Having replaced the heavier, single-use alkaline type in everything from wristwatches to jumbo jets, lithium-ion batteries have been a boon for the modern world.
Unfortunately, these rechargeable cells are already struggling to keep up with our ever-increasing energy needs. But a new type of aluminum-ion battery developed at Stanford University is not only less explode-y than lithium, but also can be built at a fraction of the price and recharges completely in just over a minute. Best of all, “Our new battery won’t catch fire, even if you drill through it,” Stanford chemistry professor Dai Hongjie boasted ina recent release.
Unlike earlier aluminum batteries, which generally failed after only about 100 recharge cycles, Stanford’s prototype can cycle more than 7,500 times without any capacity loss — 7.5 times longer than your average li-ion. The aluminum-ion cell isn’t perfect (yet) as it can only produce about 2 volts, far less than the 3.6V that lithium-ion an muster. Plus aluminum cells only carry 40 watts of electricity per kilogram compared to lithium’s 100 to 206 W/kg power density. “Improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage and energy density,” said Dai. “Otherwise, our battery has everything else you’d dream that a battery should have: inexpensive electrodes, good safety, high-speed charging, flexibility and long cycle life. I see this as a new battery in its early days. It’s quite exciting.”