Bendable Aluminum-Ion Batteries Can Be Fully Charged in Just One Minute

A new type of battery (for mobile devices and beyond) that's being developed now at Stanford University in the United States is bendable, a lot safer than Li-Ion ones, inexpensive, long-lasting, and can be fully charged in just one minute! Talk about an almost perfect pack, right?

Aluminum Ion Battery

"We have developed a rechargeable Aluminum-Ion battery that may replace existing storage devices, such as alkaline batteries, which are bad for the environment, and lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally burst into flames," shared Mr. Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. “Our new battery won’t catch fire, even if you drill through it.”

According to Stanford, Aluminum has long been an attractive element to use for batteries, mainly because of it is low cost, has low flammability and has high-charge storage capacity. For decades, however, researchers have tried unsuccessfully to develop a commercially viable Aluminum-Ion battery. A key challenge has been finding materials capable of producing sufficient voltage after repeated cycles of charging and discharging.

The university's aluminum-ion battery consists of two electrodes: A negatively charged anode made of aluminum and a positively charged cathode -- and proper choice of the complementary material what made it work. "People have tried different kinds of materials for the cathode,” Mr. Dai noted. "We accidentally discovered that a simple solution is to use graphite, which is basically carbon. In our study, we identified a few types of graphite material that give us very good performance"

"For the experimental battery, the Stanford team placed the aluminum anode and graphite cathode, along with an ionic liquid electrolyte, inside a flexible polymer-coated pouch. The electrolyte is basically a salt that’s liquid at room temperature, so it’s very safe,” said Stanford graduate student Ming Gong, co-lead author of the nature study.

Aluminum Ion Battery
Al-Ion batteries can certainly charge smartphones but they're not quite as powerful as Li-Ion packs just yet; To be specific, the former just has half the voltage of the latter. Nonetheless, the researchers said that improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage and energy density of Al-Ion packs. It's not quite there yet but with enough supporting research and breakthroughs, Al-Ion can actually become the standard battery of gadgets in the future.

“In our study, we have videos showing that you can drill through the aluminum battery pouch, and it will continue working for a while longer without catching fire. But lithium batteries can go off in an unpredictable manner – in the air, the car or in your pocket. Besides safety, we have achieved major breakthroughs in aluminum-battery performance," Mr. Dai noted.

One such breakthrough is ultra-fast charging. Compared to Lithium-Ion batteries that it can take hours to fully charge Stanford's Aluminum-Ion pack has an unprecedented '100% charging time' of just one minute!

Durability is another factor that's very important. Aluminum batteries developed at other laboratories usually die after just 100 charge-discharge cycles. In stark contrast, the Stanford Al-Ion battery was able to withstand more than 7,500 cycles without any loss of capacity! “This was the first time an ultra-fast aluminum-ion battery was constructed with stability over thousands of cycles,” the authors wrote. By comparison, a typical lithium-ion battery lasts about 1,000 cycles. [source]

Another feature of the aluminum battery is flexibility. You can fold and bend it - any which way you like. Hence, it has the potential for use in flexible electronic devices like - who knows - Samsung's Folding Smartphone. Economics-wise, Aluminum is also cheaper than Lithium.

Considering all the cool things about Al-Ion battery that we're seeing so far, I'm really hoping that a big manufacturer would take on the challenge of making it better and mass producing it for use on upcoming handsets, tablets, and wearables. Heck, if it's that great, I want it on all future gadgets -- even those that are still being developed. All consumers deserve to enjoy the benefits of an innovation that's as ground-breaking as this. If you ask me, this could be a big leap forward in terms of the way humanity uses energy.