Lithium battery

Zinc-air batteries could revolutionise EV charging, research finds

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Australian researchers have developed zinc-air batteries which they claim can outperform the lithium-ion batteries that electric vehicles (EV) rely on.

The team of scientists at Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia has found that zinc-air batteries could be a better option than lithium-ion batteries for powering EVs.

These new types of batteries consist of a negative electrode made of zinc and a positive electrode made of air. Since they have a higher energy density than lithium-ion batteries, zinc-air batteries could store more energy in a smaller space, potentially making them capable of powering EVs for longer distances.

Until now, their use has been limited due to the poor performance of air electrodes and their short lifespans. However, researchers could have found a solution. 

The ECU team said it was able to enhance the performance of zinc-air batteries by incorporating new materials such as carbon, iron and cobalt-based compounds into the battery design.

The result was a battery that delivered a high peak power density of 228 mW cm-2 and a low voltage gap of 0.77 V, as well as an ultra-long lifespan of 950 hours. 

“Rechargeable zinc-air batteries are becoming more appealing because of their low cost, environmental friendliness, high theoretical energy density, and inherent safety,” said Dr Muhammad Rizwan Azhar, a researcher on the team.

“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.”

The new battery design also resulted in reduced cost and environmental impact compared with current supply chains.

“By using natural resources, such as zinc from Australia and air, this further enhances the cost-effectiveness and viability of these innovative zinc-air batteries for the future,” said Dr Azhar.

The team is still working to address some of the remaining issues associated with these types of batteries, such as the fact that air electrodes can degrade over time, which can reduce battery performance. Zinc-air batteries can also be less efficient at low temperatures.

The researchers’ work was published in the journal Ecomat.

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