Electronics and Semiconductors

Study: Zinc-air batteries safer, cheaper than lithium

30 August 2023
Due to finite resources and safety issues, alternatives to lithium-ion batteries are emerging quickly and zinc-air batteries may be a safer and cheaper option. Source: Finnrich/Pixabay

A new study by Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia found that not only are zinc-air batteries emerging as an alternative for energy platforms for electric vehicles and renewable energy, but these batteries may also be safer and cheaper than traditional lithium-ion.

ECU found that lithium-ion batteries, while the dominant energy source for EVs and renewables globally, are limited due to cost, finite resources and fire concerns that continue to be a major issue.

"Rechargeable zinc-air batteries (ZABs) are becoming more appealing because of their low cost, environmental friendliness, high theoretical energy density, and inherent safety," said Muhammad Rizwan Azhar, professors at ECU and led in the ZAB study. “With the emergence of next-generation long-range vehicles and electric aircraft in the market, there is an increasing need for safer, more cost-effective, and high-performance battery systems that can surpass the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries."

What are ZABs?

Zinc-air batteries consist of a zinc negative electrode and an air positive electrode. The disadvantage of these batteries is the power output has been limited prior due to poor performance of air electrodes. This also shortens the batteries’ lifespan.

ECU found a new way to improve ZABs using a combination of new materials such as carbon, cheaper iron and cobalt based minerals.

"The new design has been so efficient it suppressed the internal resistance of batteries, and their voltage was close to the theoretical voltage which resulted in a high peak power density and ultra-long stability," Azhar said. "In addition to revolutionizing the energy storage industry, this breakthrough contributes significantly to building a sustainable society, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and mitigating environmental impacts.”

Improved performance

Additionally, ECU said ZABs bring Australia closer to achieving the goals and targets of the Paris Agreement, a deal between nations to emphasize renewable energy resources to limit climate change. However, renewable such as solar, wind and hydro are not completely reliable solutions as they are intermittent sources of energy. ZABs could help in this regard, ECU said.

"Due to the abundance of zinc available in countries such as Australia, and the ubiquity of air, this becomes a highly viable and reliable energy storage solution," Azhar said.

To contact the author of this article, email PBrown@globalspec.com

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