As a technology enthusiast, it’s hard not to get excited about all of the recent advancements in battery technology. Just last week, we covered a breakthrough involving rapid-charging hybrid supercapacitors from researchers at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute.
This week brings news of yet another development from scientists at a California university, Stanford – perhaps you’ve heard of it?
Stanford’s latest is a new type of aluminum-ion battery that seemingly trumps the lithium-ion units we’re all familiar with in a number of different categories. Research into aluminum-ion batteries isn’t exactly new but as PCWorld notes, researchers up to this point have struggled with finding a combination of suitable materials to use in batteries for commercial products.
Dai Hongjie, the Stanford chemistry processor that helped develop the new battery, said his team accidentally discovered that graphite was an excellent material. As such, their battery consists of an aluminum anode with a graphite cathode in a sac of ionic liquid electrolyte. The latter attribute means the battery is also flexible.
On top of flexibility, the Stanford aluminum-ion battery isn’t prone to exploding or erupting into flames when damaged like lithium ion batteries are. Furthermore, the prototype can withstand 7,500 charging cycles before any performance degradation sets in and it can be fully recharged in roughly 60 seconds. It's also very cheap to build.
What’s the catch, you ask?
Current prototypes only produce about two volts, much less than the 3.6 volts a conventional lithium ion battery affords. Its energy density checks in at 40 watts per kilogram which again, is far less than the 100 to 260 watts per kilogram that’s possible with today’s stalwart.
Hongjie and his team are optimistic that their battery’s shortcomings can be overcome, perhaps simply by improving upon the cathode material.