A new battery technology with the potential to significantly reduce the price of electric cars and home battery systems has taken a large step towards commercialisation.
The patented design uses non-toxic zinc and manganese, two metals that are abundant in Australia, and incombustible aqueous electrolyte to produce a battery with a high energy density.
The high-energy, safe battery could open up markets where the battery weight, size and safety are essential factors, including automotive and aerospace, and domestic and commercial buildings, and grid-scale energy storage.
The battery is designed by Dr Dongliang Chao and Professor Shi-Zhang Qiao from the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials.
The researchers have secured an AU$1 million research contract with a Chinese battery manufacturer to develop the new technology and bring it to market within 12 months.
Dr Chao said the potential for the technology is huge.
“I can imagine this battery being used on all vehicle types from small scooters to even diesel-electric trains. Also in homes that need batteries to store solar power, or even large solar/wind farms,” he said.
“With more sustainable energy being produced – such as through wind and solar farms – storing this energy in batteries in a safe, non-expensive and environmentally sound way is becoming more urgent but current battery materials – including lithium, lead and cadmium – are expensive, hazardous and toxic.”
“Our new electrolytic battery technology uses the non-toxic zinc and manganese and incombustible aqueous electrolyte to produce a battery with a high energy density.”
Dr Chao also noted that the battery uses basic materials and simple manufacturing processes so it will be “much cheaper to produce and easier to recycle than existing batteries of comparable energy density”.
The cost of this new electrolytic Zn–Mn battery is estimated at less than US$10 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This is significantly less than that for current Li-ion batteries of US$300 per kWh, Ni–Fe batteries US$72 per kWh, and lead-acid batteries US$48 per kWh.
Chinese battery manufacturer, Zhuoyue Power New Energy Ltd, whose current batteries are lead-based, has committed AU$1 million to develop the new technology.
The ongoing research work and initial product development will be conducted in Adelaide with manufacturing expected to take place in Australia and China.
The project will combine the new electrolytic battery technology and the company’s battery assembling technology.