Researchers take steps towards new sustainable battery alternative

November 15, 2018, Victoria University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of researchers led by Professor Thomas Nann from Victoria University of Wellington has created a new electrolyte that could be the key to making safer and more environmentally friendly batteries.

The research team, which also includes researchers from Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Clermont-Ferrand in France, created the as part of its work on aluminium batteries. The electrolyte is one of several key parts in a , acting as a conductor for electricity.

"This electrolyte will make aluminium batteries cheaper and easier to produce," says Professor Nann, from the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences and the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology at Victoria University of Wellington. "It is more affordable than the ionic liquids currently used in aluminium batteries, and it is also more sustainable, as our electrolyte can be made from plants."

This research is part of a wider project led by Professor Nann to create better battery alternatives. Batteries are currently made out of lithium and cobalt, but Professor Nann says problems with these materials are quickly becoming apparent.

"Lithium and cobalt are potentially dangerous substances," Professor Nann says. "Damage to batteries containing these substances can make them explode. They are also toxic, leading to several deaths every year from children swallowing these batteries. Nor are they easily recyclable, and we are running low on available sources of the raw materials. If we do not find alternate sources of lithium and cobalt, we will eventually run out of the resources we currently use to make batteries."

Aluminium is a good alternative, Professor Nann says, but the technology for creating aluminium batteries lags behind other battery technology—although it is catching up. However, aluminium is safer to use, as it is non-toxic and not at risk of exploding, is recyclable, and is the most abundant metal on Earth.

"This new electrolyte is just another step towards improving battery technology and making it suitable for commercial use."

Professor Nann and his team have so far tested their electrolyte with a standard graphite-based battery, with plans to adapt the electrolyte so it can be used in batteries that use better performing in the future.

Explore further: Polymer professor develops safer component for lithium batteries

Related Stories

3D-printed lithium-ion batteries

October 17, 2018

Electric vehicles and most electronic devices, such as cell phones and laptop computers, are powered by lithium-ion batteries. Until now, manufacturers have had to design their devices around the size and shape of commercially ...

A novel catalyst for high-energy aluminum-air flow batteries

October 15, 2018

A recent study affiliated with UNIST has introduced a novel electric vehicle (EV) battery technology that is more energy efficient than gasoline-powered engines. The new technology involves replacing battery packs instead ...

Recommended for you

Uber filed paperwork for IPO: report

December 8, 2018

Ride-share company Uber quietly filed paperwork this week for its initial public offering, the Wall Street Journal reported late Friday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.