So far in this modern technological world of ours, lithium-ion batteries with its superior power to be rechargeable have become standard of the industry while an alkaline battery in an electric vehicles, personal computers and smartphones has been viewed as impossible.
Alkaline batteries are somewhat limited in their capacity to be recharged, actually cannot be recharged at all. It is only usually used in small devices such as flashlights, battery-operated toys and remote controls. It has been the staple energy source for years now but its potential is cut down by its own chemical properties.
On the other hand, a startup company claims it has “unlocked” the secret to safer, more powerful alkaline batteries with a solid-state variant and proposes the potential to industrial revolution of energy usage.
Ionic Materials located in Woburn, Massachusetts, announced a breakthrough in the usage of alkaline batteries a viable alternative to lithium-ion and other high-energy storage technologies. Alkaline batteries are far cheaper and safe than lithium-ion batteries.
According to The New York Times, Ionic has developed a solid-state alkaline battery that can be recharged hundreds of times and does not carry the combustion risks of some lithium-ion battery chemistries. The manufacturing process of the newly-developed prototype is similar to that of a plastic wrap.
Ionic has demonstrated up to 400 recharge cycles of its prototypes and with further innovation, the executives of the company believe it could be more than that.
Mike Zimmerman, founder and chief executive officer of Ionic Materials, said that the alkaline batteries would initially be heavier than today’s lithium-ion batteries. But the former is more cost-effective and has the ability to store more energy.
Besides than the price and safety, alkaline batteries use zinc and manganese which is relatively abundant on earth until now compared to lithium-ion batteries which use cobalt. Cobalt mines leave behind a toxic mess and comes with a human cost too. For example, cobalt mines in Africa have been accused of child labor.
Compared to the fast advances in processing speed and data storage capacity, progress has been slow for battery technology. In the last 150 years, only a handful of rechargeable battery chemistries have reached mass adoption.
Tesla is now building a factory in Nevada in partnership with Panasonic. They intend to expand the capacity of lithium-ion batteries and at lower costs. They wanted to create enough capacity to produce batteries for 1.5 million cars a year.
According to some analysts, they believe that new facilities and technology from auto and battery manufacturers will help bring the costs down for lithium-ion production. But it still doesn’t reach the goals of the industry.
In contrast, Ionic said they have found a way to achieve reduced costs for energy production which is less than a fifth of the auto consortium’s target.
They also described a solid material that would improve the safety of existing lithium-ion batteries. It has demonstrated the resistance of the battery to catching fire or exploding by driving nails through them and even resistant to bullets that are fired at it.
Ionic Materials will make its announcement in Denver, Colorado at a conference for the 35th anniversary of Rocky Mountain Institute, a sustainable-energy research group funded by the physicist and environmentalist Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins.