Researchers at Cornell University in New York have developed a new method for incorporating aluminium in zinc-anode batteries that will produce rechargeable batteries that can be used for up to 10 thousand error-free cycles.
A team led by Lynden Archer, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering and the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering designed a web of interwoven carbon fibers that are able to bond more strongly with aluminium than ever before.
Fellow researcher Jingxu “Kent” Zheng, Ph.D. elaborated upon the importance of this breakthrough.
“A very interesting feature of this battery is that only two elements are used for the anode and the cathode – aluminum and carbon – both of which are inexpensive and environmentally friendly. They also have a very long cycle life. When we calculate the cost of energy storage, we need to amortize it over the overall energy throughput, meaning that the battery is rechargeable, so we can use it many, many times. So if we have a longer service life, then this cost will be further reduced.”
“Basically we use a chemical driving force to promote a uniform deposition of aluminum into the pores of the architecture,” Zheng continued. “The electrode is much thicker and it has much faster kinetics.”
When utilizing this new method, researchers determined that the aluminium-anode batteries could be charged and discharged at least one order of magnitude more times than other aluminium anode batteries.
“Although superficially different from our earlier innovations for stabilizing zinc and lithium metal electrodes in batteries, the principle is the same – design substrates that provide a large thermodynamic driving force that promotes nucleation; and runaway, unsafe growth of the metal electrode is prevented by forces such as surface tension that can be massive at small scales,” noted Archer.
Among the financial backers of this research is the U.S. Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences Program and the National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.