University of Adelaide battery technology receives $1m research contract

New battery technology designed and patented by the University of Adelaide has secured a $1 million research contract with a Chinese battery manufacturer.

The new design uses non-toxic zinc and manganese, two metals that are abundant in Australia, and incombustible aqueous electrolyte to produce a battery with a high energy density.

The high energy safe battery opens up markets where the battery weight, size and safety are essential factors, including automotive and aerospace, and domestic and commercial buildings, and grid-scale energy storage.

Battery designer Dr Dongliang Chao and Prof Shi-Zhang Qiao, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials, said the potential for the technology is huge.

“I can imagine this battery being used on all vehicle types from small scooters to even diesel electric trains. Also in homes that need batteries to store solar power, or even large solar/wind farms,” he said.

“With more sustainable energy being produced – such as through wind and solar farms – storing this energy in batteries in a safe, non-expensive and environmentally sound way is becoming more urgent but current battery materials – including lithium, lead and cadmium – are expensive, hazardous and toxic.

“Our new electrolytic battery technology uses the non-toxic zinc and manganese and incombustible aqueous electrolyte to produce a battery with a high energy density. The high energy safe battery opens up markets where the battery weight/size and safety are essential factors, such as automotive and aerial vehicles, and domestic and commercial dwellings.

“In addition, the battery uses basic materials and simple manufacturing processes so will be much cheaper to produce and easier to recycle than existing batteries of comparable energy density.”

The cost of this new electrolytic Zn–Mn battery is estimated at < US$ 10 per kWh. This is significantly less than that for current Li-ion batteries of US$ 300 per kWh, Ni–Fe batteries US$ 72 per kWh, and lead–acid batteries US$ 48 per kWh.

Chinese battery manufacturer Zhuoyue Power New Energy Ltd, whose current batteries are lead-based, has committed $1 million to develop the new technology and hopes to have a product available within 12 months.

This project focusses on a combination of the new electrolytic battery technology and the company’s battery assembling technology.