Once “cutting-edge,” the lithium-ion battery may soon be a thing of the past. An Australian manufacturing company claims to have developed an aluminum-ion battery that charges in 1/60th the time. Lithium-ion broke the mold in the 1990s.
An Australian company, Graphene Manufacturing Group, claims to have developed an aluminum-ion battery that charges in 1/60th the time of a lithium-ion battery. The company says the battery holds triple the charge of other aluminum cell batteries and is both easier to recycle and safer for use.
Currently, batteries can’t carry electric cars as far as many drivers would like, and the recharge times are at least a half hour. That may not be a problem when shopping, but taking a weekend trip is a different story. Aluminum-ion batteries could change all that.
In his video series Chemistry and Our Universe: How It All Works, Dr. Ron B. Davis Jr., Associate Teaching Professor of Chemistry at Georgetown University, explained how lithium-ion batteries revolutionized power storage.
Sony Takes Charge
For 200 years, modern electricity evolved through many types of batteries. From Alessandro Volta’s piled discs of silver and zinc through lead-acid batteries and alkaline batteries, the world continued to find safer and more efficient ways to power itself.
“In the early 1990s, a new technology was made mainstream when it was adopted by Sony Corporation and integrated into many of its electronic devices, especially the mobile ones,” Dr. Davis said. “It was heralded as a breakthrough in battery technology—the lithium-ion battery. Light, powerful, and rechargeable—this battery technology is a part of many of the devices that we’ve come to find indispensable over the past 25 years.”
According to Dr. Davis, cell phones, portable computers, and even some medical equipment rely on lithium-ion batteries. Credit for the design goes to John Goodenough. While he was working at Oxford, he developed some of the specialized materials needed to produce the batteries.
“This little invention brought battery technology into the 21st century, at a time when it was sorely needed,” he said. “Computing power and portable computing devices were gaining in popularity and affordability at that time; and, one of the most significantly lagging technologies holding these devices back was their power needs.”
Dr. Davis said the framework for the lithium-ion battery starts with graphite and cobalt oxide cells and a layer of electrolyte between them so the ions can move. However, a special membrane is placed in the electrolyte. This membrane is permeable to lithium ions but not other ions in the electrolyte.
At this point, connecting the cathode to the anode with a wire will produce no result, because the membrane prevents ions in the electrolyte from moving back and forth from the cathode to the anode.
“So let’s switch out some of the cobalt ions for lithium ions in the oxide layer to create the pioneering material developed by Goodenough,” Dr. Davis said. “Now the lithium ions are happy, located in the oxide layer in their lowest available energy state.
“The battery is not charged, but apply a voltage to the system and the lithium ions can be pushed through the electrolyte—through the special layer that’s permeable only to them—and finally over to the graphite anode layer beyond.”
Dr. Davis said this balances the negative charge that resulted from the applied potential, and the battery is now charged and ready for use.