Stanford researchers make breakthrough with aluminum-Ion battery

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The aluminum-ion battery offers many significant advantages over the conventional lithium-ion batteries currently used in most electronic devices and EVs.

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CleanTechnica

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A team of Stanford researchers led by chemistry professor Hongjie Dai has developed an aluminum-ion battery that offers many significant advantages over the conventional lithium-ion batteries currently used in most electronic devices and today’s electric cars. Let’s take a look at what makes the Stanford aluminum-ion battery such an important breakthrough.

Not a fire hazard

The aluminum battery won’t burst into flame the way a lithium battery can. “[L]ithium batteries can go off in an unpredictable manner – in the air, the car or in your pocket,” says professor Dai.

That’s important because in automobiles, a lithium-ion battery needs a heavy shield around it to protect the car from damage if the battery ignites. And because of that shielding, a lithium-ion battery needs its own dedicated cooling system, which adds even more weight and cost. Extra pounds mean automobile manufacturers have to specify larger batteries and larger motors to lug around the increased weight. That raises the cost of the car, which raises its price in the marketplace.

Fast charging

The Stanford aluminum battery can be recharged in far less time than a lithium-ion battery — in as little as one minute in some applications. The implications for laptop computers and cell phones are huge, but the impact on electric and hybrid cars could be even bigger.

One of the biggest drawbacks to electric and hybrid cars today, besides high cost, is the number of hours it takes to recharge a depleted battery. If a driver knew recharging the battery would take no longer than the time it takes to pump a tankful of gas, that would break down one of the biggest remaining barriers to the widespread adoption of such environmentally friendly vehicles.

Long life

A typical lithium-ion battery usually lasts for about 1000 discharge cycles before it must be replaced. The Stanford aluminum battery shows no sign of losing performance after 7,500 discharge cycles. Lots of drivers have concerns about having to spend a lot of money to replace the battery in their EV after a few years. That worry could now be a thing of the past. The aluminum-ion battery could actually last longer than the car itself.

Cost

Aluminum is abundant and costs less than lithium. That could drive down the cost of batteries and that would be another factor working in favor of electric cars going mainstream sooner rather than later.

Environmental Advantages

 

Aluminum-Battery-2-270x162Lithium is toxic and must be disposed of with care. Aluminum is non-toxic and can be recycled repeatedly. Billions of small lithium batteries power our assortment of electronic gadgets that we can’t live without. Replacing them with aluminum batteries would rid the environment of hazards from discarded lithium batteries.

Another advantage of the aluminum battery is it is flexible, so it can be shaped and molded to fit a variety of applications that can’t use a lithium battery encased in a hard protective shell.

Disadvantages

There is no free lunch, of course. For now, the Stanford aluminum battery can only supply about half the voltage of a lithium battery. “But improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage and energy density,” professor Dai says.

“Otherwise, our battery has everything else you’d dream that a battery should have: inexpensive electrodes, good safety, high-speed charging, flexibility and long cycle life. I see this as a new battery in its early days. It’s quite exciting.”

“Exciting” is an understatement.

 

Source: CleanTechnica. Reproduced with permission.

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9 Comments
  1. Jouni Valkonen 4 years ago

    Charging electric car today takes about 20 minutes where as filling tank with gasoline takes on average 15 minutes + you need to pay for gasoline and breath the fumes. And paying action typically is annoying and unrealiable. Also it is good to note that you need to drive to gas stations 10 times more often than fast charging station and while fast charging, it is possible to do something productive such as eating a lunch.

    This is always when these “researchers” are boosting their “innovation” they are comparing it to a decade old lithium-ion technology, but they fail to understand that modern lithium-ion battery tech is already cheaper, better, safer, lighter, faster charging and longer lasting, than their purported “breakthrough” battery tech.

  2. Coley 4 years ago

    Does this mean there is a possibility that the gigafactory could be a white Elephant?

    • Mike Dill 4 years ago

      The only real advantage for Li over Al is weight. Where I see Al
      taking over is for places like fixed storage, where low cost is more
      important than lighter weight. Al weighs a bit more,
      and for weight sensitive applications like tablets and cars, Li may
      remain dominant for a number of years or even decades. Nearly as important for cost is the size of the manufacturing base, and it will probably take at least ten years before this Al battery to match Li prices due to the effect of volume production.

      This does assume that the tech is actually manufacturable, which we have not seen yet.

      • Jouni Valkonen 4 years ago

        The problem is that there does not exist “aluminium-ion battery”. There only exists a concept of aluminium-ion battery, but not real product that could be tested e.g. for powering common flashlight.

      • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

        1000 vs >7500 discharge cycles look like the big win here to me. This has yet to go into engineering phase, that’s where most of the performance gains (or losses) are picked up. I’m watching Graphene too in this space.

    • Geoff James 4 years ago

      This is a great development but the article isn’t helped by grossly understating the performance of good lithium-ion batteries. Not all lithium-ion cells are subject to explosions (LiFePO4 are very safe I believe). Good-quality cells should last many 1000s of cycles. There are fast-charging configurations, maybe not one minute, but good enough for most EV drivers as Jouni has already noted. I doubt that Elon Musk is making a mistake with the Gigafactory – and he’ll have plenty of time to kit up a new factory if the aluminium-ion battery becomes a commercial reality.

  3. john 4 years ago

    Once this battery has an equal size and energy density as the present LI technology together with its advantage being longer life and cheaper to manufacture and dismantle then this will be competitive big time.
    No doubt the level of performance will lift as further research is done.
    As to which type of battery wins out in the long term my hope is that this is not another repeat of what happened in previous times where Beta was beaten not by the technology but by a better business plan.
    Li with the giga-factory is going to lower prices and for another type of tech to compete it is going to be difficult to scale up to the production level required to be competitive.

  4. Edward James Parker 4 years ago

    i think this would be a life changer for towns/communities that don’t have a lot of money for power they could hook it up to a solar panel and get free clean long lasting energy for a lone time maybe they could be saving that money for there community to buy things they need to help them succeed as a successful community over time

  5. Dreck Sheisse 4 years ago

    “Lithium is toxic”? What are you guys smoking?

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