Wikipedia diagram of a typical hybrid vehicle.
20 Nov 2019

New innovative technology promises a safer and more effective type of batteries


Standard EV charging station symbol- New Australian zink / manganese based battery technology promises to lower electric vehicle cost and improve safety


The car site "The Driven" reports on a new battery technology that could significantly reduce the price of electric cars and home battery systems. The new zink - manganese based battery has allegedly already taken a major step towards commercialisation.

South Australian researchers from the University of Adelaide have secured an A$1 million research contract with a Chinese battery manufacturer to develop the new technology and bring it to market within 12 months, according to the website.

The design, which is patented, uses non-toxic zinc and manganese. These two metals are abundant in Australia, and combined  with a supposedly incombustible aqueous electrolyte would produce a battery with a high-energy density.


The same basic raw materials as for non-rechargable batteries

What is remarkable about using these two metals is that this is exactly what is used already in standard alkaline non-reusable batteries.

ScienceMag.org writes in their 2017 article "This new battery could literally save your iPhone from going up in smoke", that there´s been lots of research already going into trying to make zink / mangan batteries rechargable, but that the batteries - at least previously - had a very short life span due to a rapid degeneration of the zink node.

They also point out the difference compared to the more flammable technology using various varieties of Lithium, which is the most common battery chemistry today: 

"Zinc batteries are surprisingly old-school. Standard non-rechargeable alkaline batteries have one electrode of zinc and another of manganese dioxide. They’re safe because they contain a nonflammable, water-based electrolyte that helps ferry charges through the battery. Lithium cells instead require a flammable organic electrolyte to prevent side reactions that can kill the batteries. Scientists have come up with all sorts of schemes to stop those cells from catching fire, like adding flame retardants", writes ScienceMag.org.


A fraction of the cost of conventional batteries - powerful enough to store electricity for  "The Grid"

According to The Driven, the researchers estimate the cost of the new electrolytic Zn–Mn battery to be less than US$ 10 per kWh compared with US$ 300 per kWh for current Li-ion batteries, US$72 per kWh for Ni–Fe batteries and US$ 48 per kWh for Lead–acid batteries.

The battery has been designed by Dr Dongliang Chao and Professor Shi-Zhang Qiao from the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials.

According to Dr Chao, these batteries are so powerful that they can be used to store electricity for the commercial power grid when made in larger scale:

“I can imagine this battery being used on all vehicle types from small scooters to even diesel electric trains. Also in homes that need batteries to store solar power, or even large solar/wind farms,” he said.

“Our new electrolytic battery technology uses the non-toxic zinc and manganese and incombustible aqueous electrolyte to produce a battery with a high energy density.”

Dr Chao and Professor Qiao began working on the project in South Australia about 12 months ago and patented the technology at the beginning of this year.

Chinese battery manufacturer Zhuoyue Power New Energy Ltd, whose current batteries are lead-based, has committed $1 million to develop the new technology.

The ongoing research work and initial product development will be conducted in Adelaide with manufacturing expected to take place in Australia and China.

Dr Chao obtained his PhD from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and worked as a researcher at University of California, Los Angeles, before joining the University of Adelaide in South Australia last year.


Swedish researchers also working on new battery solutions

According to Reset.org, "researchers at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden are developing a new type of aluminium battery which could reduce the world’s dependency on lithium-ion based ones. As well as being arguably better suited for electrical storage and transfer, the researchers suggest aluminium batteries will also have much smaller ecological impact."

At this stage, this aluminum type of battery is more thought to replace small, non rechargable lithium batteries.  

Already in 2006, the University of Uppsala unveiled research on a form of iron based rechargable battery, where Swedish researcher Anton Nytén defended his thesis describing the new cathode material lithium iron silicate. 

"´This material has the potential to be cheap enough to finally be able to design lithium-ion batteries for electric hybrid cars,´says Anton Nytén, who has evaluated the material's capacity and its charging and discharging properties with various electrochemical measurement methods. The results showed only small losses (less than three percent) in the capacity of batteries charged and discharged more than 100 times. High electrochemical stability was also observed", writes the University on their website.

Another Swedish researcher, Marie Herstedt, also at Uppsala University, is more recently researching iron based batteries. CTIF has requested her report and hopes to publish it shortly. 

As late as February 2019, Uppsala University launched a European project called Batteries 2030+:

Battery 2030+ - for a green connected society, is a large-scale European research project on batteries of the future. The collaboration includes 17 partners from 9 different EU countries. The project has been selected for a year of so-called Coordination and Support Action and for various research projects within the Horizon 2020 program. Starting on March 1, 2019 and a year to come, the parties in the research collaboration will formulate the vision of how long-term research can create the batteries of the future. with ultra-high capacity, low cost and little environmental impact.

"The research that follows will be focused on the challenges that exist in creating sustainable energy storage solutions for transport and large-scale storage, but also for medical technology and portable products. Batteries are flexible and have good efficiency, but must be able to store more energy, last longer, be cheaper and environmentally friendly", says Kristina Edström, battery researcher and professor of inorganic chemistry at Uppsala University, who coordinates the large research project.

The project's focus is well in line with the EU Commission's long-term strategy for a climate-neutral Europe 2050.

Battery 2030+ brings together stakeholders from both academia and industry as well as politics and society and covers the entire value chain from minerals, materials, production, use, and recycling.

Battery 2030+ is coordinated by Professor Kristina Edström from Uppsala University and the interdisciplinary consortium includes 5 universities (Uppsala University, Politecnico di Torino, Technical University of Denmark, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, University of Münster) 8 research centers (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, French National Center for Scientific Research, Research Center Jülich, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaf, Fundacion Cidetec, National Institute of Chemistry, Slovenia, SINTEF AS), three research associations (Energy Materials Industrial Research Initiative, European Association for Storage of Energy, The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission ) and 2 companies (Abisiskey and EC Consulting).


Björn Ulfsson, CTIF Communications Coordinator


Footnote: CTIF has not yet been able to find any fire test information on the new Australian rechargable Zink Manganese battery.