US energy technology firm EnZinc has teamed up with the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to develop a new rechargeable three-dimensional (3D) zinc electrode, which it aims to bring to market by the end of 2019.
The six-year project developed a unique 3D zinc sponge structure that for the first time allows zinc to be used as an anode in a rechargeable battery. The firm claims, “The 3D zinc material is inherently safe and totally recyclable”.
This new anode can be coupled with various cathode materials to produce a family of batteries for multiple applications ranging from electric vehicles to grid energy storage, “offering a number of advantages over lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries”, says EnZinc.
The result of the research has been published in Science magazine.
Michael Burz, CEO of EnZinc, said the new batteries will “be 30 to 50% cheaper than comparable lithium-ion systems… but at the cost of lead-acid batteries.”
Zinc-based batteries do not pose the same fire risk linked with lithium-ion batteries. “There is a navy and a broader military concern with the safety of lithium-ion batteries — on soldiers, on sailors, on platforms,” says Debra Rolison, head of the advanced electrochemical materials section at the NRL in Washington, DC, and one of the researchers involved in the zinc breakthrough.
Laboratory tests have demonstrated that the performance of nickel-zinc alkaline cells using the 3D structure could reach over 90% theoretical depth of discharge in primary cells.