Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new, cheaper type of battery as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries, which are still very expensive. The new batteries are made of aluminum and sulfur, with an electrolyte of molten salt.
Considering that the production of energy from the sun and wind is developing more and more, the need for systems that will store the produced energy, during the part of the day when there is no sun and wind, is becoming greater. The importance of new batteries is particularly important for such systems, due to their economy. However, Professor Donald Sadoway from MIT states that such batteries could also be used in the automotive industry.
All three ingredients of a new battery are readily available and inexpensive. Aluminum is no different from that from which foil is made, sulfur is often a waste product from the oil refining process, and finally salt which is widely available.
Unlike lithium-ion batteries that contain flammable electrolytes, the new batteries are not flammable.
During the experiments, the battery managed to withstand hundreds of such cycles even at extremely intensive charging rates. Experiments have shown that the charging speed greatly depends on the operating temperature. At 110 degrees Celsius, the battery was charged 25 times faster than at 25 degrees Celsius.
Moreover, it was shown that the battery does not need an external heat source to maintain its operating temperature, but heat is naturally produced by its electrochemical charging and discharging.
The new battery can serve to power a single home or a small to medium-sized business, producing a capacity of several tens of kilowatt-hours of energy storage. Also, a smaller amount of aluminium-sulphur batteries could be practical for charging stations for electric vehicles, says Professor Sadoway.