COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Researchers at Texas A&M University have discovered a breakthrough in water-based batteries, which could be an important step in the development of lithium-free batteries.
“A water-based battery uses water as the electrolyte to conduct ions, while the active material can store and release the electrons, which is really different from a lithium-ion battery that you use in your telephone,” Chemical Engineering Professor, Jodie Lutkenhaus said.
Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, a team of researchers examined nine different salts and saw a 1000% difference in the energy the batteries could store.
“Using the materials that we’ve been working with they’re faster charging so you can charge these batteries in a matter of minutes instead of hours as you would need for an electric vehicle or cell phone,” Lutkenhaus said.
The teams’ state-of-the-art computer simulations allowed them to see how much mass is transformed during the charging process and helped explain the difference between materials. These technologies allow the engineers to pinpoint what elements of their research are effective and what parts need further analysis.
“By seeing exactly what’s going on there, we can learn the fundamental interactions that either make the material work or swell and not work,” Assistant Professor Daniel Tabor said. “It’s those insights that allow us to make decisions about what new materials to try.”
The first place you might see water-based batteries is for bio-medical applications like biosensors, and flexible electronics, but it will still be a while before you will see them used for more general consumer products like electric cars.
“The first lithium-ion batteries were basic science experiments done over 15 years before they ever showed up in your phone, and we’re sort of at that point on the development curve right now,” Tabor said.
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