June 16, 2024

A New Concept for Low-Cost Batteries – Made From Inexpensive, Abundant Materials

Iron, the commercially dominant metal, doesnt have the ideal electrochemical homes for an efficient battery, he says. As for the electrolyte, “we were not going to use the unstable, flammable organic liquids” that have often led to harmful fires in cars and other applications of lithium-ion batteries, Sadoway says. “Once you get down to near body temperature, it becomes useful” to make batteries that dont require unique insulation and anticorrosion measures, he states.
The heat is naturally produced electrochemically by the releasing and charging of the battery. The smaller scale of the aluminum-sulfur batteries would likewise make them useful for uses such as electrical vehicle charging stations, Sadoway states.

Researchers have developed a brand-new sort of battery, made entirely from affordable and plentiful materials, that might offer affordable backup storage for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
An aluminum-sulfur battery, made from inexpensive, abundant materials, could supply inexpensive backup storage for eco-friendly energy sources.
As ever larger installations of wind and solar power systems are being constructed all over the world, the need is growing fast for economical, massive backup systems to offer power when the air is calm and sun is down. Todays lithium-ion batteries are still too pricey for many such applications. Other alternatives such as pumped hydro need specific topography thats not always offered.
Now, scientists at MIT and elsewhere have actually established a new kind of battery, made completely from abundant and low-cost materials, that could help to fill that space.

By David L. Chandler, Massachusetts Institute of Innovation
August 24, 2022

The brand-new battery architecture, which utilizes aluminum and sulfur as its 2 electrode materials, with a molten salt electrolyte in between, is explained today (August 24, 2022) in the journal Nature. The paper was composed by MIT Professor Donald Sadoway, in addition to 15 others at MIT and in China, Canada, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
” I desired to develop something that was much better, better, than lithium-ion batteries for small-scale stationary storage, and ultimately for automotive [usages],” discusses Sadoway, who is the John F. Elliott Professor Emeritus of Materials Chemistry.
For being costly, lithium-ion batteries contain a flammable electrolyte, making them less than perfect for transportation. Iron, the commercially dominant metal, doesnt have the ideal electrochemical residential or commercial properties for an effective battery, he says. “So, I stated, well, lets simply make that a bookend.
The three primary constituents of the battery are: left, aluminum; center, sulfur; and right, rock salt crystals. All are locally available Earth-abundant materials not needing a global supply chain. Credit: Rebecca Miller
Came choosing what to pair the aluminum with for the other electrode, and what kind of electrolyte to put in between to bring ions back and forth throughout releasing and charging. The most inexpensive of all the non-metals is sulfur, so that ended up being the 2nd electrode product. When it comes to the electrolyte, “we were not going to use the unstable, combustible natural liquids” that have actually often caused dangerous fires in vehicles and other applications of lithium-ion batteries, Sadoway says. They tried some polymers however wound up looking at a range of molten salts that have reasonably low melting points– close to the boiling point of water, instead of nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (538 degrees Celsius) for many salts. “Once you get down to near body temperature level, it becomes practical” to make batteries that do not require special insulation and anticorrosion procedures, he states.
The 3 components they wound up with are easily available and low-cost. Is aluminum, no various from the foil at the grocery store. Second is sulfur, which is frequently a waste product from procedures such as petroleum refining. Commonly available salts. “The ingredients are cheap, and the important things is safe– it can not burn,” Sadoway states.
In their experiments, the group showed that the battery cells could endure numerous cycles at exceptionally high charging rates, with a projected expense per cell of about one-sixth that of similar lithium-ion cells. They revealed that the charging rate was extremely based on the working temperature, with 110 degrees Celsius (230 degrees Fahrenheit) revealing 25 times quicker rates than 25 ° C (77 ° F).
Remarkably, the molten salt the team selected as an electrolyte merely because of its low melting point ended up to have a fortuitous benefit. One of the biggest issues in battery reliability is the development of dendrites, which are narrow spikes of metal that develop on one electrode and eventually grow across to contact the other electrode, causing a short-circuit and obstructing effectiveness. But this specific salt, it occurs, is excellent at avoiding that malfunction.
The chloro-aluminate salt they selected “basically retired these runaway dendrites, while also permitting really fast charging,” Sadoway says. “We did experiments at very high charging rates, charging in less than a minute, and we never ever lost cells due to dendrite shorting.”
” Its amusing,” he states, because the entire focus was on discovering a salt with the most affordable melting point, however the catenated chloro-aluminates they wound up with turned out to be resistant to the shorting issue. “If we had started off with attempting to prevent dendritic shorting, Im unsure I wouldve understood how to pursue that,” Sadoway states. “I guess it was serendipity for us.”
The battery requires no external heat source to keep its operating temperature. The heat is naturally produced electrochemically by the charging and discharging of the battery. And then, when you release, it also generates heat,” Sadoway states.
This new battery solution, he states, would be ideal for setups of about the size needed to power a single house or little to medium company, producing on the order of a couple of 10s of kilowatt-hours of storage capability.
For bigger installations, up to utility scale of 10s to numerous megawatt hours, other technologies may be more effective, including the liquid metal batteries Sadoway and his students developed a number of years ago and which formed the basis for a spinoff business called Ambri, which hopes to deliver its very first items within the next year. For that innovation, Sadoway was just recently awarded this years European Inventor Award.
The smaller scale of the aluminum-sulfur batteries would likewise make them useful for uses such as electric vehicle charging stations, Sadoway states. He explains that when electrical lorries end up being common enough on the roads that several cars and trucks wish to charge up simultaneously, as happens today with gasoline fuel pumps, “if you attempt to do that with batteries and you want fast charging, the amperages are just so high that we do not have that amount of amperage in the line that feeds the facility.” Having a battery system such as this to store power and then release it rapidly when needed might get rid of the need for installing pricey new power lines to serve these chargers.
The brand-new innovation is already the basis for a new spinoff business called Avanti, which has actually licensed the patents to the system, co-founded by Sadoway and Luis Ortiz 96 ScD 00, who was also a co-founder of Ambri. “The first order of organization for the business is to show that it works at scale,” Sadoway states, and then subject it to a series of stress tests, including going through numerous charging cycles.
Would a battery based on sulfur risk of producing the foul smells related to some forms of sulfur? Not a chance, Sadoway says. “The rotten-egg odor remains in the gas, hydrogen sulfide. This is elemental sulfur, and its going to be confined inside the cells.” He says (and please do not try this at home!) if you were to try to open up a lithium-ion cell in your kitchen area , “the wetness in the air would respond and you d start generating all sorts of foul gases. These are legitimate concerns, but the battery is sealed, its not an open vessel. I wouldnt be concerned about that.”
Reference: “Fast-charging aluminium– chalcogen batteries resistant to dendritic shorting” by Quanquan Pang, Jiashen Meng, Saransh Gupta, Xufeng Hong, Chun Yuen Kwok, Ji Zhao, Yingxia Jin, Like Xu, Ozlem Karahan, Ziqi Wang, Spencer Toll, Liqiang Mai, Linda F. Nazar, Mahalingam Balasubramanian, Badri Narayanan and Donald R. Sadoway, 24 August 2022, Nature.DOI: 10.1038/ s41586-022-04983-9.
The research team consisted of members from Peking University, Yunnan University and the Wuhan University of Technology, in China; the University of Louisville, in Kentucky; the University of Waterloo, in Canada; Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee; and MIT. The work was supported by the MIT Energy Initiative, the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, and ENN Group.