Scientists use aluminum and create battery 20x tougher than current models

Producing a cheap, effective battery that has a long life cycle is the consumer dream of the electronics industry. A team from Cornell University, USA, plans to use aluminum to make this dream a reality, using a low-cost and ecologically sustainable metal.

According to the researchers, aluminum has a number of advantages over lithium, the most common material currently used in batteries. It is abundant in nature, light, has a high capacity to store energy and is easily recycled.

But why didn’t you think about it before? The problem is that scientists were unable to avoid the failures and short circuits caused by the chemical reaction that occurs between the aluminum and the fiberglass separator that divides the anode and cathode of the batteries.

The solution found by the researchers was to use a substrate of interwoven carbon fibers that form an even stronger chemical bond with aluminum. “When the battery is charged, the aluminum is deposited on the carbon structure through a covalent bond, that is, there is the sharing of electron pairs between aluminum and carbon atoms”, explains Professor Jingxu Zheng.

My battery is no longer the same

In a conventional lithium battery, ions flow from the cathode to the anode. This is the flow that supplies energy to the devices we use on a daily basis and this flow is reversed when we put the cell phone to charge. In this case, the ions are “forced” to return from the anode to the cathode using energy from an external source, such as an ordinary outlet.

The wear happens because this process does not occur in an ideal way, which damages the cathode throughout the cycles. With each refill, it loses a little of its capacity and, over time, the cycles accumulate a good amount of small degradations. That’s why an older battery can stay out of the outlet for less time.

The cat’s leap

While the electrodes of rechargeable batteries have two-dimensional characteristics, the new technique uses a three-dimensional architecture, creating a deeper aluminum layer that can be precisely controlled. “Basically, we use a chemical driving force to place the aluminum in the carbon pores, making the electrode much thicker and more efficient,” said Professor Zheng.

In laboratory tests, scientists were able to create aluminum batteries that lasted 10,000 cycles without fail. To give you an idea, today’s manufacturers announce that their standard batteries, made with lithium ions, withstand between 300 and 500 cycles (charge / discharge) before the first signs of degradation start to appear.

For Professor Zheng, aluminum and carbon batteries will become extremely cheap when they start to be produced on a large scale. “They have a very long life cycle. When we calculate the cost of energy storage, we need to amortize it on the overall energy production. So, if we have a longer useful life, that cost will be even lower and affordable ”.

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we won’t have to change our smartphone every two years just because the battery is feeling a little tired and can’t wait to meet the nearest outlet. Do you think your cell phone battery lasts for a short time? Comment.

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