1,000% difference: Water-based batteries may offer significantly more storage capacity, new Texas A&M study says
Researchers at Texas A&M University have discovered a 1,000% difference in the storage capacity of metal-free, water-based battery electrodes.
These batteries are different from lithium-ion batteries that contain cobalt. The group’s goal of researching metal-free batteries stems from having better control over the domestic supply chain since cobalt and lithium are outsourced. This safer chemistry would also prevent battery fires.
Chemical engineering professor Dr. Jodie Lutkenhaus and chemistry assistant professor Dr. Daniel Tabor have published their findings about lithium-free batteries in Nature Materials.
“There would be no battery fires anymore because it’s water-based,” Lutkenhaus said. “In the future, if materials shortages are projected, the price of lithium-ion batteries will go way up. If we have this alternative battery, we can turn to this chemistry, where the supply is much more stable because we can manufacture them here in the United States and materials to make them are here.”
Lutkenhaus said aqueous batteries consist of a cathode, electrolyte and an anode. The cathodes and anodes are polymers that can store energy, and the electrolyte is water mixed with organic salts. The electrolyte is key to ion conduction and energy storage through its interactions with the electrode.
“If an electrode swells too much during cycling, then it can’t conduct electrons very well, and you lose all the performance,” she said. “I believe there is a 1,000% difference in energy storage capacity, depending on the electrolyte choice because of swelling effects.”
The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation through the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station.