Could Water Batteries Replace Lithium-ion Batteries?

An RMIT University team of researchers and industry collaborators has invented a recyclable battery that won’t catch fire or explode.

Traditional lithium-ion batteries are currently the norm, but they come with some issues, including environmental harm, the risk of overheating, and their unsuitability for large-scale grid energy storage.

The team calls these aqueous metal-ion batteries “water batteries” because they replaced the organic electrolytes that enable the flow of current between positive and negative terminals with water. This substitution means the batteries can’t start a fire or blow up. They can also be disassembled, reused, or recycled, lessening their environmental impact.

Another benefit of these batteries is the materials they’re made of; magnesium and zinc are abundant, inexpensive, and less toxic than metals like lithium.

The team has completed several small-scale trials to tackle some of the technological challenges, including boosting energy storage capacity and increasing the batteries’ lifespan. Their latest trial involved using rust to solve for the growth of disruptive dendrites (spikey metallic formations) that can lead to short circuits and other faults.

The team’s next step is increasing the energy density by innovating new nanomaterials. They’re looking at magnesium and hope to replace lead-acid batteries as well.

They published their results in Advanced Materials.

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