Researchers unveil rapid-charge aluminium battery tech

April 7, 2015 // 12:13 p.m.

Tags: #battery #lab #lithium-ion #science #technology

Companies: #research #stanford-university

A novel battery which uses aluminium could lead to smartphones that charge from flat in under a minute while offering environmental and safety benefits, researchers at Stanford University have claimed.

In the latest of a long line of battery technology breakthroughs which will likely take a number of years to reach market - assuming they ever do - a team of scientists at Stanford University have demonstrated what is claimed to be the world's first high-performance battery to use an aluminium-ion design in place of the traditional lithium-ion. 'We have developed a rechargeable aluminium battery that may replace existing storage devices, such as alkaline batteries, which are bad for the environment, and lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally burst into flames,' chemistry professor Hongjie Dai explained of his team's creation. 'Our new battery won't catch fire, even if you drill through it.'

Safety is one thing, but the move to aluminium with a graphite cathode has other benefits. Aluminium is cheap, light, and flexible, has a lower environmental impact, and according to Dai's team is proving extremely long-lasting in the lab: the prototype created at Stanford University reached 7,500 charge-discharge cycles without any loss of capacity, compared to around 100 for earlier prototypes of the same technology.

Its biggest benefit comes from charge time, however. Where a typical smartphone-size lithium-ion battery can take between half an hour to several hours to fully charge, the team's prototype could fully charge in under a minute. The design is also flexible, allowing it to bend and fold in ways that will be useful for adding batteries to wearable devices like smartwatches.

There are still stumbling blocks to overcome before the technology reaches mass production, naturally. The biggest of these is that its output is currently limited to around 2V, which Dai positions as perfect for replacing AA and AAA alkaline batteries and better than any other team working on aluminium-ion projects has managed, but is around half the 3.7V of a smartphone-style lithium-ion battery and far lower than laptop-style implementations.

The team's paper, An ultrafast rechargeable aluminum-ion [sic] battery, is to be published in the next issue of the Nature journal. More information is available on the Stanford University website.
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