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Progress towards aluminum-ion batteries

By Paul Grad |

Compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries, aluminum-ion batteries (AIBs) offer significant advantages, such as non-flammability, and a high capacity of the metallic Al anode. However, due to inadequate cathodic performance, especially capacity, high-rate capability and cycle life, AlBs cannot compete with Li-ion batteries and supercapacitors. The energy density of AIBs (40–60 Wh/kg) is much lower than that of commercialized Li-ion batteries (150–250 Wh/kg), and AlBs’ power density (3–30 kW/kg) and cycle life (200–25,000 cycles) are lower than those of advanced supercapacitors (30–100 kW/kg and 10,000–100,000 cycles).

The following four basic requirements should be fulfilled simultaneously for a desired carbon-based cathode: 1) Highly crystallized defect-free graphene lattice as an active anion intercalation site affording suitable energy storage capacities; 2) Continuous electron-conducting matrix for large current transport and internal polarization mitigation; 3) High mechanical strength and Young’s modulus to prevent material collapsing during repeated anion intercalation and de-intercalation; and 4) Interconnected channels facilitating high electrolyte permeability, ion diffusion and fast redox reactions between electrolyte and active material.

To find a new design to upgrade the cathode performance of AIBs, a team from Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, China;, led by professor Gao Chao, has proposed a “tri-high tri-continuous (3H3C) design” to achieve the ideal graphene film (GF-HC) with good electrochemical performance.

Ordered assembling of graphene liquid crystal led to a highly oriented structure, satisfying requirement Number 3 mentioned above. High-temperature annealing and concomitant “gas pressure” contributed to the good quality and yet high-channeling graphene structure that met Requirements 1, 2 and 4.

Due to its targeted 3H3C design, the resulting aluminum-graphene battery achieved ultralong cycle life (91.7% retention after 250,000 cycles), high-rate capability (111 mAh/g at 400 A/g based on the cathode), wide operating temperature range (from –40 to 120°C), flexibility and non-flammability.

However, Gao says, the AIB cannot yet compete with commonly used Li-ion batteries in terms of energy density, or the amount of power that can be stored in the battery. It is still too costly to make such a battery, Chao says. He adds that commercial production of the battery can only become possible when a less-expensive electrolyte is found.

The results of the study were published in a recent issue of Science Advances.

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