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A new battery technology could make batteries five times lighter and half the size

By mongeese · 12 replies
Nov 10, 2018
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  1. A new team of researchers claim to have the solution, however. According to their research published in Science, lithium-ion batteries can lose 5% of their charge in a month if left unused while aluminum-air batteries can lose 80% in a month due to corrosion of the aluminum. The researchers’ aluminum-air batteries lose only 0.02% in a month, which is over a thousandfold improvement.

    A standard battery contains a liquid electrolyte between an anode and a cathode, and it generates its power by collecting the electrons freed when an ion travels from the anode to the cathode. In aluminum-air batteries, the anode is aluminum and the cathode is air. Because the battery can source the air from its environment and because aluminum is abundant, light and cheap, aluminum-air batteries could very well be the battery technology of the future.

    Unfortunately, however, the electrolyte will start corroding the aluminum as soon as they’re mixed, which is when the battery is first used. Using a non-corrosive electrolyte substantially reduces performance and extracting the electrolyte once the battery goes back into standby doesn’t work because aluminum is hydrophilic (water attracting). The researchers’ solution is to flush out the electrolyte with oil.

    The new batteries have a thin membrane between the anodes and cathodes, and while the battery is in use both sides are filled with the electrolyte. Once the battery is switched to standby, the side closest to the aluminum is flushed with oil which protects the aluminum because the water-based electrolyte won’t mix with the oil. When the battery is needed again the oil is replaced by the electrolyte. There’s no chance of any oil staying behind because aluminum repels oil when submerged.

    To test these batteries in a semi-realistic scenario, the researchers used up a small portion of the batteries' power, then let it sit for a day or two before repeating the process. This mimics what an electric car might be required to do in a city. Their battery lasted twenty-four days, eight times longer than a traditional aluminum-air battery.

    But, will aluminum-air batteries be replacing lithium-ion ones in the next few years? No, they won’t. There are still complicated issues with recharging the batteries, so the first few generations may be non-rechargeable or only have a few recharges. Or perhaps they’ll be swap out batteries that robotic arms extract from your car and replace with charged batteries at service stations, so that they can be recharged using more complicated mechanical methods.

    Though that doesn’t mean that aluminum-air batteries can’t work in tandem with lithium-ion ones. Like gasoline in hybrid vehicles, aluminum-air batteries can be used as range extenders or for when a user forgets to recharge their main battery. As one of the researchers explains, this has a lot of potential in the market, “you could use it and then pull into your driveway and park it for a month, and then come back and still expect it to have a usable battery. ...I really think this is a game-changer in terms of the use of these batteries.”

    Battery technology is one of the largest bottlenecks in terms of technological advancements – we all dream about smartphones that won't require recharging more than once a week, just like we’re all hoping for electric cars that can go across the country and back without major recharging hurdles. Even electric planes could be made possible by lighter and smaller batteries. That future is now just a little bit closer.

    Permalink to story.

  2. baskiria

    baskiria TS Enthusiast Posts: 77   +52

    So excited, can't wait to see this does not hit the market like all others.
  3. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,367   +2,883

    All battery break-through stories make into the modern-tech El-Dorado.
    ForgottenLegion and DaveBG like this.
  4. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 2,434   +459

    Electric already has the muscle to out do any gas powered vehicle. It's just a matter of time even without any new crazy battery innovations. Be it 20 years, it's happening. Even without electric cars the smart phone market will make sure it happens.
  5. Axiarus

    Axiarus TS Evangelist Posts: 423   +243

    I've been reading about new battery tech for over a decade. This does not excite me.
    ShagnWagn, Goamist, UaPro and 2 others like this.
  6. Misagt

    Misagt TS Maniac Posts: 273   +189

    There is about 100 different types of batteries prototypes out there. This one isn't very exciting compared to most. I personally think batteries made from carbon are the most interesting and sustainable in the long term. This seems unnecessarily complicated, any requires while a bit of parts to make it work... That said with it's complexity and difficultly to work also requires oil... now that I think about it I'm guessing corporations will like it. If they like it it will be come standard.
    UaPro likes this.
  7. DaveBG

    DaveBG TS Maniac Posts: 404   +152

    When I have heard this before.... oh yes last week, last month, last year, 2 years back ..... and so on and so on.
    UaPro and ForgottenLegion like this.
  8. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 3,300   +1,751

    Another week another new battery technology that we'll never see used.
  9. UaPro

    UaPro TS Rookie

    "But, will aluminum-air batteries be replacing lithium-ion ones in the next few years? No, they won’t. "
    That quote must be in the top of news.
  10. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 1,517   +1,724

    Electric motors are good, but there are significant drawbacks. The 1:1 drive ratio electric motors use is less efficient for highway speed driving then gas motors with their overdrive gears. Electric storage density is still laughably pathetic compared to gasoline. Charging times are still a major issue.

    Perhaps among yuppies electric is the soon dominant future, but in the real world, electric cars still have some fairly major hurdles to cross.
    ShagnWagn and Goamist like this.
  11. Kytetiger

    Kytetiger TS Enthusiast Posts: 42   +10

    Looks more like an emergency battery for remote location when there is a power outage.
    You remove the oil, and you can use the electricity.
  12. cuerdc

    cuerdc TS Booster Posts: 177   +41

  13. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 662   +489

    "swap out batteries that robotic arms"

    Neat, but I politely disagree. That would be a huge complication, plus maintaining the robots and sounds like an expensive charging process. Then storage of huge piles of batteries - charged plus dead ones, plus a pile for each type of car. We all know there won't be a battery standard. I don't want someone else's battery in my car. You have no idea what's happened such as an accident or offroading.

    I also don't want a robot swinging its arms around my car, either. No thanks. I don't even like other people working on mine. They could care less about doing it right or scratching it.

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