The world is in dire need of cheap and powerful batteries that can efficiently store sustianable energy produced by wind or solar power. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are most commonly used to power smartphones and electric cars, but due to their skyrocketing demand, they are becoming more expensive. In addition to that, they are highly flammable.
Zinc-based batteries offer an environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to lithium-ion batteries. Zinc is abundant and has a mature recycling infrastructure, making it easier to manage the waste produced. Additionally, water-based electrolytes can be used in zinc batteries as an alternative to flammable organic solvents. However, durability is a challenge, as high voltage charging causes reactions that release hydrogen gas and reduce the battery’s lifespan.
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a new strategy to make zinc batteries more powerful, safe, and environment-friendly. The strategy involves optimizing the salt concentration in water-based electrolytes while using environmentally friendly salts of acetic acid instead of toxic and harmful salts that slow down the charging and discharging processes. The team found that the ideal concentration is relatively low, ranging from five to ten molecules of water per positive ion of salt.
The researchers tested their new battery strategy in the lab and found it efficient for zinc anodes’ charging. However, cathode materials need further optimization to make long-lasting and efficient zinc batteries. The ideal application is for storage units on the power grid to compensate for fluctuations or in single-family homes’ basements for using solar energy produced during the day at night.
As per the source, the research’s next step is to test the approach on larger batteries and broaden the application’s scope. Zinc batteries still have some challenges to overcome before being ready for the market, but the promising strategy developed at ETH Zurich is a significant step towards a cleaner, safer, and cheaper battery alternative.
Reference: Vazquez DG, Pollard TP, Mars J, et al. Creation of a water-like environment in salt using coordination anions in non-concentrated aqueous electrolytes for efficient Zn batteries. Energy Environment Science. Published online March 13, 2023. doi: 10.1039/D3EE00205E
As per information from the source.