on April 20th, 2016

Another day, another battery. Lately, all the battery news out there is about lithium-ion and how it is going to be our saving grace in the world of saving energy and producing clean energy in the world of today. However, lithium-ion production isn't as safe as most people think, so a safer alternative is always being looked for and researched. 

A team of engineers from the US Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the Department of Energy  has found that using zinc-manganese could lead to an "inexpensive" rechargeable battery. According to NewElectronicsUK, it would be as inexpensive as a car battery. 

Jun Liu, one of the engineers working with the team said, "The idea of a rechargeable zinc-manganese battery isn't new; researchers have been studying them as an inexpensive, safe alternative lithium-ion batteries since the late 1990s. But these batteries usually stop working after just a few charges. Our research suggests these failures could have occurred because we failed to control chemical equilibrium in rechargeable zinc-manganese energy storage systems." 

EIT Stock Image Credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Could it replace lithium-ion as the next battery to trust with our future of producing clean energy? Unlikely due to the amount of money being invested into lithium-ion. Tesla has just built their lithium-ion producing factory in Nevada, and we assume that they wouldn't throw their money behind lithium-ion if they haven't investigated and estimated what other batteries might have made their way to the market in the near future. 

However, in terms of safety, there have been some reports that the first wave of energy storage units that are being installed in houses are not as safe as customers would like to think they are. 

Moreover, when the  Pacific Northwest National Laboratory teamed up with the University of Washington, to put their zinc-manganese batteries through the same tests lithium-ion batteries went through they discovered something interesting. It didn't follow the same processes lithium-ion goes through. 

According to Science Daily:

Instead of simply moving the zinc ions around, their zinc-manganese oxide battery was undergoing a reversible chemical reaction that converted its active materials into entirely new ones

The team thinks they might be able to produce an efficient battery by continuing their research into zinc-manganese oxide batteries. 

After a few more tests with some added manganese ions to electrolytes in multiple test batteries, the results were conclusive for Jin Liu. He said: "This research shows equilibrium needs to be controlled during a chemical conversion reaction to improve zinc-manganese oxide battery performance. As a result, zinc manganese oxide batteries could be a more viable solution for large-scale energy storage than the lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries used to support the grid today."


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