Anode-free zinc battery that can store renewable energy someday

Sincerely: American Chemical Society

Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, can help reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. But first, electricity companies need a safe, cost-effective way to store energy for later use. Large-scale lithium-ion batteries may work, but they suffer from safety issues and limited lithium availability. Now, researchers reporting to ACS Nano letters A prototype of anode-free, zinc-based batteries has been made that uses low-cost, naturally abundant materials.

Aqueous-based batteries were first discovered for grid-scale energy storage because of their safety and high energy density. In addition, the material used to make them is naturally abundant. However, the hitherto developed rechargeable zinc batteries require a thick zinc metal anode, which contains a large amount of zinc which increases the cost. In addition, anode zinc is prone to forming metal dendrites – crystalline projections that accumulate at the anode during charging – that can short-circuit the battery. Eunepi Zhu, Yi Cui, and Hussam Alsharif wondered if a zinc anode was really needed. Taking inspiration from previous explorations of “anode-free” lithium and sodium-metal batteries, the researchers decided to create a battery in which the zinc-rich cathode is the only source for zinc plating on the current collector of copper.

In their batteries, researchers used a manganese dioxide cathode that they pre-interconnected with zinc ions, an aqueous zinc trifluoromethanesulfanate electrolyte solution, and a copper foil current collector. During charging, the zinc metal is mounted on copper foil, and the metal is stripped during discharge, powering the battery. To prevent dendrites from forming, the researchers coated the copper current collector with a layer of carbon nanodiscs. This layer promoted uniform zinc plating, preventing dendrites, and increasing the efficiency of zinc plating and stripping. The battery showed high efficiency, energy density and stability, maintaining 62.8% of its storage capacity after 80 charges and cycling. The anode-free battery design opens up new directions for using aqueous zinc-based batteries in energy storage systems, the researchers say.

New nanostructured alloy for anode is a major step towards revolutionizing energy storage

more information:
Eunepi Zhu et al. Anode-free Zn-MnO2 Battery. Nano letters. January 20, 2021. DOI: 10.1021 / acs.nanolett.0c04519

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