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University of Waterloo chemists develop zinc-ion battery for grid energy storage

Chemists at the University of Waterloo in Canada have developed a zinc-ion battery for grid energy storage. The new battery, which costs half the price of existing lithium-ion batteries, could help allow communities to move to renewable solar and wind energy generation from traditional power plants.It utilizes non-flammable, non-toxic materials and a pH-neutral, water-based salt.The battery also features a water-based electrolyte, a pillared vanadium oxide positive electrode and a metallic zinc negative electrode.Electricity in the battery is generated through a reversible process known as intercalation. Positively charged zinc-ions are oxidised from the negative electrode of zinc metal and travel through the electrolyte and insert between the layers of vanadium oxide, which creates an electrical current. The process is reversed on charge.According to the research team, this is the first time that zinc ion intercalation in a solid state material has been demonstrated. The new technology satisfies four important criteria which include high reversibility, rate and capacity with no zinc dentrite formation.The team says that the battery can last for more than 1000 cycles with 80% energy retention and estimates the energy density to be around 450 watt hours (Wh)per litre.University of Waterloo, Department of Chemistry Research Professor Linda Nazar said: “The worldwide demand for sustainable energy has triggered a search for a reliable, low-cost way to store it.“The aqueous zinc-ion battery we’ve developed is ideal for this type of application because it’s relatively inexpensive and it’s inherently safe.”According to an estimate by the research team, global market for energy storage is expected to grow to $25bn in the next decade. The use of zinc-ion batteries can be beneficial for manufacturers as it can lower the cost of production because materials will no longer be need to handle under special conditions.

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