anode in seawater-based aqueous electrolytes using a current density of 80 mA/cm2 instead of high purity deionized water as the electrolyte.

Will aqueous batteries change energy storage?

The researchers’ work and the results of these tests show the commercial potential for large-scale manufacturing of these aqueous batteries, says Feng, adding that the alloy anode could exhibit unprecedented interfacial stability by utilizing a favorable diffusion channel of zinc on the alloy surface.

Batteries with minimized (or no) dendrite formation could also lead to longer lifespans for consumer electronics. And in the automotive space, it could avoid dangerous battery failures in EVs.

Feng spoke confidently about the team’s work, saying that the concept demonstrated in the research is “likely to bring a paradigm shift in the design of high-performance alloy anodes for aqueous and non-aqueous batteries, revolutionizing the battery industry.”

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