On Monday April 6 Stanford University announced that its scientists had invented the first high-performance aluminum battery. The aluminum battery is faster charging, longer lasting, inexpensive, and safer compared to most commercial batteries used today.
A professor of chemistry at Stanford, Hongjie Dai, said “We have developed a rechargeable aluminum 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…our new battery won't catch fire, even if you drill through it."
One of the main challenges for creating an aluminum battery has been finding materials that can create the right amount of voltage, even after charging and discharging many times. The scientists have found that material in a graphite cathode. Dai said “We accidentally discovered that a simple solution is to use graphite, which is basically carbon. In our study, we identified a few types of graphite material that give us very good performance." Other scientists have had problems with aluminum batteries’ durability, most others have only lasted about 100 charge-discharge cycles. The Stanford battery lasted over 7,500 cycles with no loss of capacity. An average lithium-ion battery lasts around 1,000 cycles.
Fast charging is another advantage of the aluminum battery. Lithium-ion batteries can take hours to fully charge, but the Stanford aluminum battery had charge times of one minute. This could revolutionize the commercial tech industry where battery life and charge times are becoming more and more important, especially in smartphones. Besides aluminum also being cheaper than lithium, it is flexible which could open up the possibilities for flexible devices in the future.
On the down side the aluminum battery creates around half the voltage of the average lithium battery, but Dai remains confident saying, “…improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage and energy density. Otherwise, our battery has everything else you'd dream that a battery should have: inexpensive electrodes, good safety, high-speed charging, flexibility and long cycle life. I see this as a new battery in its early days. It's quite exciting."
It could be a while until we see aluminum batteries being used in our smartphones and laptops, but when they are implemented they are guaranteed to make a big impact. Who do you think will be the first company to introduce the aluminum battery into their products?