New Ultrafast Aluminium-Ion Battery

by Natasha Arora | Photo credits: Natalie Lung | 23 May 2015

It is 9 a.m., and I’m already late for class. Just as I’m packing my backpack, my phone decides to die. OH NO. Is it just me or does everyone’s phone die when they are about to leave the house? Things get worse when I find that I forgot to charge my power bank too.

Does the technological world have an answer to this problem? Apparently it does.

In April 2015, Stanford University scientists declared that they have invented a prototype of an inexpensive aluminium-ion battery that can charge in just 60 seconds! This new invention can potentially replace the conventional lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones, which take hours to charge.

The rechargeable aluminium battery consists of an aluminium anode and graphite cathode using a “non-flammable ionic liquid electrolyte.” Both the metals are inexpensive, and aluminium is a much cheaper alternative compared to lithium. In fact, the aluminium-ion battery has several features that make it better than lithium-ion or alkaline batteries.

In general, aluminium batteries tend to be a safer alternative to the flammable lithium-ion batteries. A video by the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy depicts that the new aluminium-ion battery prototype did not catch fire even after a hole was drilled through it.

What really differentiates this new prototype from other aluminium batteries is that the new battery was able to stand 7,500 + charging and discharging cycles without loss of capacity. Moreover, the prototype is bendable, making flexible mobile phones a possibility.

The success of the prototype spells good news for environmentalists too. “Aluminum batteries could be used to store renewable energy on the electrical grid,” Hongjie Dai told the Stanford Report. He is a chemistry professor at Stanford who is involved in the research.

It can potentially replace disposable alkaline batteries that are already overflowing landfills, and decrease the health and environmental concerns associated with Li-ion batteries.

However, there is considerable room for improvement at the initial stage. The prototype produces around 2 volts of energy which is half of the energy a lithium battery can produce. “Improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage and energy density,” said Dai.

He added: “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.”

A report from a Q&A website stated that battery-related problems were common complaints among smartphone users. Growth in high-powered smartphones with more complex processors, wider screens and brighter displays will lead to greater demands in advanced sources of power.

The ultrafast rechargeable aluminium-ion battery does raise the hopes of both manufacturers and consumers alike.

Imagine if you had plugged in your charger at the beginning of this article and by now your phone would be charged and ready to use! Hopefully this new invention will be able to advance from the prototype stage to mass production.

Natasha Arora

Social Sciences + journalism student at HKU. Loves to travel and lives on pop music. Major foodie, climate change advocate, and wannabe workaholic.

Author: Natasha Arora

Social Sciences + journalism student at HKU. Loves to travel and lives on pop music. Major foodie, climate change advocate, and wannabe workaholic.

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