January 04, 2019

Researchers from the University of Houston and the Toyota Research Institute of America have discovered a promising new version of high-energy magnesium batteries, with potential applications ranging from electric vehicles to battery storage for renewable energy systems.
The battery, reported Dec. 21 in Joule, is the first reported to operate with limited electrolytes while using an organic electrode, a change the researchers said allows it to store and discharge far more energy than earlier magnesium batteries. They used a chloride-free electrolyte, another change from the traditional electrolyte used by magnesium batteries, which enabled the discovery.
Yan Yao, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UH, said the researchers were able to confirm that chloride in the commonly used electrolyte contributes to sluggish performance. “The problem we were trying to address is the impact of chloride,” he said. “It’s universally used.”
Scientists have spent decades searching for a high-energy magnesium battery, hoping to take advantage of the natural advantages that magnesium has over lithium, the element used in standard lithium ion batteries. Magnesium is far more common and therefore less expensive, and it’s not prone to breaches in its internal structure – known as dendrites – that can cause lithium batteries to explode and catch fire.
But magnesium batteries won’t be commercially competitive until they can store and discharge large amounts of energy. Yao said previous cathode and electrolyte materials have been a stumbling block.
The cathode is the electrode from which the current flows in a battery, while the electrolytes are the medium through which the ionic charge flows between cathode and anode. (Source: University of Houston)