Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan recently unlocked an important discovery that could access the potential of a powerful, cost-saving battery.
Using a unique system of innovative materials, scientists improved the performance of zinc-air batteries that have largely been untapped for advanced uses such as powering electric vehicles, as Innovation Origins reported.
Energized by a chemical reaction between zinc and oxygen, zinc-air batteries feature potentially high energy-storage capacities and a comparatively low cost of production. They could be strong contenders to compete with popular lithium-ion batteries if there was a way to surpass their lower power output. Zinc-air batteries can store three times the amount of energy as lithium batteries, per IO, but need further advancements to access the same amount of potential power output.
Currently used in hearing aids and other small devices, zinc-air batteries have an average voltage of around 1.4 volts, compared to lithium’s average of 3.7 volts per cell, that narrows the opportunities for advanced usage.
While lithium-ion batteries offer high levels of charge and voltage, they can be costly to produce. Lithium batteries are generally safe to use, but the dangers of damaged or defective batteries include the risk of catching fire or exploding.
Accessing and managing the resources needed to create lithium batteries also presents both environmental and humanitarian issues, according to Nature. Despite these challenges, lithium-ion batteries remain the most widely used in portable electronics and electric vehicles.
The Tohoku University study showed improved stability and durability in addition to increased storage capacity and power output — an important step toward making zinc-air batteries competitive in the market for electric vehicles and other large-scale applications.
Although further study is needed, the developments in this research could reduce the need for mining rare earth metals to power smart devices, electric vehicles, and even the power grid, thereby saving money on sourcing and transporting precious metals while reducing harm to people and the planet.
Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.