Saturday, April 29, 2017

Zinc Battery Breakthrough Could Mean Safer, Lighter Cars and Smartphones

A grey bumpy surface (Image Credit: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory) Click to Enlarge.
Rechargeable zinc-based batteries could not only store as much energy as lithium-ion batteries but also be safer, cheaper, smaller and lighter, new research finds. The results suggest zinc batteries could find use in mild hybrids (microhybrids), electric vehicles, electric bicycles, and eventually perhaps smartphones and power grid storage.

The researchers are now aggressively testing these batteries and exploring scaling up this technology.  “We feel we can have a battery ready for the market by the end of 2019,” says Michael Burz, CEO of energy technology firm EnZinc in San Anselmo, Calif., which helped engineer the new batteries.

When it comes to electric vehicles, the new batteries will “be 30 to 50 percent cheaper than comparable lithium-ion systems,” Burz says.

Lithium-ion batteries have become notorious for safety incidents resulting from overheating, at times bursting into flames and even exploding.  The U.S. Navy was researching alternative technologies because “there's a Navy and a broader military concern with the safety of lithium-ion batteries—on soldiers, on sailors, on platforms,” says Debra Rolison, head of the advanced electrochemical materials section at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and one of the researchers involved in the zinc breakthrough.

Zinc-based batteries do not pose the same fire risk linked with lithium-ion batteries, and can in principle match or surpass them in terms of specific energy (energy per unit mass), as well as energy density (energy per unit volume).  Moreover, zinc is cheap and widely available.  All these features help explain why zinc-based batteries “are the go-to global battery for single-use applications,” Rolison says.

Read more at Zinc Battery Breakthrough Could Mean Safer, Lighter Cars and Smartphones

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