Rechargeable zinc-air batteries zero in on lithium

Posted: August 18, 2017 by oldbrew in innovation, research

Sydney, Australia

Sounds promising, but can these batteries make the leap from hearing aids to machinery in general? Developments – if any – awaited.

Zinc-air batteries are an enticing prospect thanks to their high energy density and the fact they’re made with some of the most common materials on Earth, says New Atlas.

Unfortunately, those advantages are countered by how difficult it is to recharge these cells. Now, a team at the University of Sydney has created new catalysts out of abundant elements that could see rechargeable zinc-air batteries vying with lithium-ion batteries in mobile devices.

The chemical reaction that drives zinc-air batteries to produce electricity comes from the air around the cell. They essentially breathe in oxygen that interacts with a carbon cathode to produce hydroxyl, which in turn interacts with a zinc anode to generate an electric current. Using air as a reactant allows the battery to cram in more zinc, increasing the energy density and making the battery fairly lightweight and safe.

But the problem is that once the zinc anode has been oxidized, it isn’t much use. These batteries can be mechanically “recharged” by replacing the zinc component completely, or by using electrocatalysts made from rare-earth minerals that reduce oxygen while discharging the battery, and generate it while recharging.

“Up until now, rechargeable zinc-air batteries have been made with expensive precious metal catalysts, such as platinum and iridium oxide,” says Yuan Chen, lead author of the study. “In contrast, our method produces a family of new high-performance and low-cost catalysts.”

Continued here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Yellowstone could power America’s electric cars with newly discovered supervolcano lithium
    Lithium is increasingly in demand with the growing popularity of electric cars.
    By Martha Henriques
    August 16, 2017

    Large deposits of lithium, used to make lithium-ion batteries, are hiding beneath supervolcanoes such as Yellowstone in the US, Stanford scientists have said.
    . . .
    “We’ve had a gold rush, so we know how, why and where gold occurs, but we never had a lithium rush”
    – – –
    ‘growing popularity of electric cars’ – at about the same rate as fingernails 😐

  2. John Silver says:

    Yeah, they said that in the early eighties too. Sounds like another scam.

  3. BoyfromTottenham says:

    So, they claim to have ‘invented’ a better non-rechargeable (aka throw-away) battery. Big deal. Yeah, and I’m sure mining companies will rush to start mining active volcanos! /sarc

    [reply] they do refer to ‘rechargeable zinc-air batteries’

  4. oldbrew says:

    Another battery claim…

    Swedish ‘Lego brick’ battery breakthrough could boost Tesla range by 70%

    “If our battery solution was used in a Tesla it would increase the range by 70%, and cost less”
    . . .
    A licensing scheme means Cadenza can offer its battery technology to many parties and Lampe-Onnerud reveals Tesla “is of course one of them”.

  5. Bitter&Twisted says:

    “Large deposits of lithium, used to make lithium-ion batteries, are hiding beneath supervolcanoes such as Yellowstone in the US, Stanford scientists have said.”

    Next they will be saying that we should drill into the Yellowstone supervolcano to extract the lithium.
    Sound like a great idea!

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    There is no need for lithium to make batteries. There are alredy sodium and potassium batteries. The lithium cells are a bit lighter, but not enough to really matter, and have a longer productiion history.

    IF lithium ever became scarce, price would rise and folks would start making other chemistry battrries.

  7. oldbrew says:

    Battery innovation, like solar PV, can be a tough business.

    Date: 22/08/17 PV Magazine

    Alevo, which has long promised its revolutionary lithium-ion battery technology would revolutionize utility-scale energy storage, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Middle District of North Carolina on Friday and laid off its 290 employees.