We are moving closer to the battery-powered future. There are more and more cars on the road that are electric, we see introduction of electric trucks, a bigger and bigger part of population is able to afford a smartphone. However, current battery technology requires using expensive rare materials, such as lithium. But now scientists from University of New South Wales made a little step closer to making aluminium-ion batteries a reality.
Lithium-ion batteries are great for small applications. They work well in smartphones, computers and even cars, but they are less than ideal in renewable energy solutions. That is due to a relatively short lifecycle, which would increase the costs. Lithium is also quite rare and difficult to recycle. You know what is not rare or difficult to recycle? Yes that’s right – aluminium. But aluminium-ion batteries have faces some fundamental challenges that did not allow them to progress into another step.
One of such challenges has always been finding appropriate host electrodes for insertion of complex aluminium ions. However, now scientists discovered a new way to make aluminium-ion batteries by employing a redox-active macrocyclic compound as the active material. Actually, researchers found a new way to use large organic chemical compound as the part of the battery that stores energy. This has never been achieved before and could open doors for aluminium-ion batteries to become the next-generation electrochemical energy storage solution. In fact, aluminium-ion batteries would be pretty much ideal in such situations.
As mentioned before, lithium-ion batteries are not great due to their limited cycle life, safety concerns and relatively high costs. Aluminium-ion batteries could be relatively cheap, because aluminium is the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. Dr Dong Jun Kim, leader of the research team, said: “Our results showed promising battery performances, however, it is early days and we stress that there is need to improve even more in every aspect. So it does not make much sense to compare against the well-established lithium-ion battery system”.
Scientists have been investigating the concept of aluminium-ion batteries for quite some time, but great advancements have not been made yet. Now that could change. However, scientists are also exploring other elements, such as magnesium, zinc and calcium. Finding a new energy storage solution that would be objectively superior to lithium-ion batteries is still years away.