Revolutionary Aluminum Radical Battery Offers Enhanced Sustainable Energy Solutions

Australian and Chinese researchers are jointly pioneering the development of the world’s inaugural safe and highly efficient non-toxic aqueous aluminum radical battery. The collaborative teams hailing from Flinders University in South Australia and Zhejiang Sci-Tech University in China have unveiled their pioneering work in a recent publication within the esteemed Journal of American Chemistry, the flagship periodical of the American Chemical Society.

In stark contrast to conventional batteries, which often contain hazardous materials that can wreak havoc on the environment during disposal, this groundbreaking innovation seeks to eliminate such risks. Toxic substances like lead, cadmium, and mercury, notorious for endangering both people and wildlife while contaminating ecosystems, linger in the environment for prolonged periods.

The research, spearheaded by Dr. Kai Zhang of Zhejiang Sci-Tech University and Associate Professor Zhongfan Jia’s research lab at Flinders University, focuses on the electrochemistry of stable radicals within the widely employed Lewis acid electrolyte (Al(Otf)3) and battery testing. The result is the inception of aluminum radical batteries featuring water-based electrolytes. These batteries are not only fire-resistant and air-stable but also consistently deliver a stable voltage output of 1.25 V, accompanied by an impressive capacity of 110 mAh g–1 over 800 charging cycles, with only a minimal 0.028% loss per cycle.

Professor Zhongfan Jia, a luminary in Flinders University’s College of Science and Engineering, envisions a future where biodegradable materials are integrated into the development of soft-pack batteries, thus ensuring both the safety and sustainability of the product.

Distinguished by their utilization of abundant Earth crust elements, such as Al3+, Zn2+, or Mg2+, multivalent metal ion batteries offer considerably higher energy density compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), as emphasized by Professor Jia. Notably, aluminum-ion batteries (AIBs) have garnered significant interest due to the abundance of aluminum, constituting the third most prevalent element (8.1%) on Earth, thereby rendering AIBs a potentially cost-effective and sustainable energy storage solution.

However, a prominent challenge facing current AIBs pertains to the sluggish movement of Al3+ ion complexes, which results in AIBs with limited cathode efficiency. Although organic conjugated polymers have emerged as potential cathode materials for AIBs to address this ion transport issue, their battery voltage output performance has remained lackluster.

Intriguingly, stable radicals represent a class of organic electroactive molecules that have found wide application across various organic battery systems. This revolutionary concept was first introduced to the market by NEC® in 2012. Previously, the Jia Lab at Flinders University had successfully developed radical materials for organic hybrid LIBs, sodium-ion batteries, and all-organic batteries. However, these radical materials had not been applied to AIBs owing to a dearth of understanding regarding their electrochemical reactions within electrolytes.

Funding for this groundbreaking research was generously provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Australian Research Council.

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