A watery battery that costs faster, safer and costs less

The new anode of the aqueous batteries allows the use of abundant and inexpensive seawater as electrolytes.

Lithium-ion batteries are essential for modern life, from powering laptops and cell phones to these new holiday toys. There is a safety hazard: batteries can catch fire.

Zinc-based water batteries prevent the risk of fire by using a water-based electrolyte instead of a conventional chemical solvent. However, the growth of uncontrolled dendrites limits the ability to deliver the high yields and long life required for practical applications.

Now researchers have reported Nature Communications A new 3D zinc-manganese dwarfalloy the anode has exceeded its limits and as a result is a stable, high-performance, dendritic-free battery of water, using seawater as an electrolyte.

Xiaonan Shan, author of the work and an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, said the discovery offers promise for energy storage and other applications, such as electric vehicles.

“It provides a stable battery with high energy density and low cost,” he said. “It should serve as a reliable and rechargeable battery.”

Aqueous battery

An electric fan (top left) is powered by the proposed zinc battery; Typical ZIB loading / unloading profiles at 0.5C (top right); configuration of the in-situ microscope to represent the dynamics of zinc deposition (bottom left); and a change in the morphology caused by zinc deposition (bottom right). Credit: University of Houston

Shan eta UH It was also developed by doctoral student Guangxia Feng there optical display technique, allowing the anode reaction dynamics to be observed directly in real time. “This platform gives us the ability to directly represent the reaction dynamics of the electrodes in situ,” Shan said. “This important information provides accurate evidence and visualization of the kinetics of the reaction and helps us understand phenomena that could not have been easily accessed before.”

Studies have determined that the novel zinc-manganese nano alloy anode has remained stable during charge / discharge for 1,000 hours without degrading the current at high density (80 mA / cm).2).

An anode is an electrode that releases current from a battery, the electrolyte that is the medium through which an ionic charge flows between the cathode and the anode. The use of seawater as an electrolyte, rather than highly purified, provides another way to reduce battery cost.

Traditional anode materials used in aqueous batteries have tended to be dendrites, with small growths that can cause batteries to lose energy. Shan and colleagues proposed and demonstrated a strategy to effectively minimize and eliminate dendrite formation in aqueous systems by surface reaction thermodynamics with zinc alloy and controlling the reaction kinetics through a three-dimensional structure.

Shan said UH and the University of Central Florida is currently researching other metal alloys in addition to the zinc-manganese alloy.

Reference: Huajun Tian, ​​Zhao Li, Guangxia Feng, Zhenzhong Yang, David Fox, Maoyu Wang, Hua Zhou, Lei Zhai, Akihiro Kushima, Yingge “Stable, high-performance, water-free batteries based on seawater.” The, Zhenxing Feng, Xiaonan Shan and Yang Yang, January 11, 2021, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-20334-6

Researchers on the project include not only Shan and Feng, but also Huajun Tian, ​​Zhao Li, David Fox, Lei Zhai, Akihiro Kushima and the corresponding author Yang Yang, all from the University of Central Florida; Zhenzhong Yang and Yingge Du, both with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Maoyu Wang and Zhenxing Feng, along with both from Oregon State University; and Hua Zhou Argonne National Laboratory.

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