Researchers Refine Zinc-Air Batteries With 5x Capacity To Lead Charge Against Lithium-Ion
There seems to be a never-ending stream of new battery technologies looking to replace the venerable lithium-ion chemistry. Today, new advances in zinc-air batteries are making them look increasingly more viable as a suitable replacement, with the potential to squeeze five time the charge into a battery comparably sized to its lithium-ion counterpart.
The breakthrough comes from researchers working at University of Sydney and the Nanyang Technological University, who published a paper in Advanced Materials. As its name implies, zinc-air batteries are composed of zinc metal and oxygen from the air, which is of course readily available. This battery chemistry makes them much cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries, which could help to drive down the prices of everything from electronics to electric vehicles that are rising in popularity.
"Up until now, rechargeable zinc-air batteries have been made with expensive precious metal catalysts, such as platinum and iridium oxide," says study lead author Yuan Chen. "In contrast, our method produces a family of new high-performance and low-cost catalysts."
The new method uses a three-stage process that tosses expensive metal catalysts (i.e. platinum, iridium oxide) in favor or cheaper and more common alternatives like cobalt, nickel or iron. And with a more refined manufacturing process, the researchers were able to more intricately control the composition, size and crystallinity of these catalysts to build robust rechargeable zinc-air batteries.
In addition to the increase in battery capacity, there have been promising results with regards to battery efficacy, which has been shown to drop just 10 percent over the course of 60 charge/discharge cycles during a 120-hour period.
Zinc-air chemistry isn’t the only battery tech that is looking to unseat lithium-ion. We reported earlier this month on new rechargeable alkaline batteries that promise to be safer and more powerful.