With several competing “futuristic” ultrafast-charging rechargeable batteries, is Stanford University’s Advanced Aluminum Battery poised to be the future of rechargeable batteries?
By: Ringo Bones
Technology experts recently quipped that if the advances made in rechargeable battery technology during the past 60 years mirrored that of semiconductors, we would have today rechargeable batteries that could power a mobile phone for a million years on a single charge. Sadly, such technology is still beyond the reach of the current major consumer electronic manufacturers, but recently, prototypes of ultrafast-charging rechargeable batteries that with a minutes worth of charging could either power a mobile phone for a day or drive an electric car for 300 miles are now a prototypical reality.
Lithium ion batteries have been a boon for the modern world in that they’ve replaced the heavier single-use alkaline type batteries in everything from wristwatches to the power supplies of flight control systems in late-model jumbo jets. Unfortunately, these rechargeable cells are already struggling to keep up with our ever increasing energy needs. But a new type of aluminum-ion battery recently developed by graduate students and their professor at Stanford University is not only less prone to bursting into flames than current lithium-ion types but can also be built at a fraction of the price and recharges completely in just over a minute. Best of all, “our new battery won’t catch fire, even if you drill through it” says Stanford University chemistry professor Hongjie Dai.
According to its developers, the Stanford University’s Advanced Aluminum Battery uses a graphite cathode, an aluminum anode and an ionic liquid electrolyte inside a polymer-coated pouch. “The electrolyte is basically a salt that is liquid at room temperature, so it’s very safe” said Stanford University graduate student Ming Gong, co-author of the study recently published in the science journal Nature.
Unlike earlier rechargeable aluminum-ion battery prototypes which generally fails after only about 100 recharge cycles, Stanford’s prototype Advanced Aluminum Battery are composed of aluminum-ion cells that can cycle more than 7,500 times without any capacity loss – that’s 7.5 times longer than your average lithium-ion rechargeable battery in current production. Sadly, Stanford University’s aluminum-ion cell isn’t perfect, yet, as it can produce only about 2 volts per cell – far less than the 3.6 volts per cell that current lithium-ion cells can muster. Plus aluminum-ion cells, at the moment, can only carry 40-watts of electricity per kilogram compared to lithium-ion’s 100 to 206 watts per kilogram power density.
“Improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage output and energy density” says Dai. “Otherwise, our battery has everything else you’d dream that a battery should have: inexpensive electrodes, good safety, high-speed charging, flexibility and long cycle life. I see this as a new battery in its early days, It’s quite interesting.”
Unlike other competing prototypes, Stanford University’s Advanced Aluminum Battery that has the ability to be charged for 1 minute and yet could store enough charge to power a mobile phone for 24 hours was entirely made possible by a group of graduate students and their professor without a single cent of corporate backing whatsoever. Despite of this feat, Tesla electric car company founder Elon Musk is currently skeptical of the Stanford University’s Advanced Aluminum Battery on whether it will ever be as good – or become even better than – as those ultrafast-charging lithium ion types in current development. Hmm, if only Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk would put his money where his mouth is…