Syracuse University research team develops solid electrolyte for aluminium batteries for use in electric vehicles

AL Circle

Aluminum ion batteries are being considered to meet high demand applications like electric vehicles for private, public, and commercial transport (cars, buses, trucks, etc.). These applications require an enormous amount of electricity to be delivered to provide the necessary power for running these machines.

Hugh demanding applications on a battery produce significant mechanical and thermal stresses on the battery. The current aluminium battery technologies employ liquids for their electrolyte, the medium that facilitates the transport of ions from one electrode to the other.  Consequently, batteries in vehicles have a higher safety risk of explosion, burning out, outgassing, or simply failing, during operation or in case of an accident.

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The Hosein Research Group at Syracuse University has developed a new solid electrolyte that can replace the liquid electrolyte in aluminium ion batteries to make them suitable for high-demand applications. The electrolyte is made from a formulation of a very soft polymer that allows aluminium ions to permeate through it. This polymer is transformed into an aluminium ion electrolyte by dissolving aluminium salts into the polymer host.

By combining the salt in a polymer, the aluminium ions facilitate charge transport through the battery. The solid host ensures that the aggressive thermal and mechanical changes during battery operation do not cause the battery to fail or explode.

The Hosein group has demonstrated how a solid electrolyte is used for aluminium ion batteries, and is now actively pursuing the manufacture of an all solid-state aluminium ion battery. This solid battery is a key step towards using aluminium ion batteries in high demand applications like electric vehicles.

Aluminum ion batteries are a cost effective substitute to lithium batteries and a promising next-generation battery technology to meet future energy delivery demands. Aluminium batteries show some of the highest voltages, store the most energy, and provide the highest currents. Its storage capacity is 4 times that of lithium-ion batteries. Aluminum also forms multivalent ions, meaning it can carry more than one charge per atom (3 to be exact), thereby carrying 3 times the charge of a lithium ion.

Lithium constitutes only 0.7% of the Earth’s crust and would require a 3rd of that supply to be extracted to facilitate the total future demand. While aluminium is the 3rd most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.  Rising costs and high scarcity are driving the R&D for more feasible alternatives. While lithium-ion batteries have significantly extended the usage of many of the personal electronic devices, battery researchers foresee an approaching post-lithium ion era, in which batteries from more earth-abundant sources will be used in a broader range of technologies and applications. Aluminum ion batteries could just be the next-generation storage technology that ushers in the post-lithium era.

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