Research team develops aluminum-ion battery

SAFER::The newly developed battery is unlikely to catch fire even if its casing cracks, as aluminum oxidizes at a slow rate, professor of chemistry Chen Chia-chun said

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Mar 04, 2017 - Page 3

Leading science journal Nature Communications has published an article on a “low-cost, highly energy-efficient” aluminum battery developed by an international research team led by National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) professor Chen Chia-chun (陳家俊), the university said yesterday.

Chen, a professor of chemistry, said that his team set out to search for an alternative to lithium-ion batteries widely used in mobile devices and electric cars, which he said have become expensive due to increasing demand.

It is a “clear trend” that companies have been seeking other materials to replace lithium when making batteries, he said.

As aluminum is the most ubiquitous element on the planet, an aluminum-ion battery would be remarkably cheaper than lithium-ion ones, he said, adding that the battery is paper-thin, flexible and therefore space-saving.

The aluminum-ion battery also has a longer lifespan, he said.

“Each aluminum atom releases three electrons during the same unit time one electron is released by a lithium atom, making them three times as efficient as lithium-ion batteries,” he said.

The aluminum-ion battery is also more stable than lithium-ion batteries, which are prone to catch fire, and safer than lead-acid batteries, which are toxic, he said.

“Aluminum oxidizes much more slowly than lithium, so even if the battery is cracked and the aluminum comes into contact with oxygen and water, it is less likely to catch fire,” he said.

The battery was jointly developed by Chen, former NTNU assistant professor of chemistry Wang Diyan (王迪彥), Stanford University professor of chemistry Hongjie Dai and National Taiwan University of Science and Technology professor of chemical engineering Hwang Bing Joe (黃炳照) using funds allocated for the Ministry of Education’s “Race to Top Universities” initiative.

The battery has enough output to power mobile devices and, theoretically, electric cars, Chen said.

The team has established a company in San Francisco near the Silicon Valley in a bid to identify niche markets for the product.

The research was published in the Feb. 13 edition of Nature Communications.