The perfect battery? Recharges in one minute and there is no risk of fire!

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The most common type of battery is the lithium-ion battery. Several technologies are in the running to replace it.

One of the most crucial technologies for the future is the storage ofenergy. Lithium batteries have many defects, including the formation of dendrites and the risk of fire, not to mention a shortage of lithium announced for 2025. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the United States, have found the perfect solution with a battery at molten salts. Their finding was published in the journal Nature.

The researchers adopted an original approach. Their starting point was simply to choose the most abundant materials possible. They therefore opted for thealuminum to create one of electrodes. For the other, they chose the least expensive element, namely sulphur. Finally, for the electrolyte between the two electrodes, they decided to avoid all liquids volatile and flammable materials and to leave on molten salts.

An operating temperature close to boiling water

However, this type of electrolyte generally requires temperatures of several hundred degrees to remain in a liquid phase. The researchers therefore chose from molten salts that operate at the lowest possible temperature. They finally opted for an electrolyte based on chloroaluminate from sodium (NaCL-KCl-AlCl3).

By a happy coincidence, it turns out that this compound is also very effective in preventing the formation of dendrites. Like all molten salt batteries, this one works best at higher temperatures. Charging is 25 times faster at 110°C than at 25°C. This is not a problem because the battery produces enough heat during its charging and recharging cycles. In addition, this temperature poses no risk of fire or explosion because the molten salts are not flammable.

The three main ingredients of this battery: aluminum, sulfur and salt.  © Rebecca Miller

A cheap battery

Thanks to the use of abundant and inexpensive elements, the battery should cost only one sixth of the price of a lithium ion battery. The aluminum is the same as that used in aluminum foil rolls for cooking while sulfur is a waste produced by the refining from oil. ” The ingredients are cheap, and the product is safe – it can’t burn said Professor Donald Sadoway.

The scientists managed to load their prototype in just one minute. Other technologies would work better at the scale of the electrical network. However, this battery would be ideal for storing a few tens of kilowatt hours, for example the production of solar panels at home or small business level. It would also be ideal for charging stations for electric cars, thus allowing the rapid charging of several cars simultaneously without requiring work on the electrical network.

The technology is already patented and will be developed by a new company created for the occasion, called Ambri. However, before they can proceed to eventual commercialization, they must first ensure that the technology works at full battery scale and go through hundreds of recharge cycles.

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