UNSW Researchers Overcome Aqueous Rechargeable Zinc Battery Challenge
UNSW Researchers Overcome Aqueous Rechargeable Zinc Battery Challenge

UNSW Researchers Overcome Aqueous Rechargeable Zinc Battery Challenge

  • 09-Jan-2024 6:11 PM
  • Journalist: Motoki Sasaki

Aqueous zinc batteries (AZBs) have emerged as promising contenders in the realm of energy storage, providing an alternative to the widely used lithium-ion battery technology dominating the renewable and stationary energy storage markets. However, the progress of AZB technology faces a significant hurdle in the form of chemical corrosion, severely limiting the battery's recharging capability.

The distinctive advantages of AZB chemistry lie in the combination of an energy-dense zinc metal anode and an aqueous salt solution electrolyte. Yet, the inherent incompatibility between these components leads to chemical corrosion of the anode, diminishing the overall cycle life of the battery cell.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) School of Chemical Engineering have now claimed to have devised a solution that effectively addresses the corrosion challenge, significantly enhancing the battery's lifespan by five to 20 times. This remarkable improvement translates into extending the lifetime from mere months to over three years.

The team, consisting of researchers Yuan Shang, Dr. Priyank Kumar, and Dr. Dipan Kundu, dedicated three years to devising this solution. Their approach involved introducing small concentrations of organic compounds into the battery electrolyte. In their findings, they disclosed that incorporating a 1% concentration of 1,2 butanediol into the electrolyte proved effective in mitigating corrosion and reducing dendritic zinc deposits that could otherwise short-circuit the battery cell.

The outcome of their work signifies a substantial enhancement in the battery cycle life under conditions conducive to scaling beyond the laboratory environment. The introduced solution retains the aqueous nature of the electrolyte, preserving the cost and safety benefits associated with AZB technology. Notably, the achieved results are approaching the performance levels of established lithium-ion batteries.

Dr. Dipan Kundu emphasized the potential impact of AZB technology, citing its potential as "a cost-effective and reliable storage option for industries like mining, construction, and telecommunications." The UNSW estimates that a fully developed AZB technology would be priced around one-third to one-fourth of current lithium-ion systems, offering an attractive economic proposition for consumers.

Furthermore, the researchers envision the versatility of AZB technology, applicable across various scales of implementation. From small-scale residential and commercial setups to medium-scale community storage units and large-scale grid-level installations, AZB technology demonstrates adaptability.

As the UNSW team continues its efforts to refine and develop the technology, their focus includes creating battery cell prototypes. To support these endeavors and pave the way for commercial development, the team is actively seeking funding for a spin-off dedicated to advancing AZB technology in the market. The strides made by the UNSW researchers underscore the potential of AZB technology as a game-changer in the energy storage landscape, offering a viable and economical alternative to conventional lithium-ion batteries.

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