Batteries that are better for the environment, which can be recharged in just a few seconds without any risk of combustion. This is what Russian researchers are proposing as an alternative to today's lithium and cobalt-based devices. The experimental batteries still require further improvement in terms of overall capacity.
Ubiquitous in today's smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles, batteries manufactured from rare metals like lithium are omnipresent in our daily lives. But the environmental impact of such materials poses a number of serious problems: land contamination, health risks for those involved in mining and extraction, the exhaustion of deposits in countries where they are sourced… And that's without mentioning the vast amounts of water required to make today's batteries, provisions for their disposal and recycling, and the fact that they are potentially inflammable, which is notably the case with lithium-ion devices.
With all of this in mind, in 2016, electrochemistry researchers in Russia's St Petersburg University set to work on the creation of safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly batteries, based on novel NiSalen polymers, which they claim have the potential for high capacity performance over a wide range of temperatures and without any risk of combustion.
"These compounds can be used as a protective layer to cover the main conductor cable of the battery, which would be otherwise made of traditional lithium-ion battery materials. And secondly, they can be used as an active component of electrochemical energy storage materials," explains Professor Oleg Levin, the co-director of the research project , in a press release.
Experiments have already demonstrated that the new batteries can be recharged in only a few seconds (ten times faster than today's lithium-ion devices). However, the developers of the novel devices will have to improve their capacity by 30% to 40% if they are to effectively compete with today's lithium-ion batteries. "We are currently working to improve this indicator while maintaining the charge-discharge rate," points out Oleg Levin.
At the end of 2020, researchers at the University of Tokyo presented their work on another innovative battery project in the journal Angewandte Chemie . The Japanese scientists are developing high-energy sodium-ion batteries that may soon be more common than today's lithium devices. Scientific projects on sodium-ion batteries are also underway elsewhere in the world, notably in the United States and France.