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New breakthrough could make batteries safer—without compromising power, charge – ANITH
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New breakthrough could make batteries safer—without compromising power, charge

New breakthrough could make batteries safer—without compromising power, charge


The highly concentrated aqueous electrolyte can be used to assemble safe and long-life cycle zinc batteries, like these.

Image: John T. Consoli/University of Maryland

Remember all those smoking cellphones

Researchers think they’ve found a safer, long-lasting zinc battery that uses water-in-salt electrolytes that could prevent those electronic fires.

University of Maryland researchers at the A. James Clark School of Engineering created a new water-based zinc battery that uses an aqueous electrolyte instead of the flammable substance in lithium-ion batteries. But to keep the batteries powerful and long-lasting the research team added metallic zinc and salt. 

One of the paper’s authors and postdoctoral associate at UMD’s Clark School Fei Wang said in a release about the research, “We have a battery that could compete with the lithium-ion batteries in energy density, but without the risk of explosion or fire.”

The breakthrough could have a huge impact on the consumer electronics industry. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was recalled in 2016 after the phone kept exploding. Issues with the battery were discovered after conducting large-scale tests at manufacturing plants. The battery problems prompted an overhaul of its batteries for its next phone, the Galaxy S8. 

The team hopes this advancement could be used commercially and replace fire-prone lithium-ion batteries used in most consumer tech gadgets and products. 

This aqueous zinc battery is rechargeable and high energy — and unlike other zinc batteries, it doesn’t need a water refill for the electrolyte. The team believes its found a way to get around zinc batteries’ increasingly decreased charge capacity the more it gets charged.

In electric vehicles, lithium-ion battery improvements are a big research area. Belgian company Imec, is developing a nano-composite solid state electrolyte lithium-ion battery — it starts as a liquid and later solidifies. 

Like the UMD research team showed, wet batteries are preferred for safety and efficiency, but usually come at the cost of power and and charging capability. For EVs, solid-state batteries typically have low conductivity, which is bad news for charging. But the company hopes to invent a battery by 2024 that can charge up in 20 minutes and keep EVs driving long distances. 

The zinc battery research published Monday in the journal Nature Materials

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Anith Gopal
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