At Long Last: A Flexible Aluminum-Ion Battery

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We love new developments for aluminum and this one’s a corker.

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Researchers at Stanford University have developed a flexible, potentially low-cost, fast-charging, long-life aluminum battery. This high performance aluminum-ion battery is formed from two electrodes; a negatively charged anode made of aluminum and a positively charged graphite cathode along with an ionic liquid electrolyte, basically a salt researchers admitted, inside a flexible polymer-coated pouch.

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Credit: Mark Shwartz, Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University

Flexible Power

The London Telegraph newspaper ran an article this week with a video clip showing the battery continuing to produce charge while a hole is drilled through it to illustrate it’s comparative safety over lithium-ion batteries that have, on occasion, burst into flames or overheated.

The safety aspects, though, are probably secondary to it’s other benefits. Made from aluminum and graphite, the cost will be low yet the durability high. Lithium-ion batteries usually deteriorate after 1,000 cycles, but in tests the team at Stanford have reached 7,500 cycles without any loss of capacity. Its flexibility opens the door to use in new applications promised by the latest flexible screens and touchpads, but the best part is probably the charging time. As we all know it can take a couple of hours to recharge the battery in a phone or an iPad but this device can be recharged in one minute!

More Volts?

Now before you rush out to order one, if you could which you can’t, there is one drawback the team is still working on – voltage. This development stage product is only generating 2 volts compared to most mobile phone batteries that run at 3.7 to 4.2 volts. Researchers are working on this aspect and believe further development of the cathode material could improve this and it’s possible the significant advantages of high recharge rates, longevity and low costs may spur development of electronics that can operate on lower voltages. Either way the aluminum-ion battery is an exciting development and one we hope to see brought to commercial reality before too long.

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