Enzinc and the Navy Research lab have a unique three-dimensional (3D) zinc electrode. The research aims to bring a safer, more affordable rechargeable battery to market for electric vehicles, ebikes, and home and grid energy storage.“This breakthrough in rechargeable battery technology means that zinc has the potential to displace lithium because it is a safer, more affordable, and more readily available material,” said President and CEO of EnZinc, Michael Burz. “Large battery-powered electronics from electric vehicles to home energy storage will be able to be powered by cleaner, fully recyclable zinc-based batteries—and they’ll carry none of the fire risk of lithium-based batteries.”The report is the culmination of six years of development on a unique 3D zinc sponge structure that for the first time allows zinc, the fourth most mined metal on the planet, to be used as an anode in a rechargeable high performance battery. The 3D zinc material is inherently safe and totally recyclable, offering a number of advantages over lead acid and lithium ion batteries.
Rolison compares their sponge-like concoction to salad dressing: it contains oil and water, as well as zinc powder (which you should not put in salad dressing). They emulsify and heat-treat it. “At the end of the day, we have something you can hold in your hand,” she says; “it’s free-standing, ready to go in the battery as the anode.”
The US Naval Research Lab is partnering with a company called EnZinc to put rechargeable batteries with their zinc anode into vehicles like e-bikes.
Researchers have tried to make a rechargeable zinc anode since Edison first patented it in the 1900s. However dendrites—stalactite-like growths that short out a zinc battery when it was recharged—shortened the cycle life of zinc, limiting it to disposable batteries or complex fuel cells. This structure of this new 3D zinc anode eliminates the issue, resulting in a battery that will offer performance comparable to Li-ion batteries with a price more like lead-acid batteries. This new anode can be coupled with various cathode materials to produce a family of batteries for multiple applications ranging from electric vehicles to grid energy storage. Their work was partially funded from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency -Energy (ARPA-E) Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Program, the remaining funding from the Office of Naval Research and private funding.
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