Battery design breakthrough could make electric cars safer and cheaper

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The breakthrough in battery design has opened up the possibility of developing zinc-ion instead of lithium-ion batteries for use in everything from smartphones to electric cars, making them safer, cheaper and more environmentally sustainable. .

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Researchers at Tianjin University in China discovered a way to improve the performance and cost of aqueous zinc-ion batteries, which until now have been prone to rapid performance degradation.

The high performance and reusability of lithium-ion batteries mean they are the standard power source for most rechargeable electronics, although cost, safety and stability issues have led scientists to seek success with alternative materials. .


Disposable batteries commonly found in low-powered electronics such as TV remote controls and children’s toys are made of zinc, which provides solid performance but poor recharge ability due to electrode corrosion.

Researchers at Tianjin University, led by Quan-Hong Yang, realized they could use a new type of electrolyte made from hydrated zinc salts, containing a small amount of water, to solve the technical issues typically associated with aqueous zinc-ion batteries. able to solve. ,

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The batteries demonstrated excellent performance within a temperature range of -30C to 40C, making them suitable for most everyday electronics, while also being more cost competitive than their lithium-ion counterparts.

They also have the advantage of being non-flammable, as they do not use the same flammable and toxic organic electrolytes that Li-ion batteries have.

The safety hazards associated with these materials have led to fires in electric cars and smartphones.

In recent years, there have been several incidents of battery-related smartphone fires, either through damage or faulty charging, while vehicles made by Tesla and other manufacturers have caught fire in the past if their battery packs crashed. get damaged in.

A Tesla vehicle that caught fire after an accident in the US in 2018

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A Tesla vehicle that caught fire after an accident in the US in 2018

“There is still much to be explored,” noted the researchers, “but our findings open a way for practical Zn batteries to be low-cost and non-flammable organic electrolytes with increased stability.”

Florencio Santos of the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena in Spain, who was not involved in the research, said the work “tackles many important issues of zinc batteries by using a cheap and environmentally friendly electrolyte”.

He added that further enhancing battery performance would make it possible to “produce and implement reliable and affordable batteries to aid in the transition to a sustainable future”.

The new design was presented in the scientific journal Nature Sustainability on Thursday.


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