Researchers belonging to the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, and the National Institute of Chemistry, Slovenia, have devised a new concept for an aluminum battery that has twice the energy density as the previous variants, has abundant materials and could reduce the production costs and environmental impact. This concept might potentially be used for large-scale applications, including solar and wind energy storage. Aluminum battery technology could have various advantages, such as high theoretical energy, and the fact that there is already an established industry for its manufacture and recycling. Compared to the existing lithium-ion batteries, the new concept might dramatically lower production costs.
Patrik Johansson, Professor, Department of Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, explains that the material costs and the environmental effects that they envision for their novel concept are significantly lower than what is observed today, which makes the technology feasible for large scale use, like in solar cell parks, or storage of wind energy. Moreover, the new concept has twice the energy density that the existing aluminum batteries. The earlier designs for aluminum batteries use aluminum as anodes and graphite as a cathode, which yields low energy than that necessary for manufacturing battery cells with enough performance. In the new concept presented by Johansson, along with a research group from Ljubljana, led by Robert Dominko, instead of graphite, there is an organic, nanostructured cathode made from the carbon-based molecule anthraquinone. This cathode has been developed extensively by Jan Bitenc, prior guest researcher at Chalmers belonging to the team at the National Institute of Chemistry, Slovenia.
The benefit of using this organic molecule in the cathode material is that it stores positive charge-carriers from the electrolyte, which is the solution in which ions flow between the electrodes, making the battery compatible with a higher energy density. Niklas Lindahl, a researcher from Chalmers, who studies the internal mechanisms that govern energy storage, says that as the new cathode material makes it possible to use a more appropriate charge-carrier, the batteries can optimize aluminum’s potential. The researchers are looking for a more efficient electrolyte substitute for chlorine, which is currently being used in their concept battery.