Collaboration of Chinese and British Scientists Design Innovative Salt-Based Battery

Scientists used nanotechnology to develop a superior salt-based battery that boasts of better stability, cost-effectiveness than lithium-ion batteries


Credit: Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

A consortium of scientists from the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics and Nottingham University, UK have designed a new salt-based battery that can potentially extend the range of electric vehicles. Currently, electric vehicles are powered by lithium-ion batteries. Although they are rechargeable, they lose energy over time which negatively impacts their long-term efficacy. Lithium-ion batteries are prone to overheating and under certain conditions, this interferes with charging performance and mileage.

Given the limitations of lithium-ion batteries, researchers around the world have been trying to develop innovative batteries. This breakthrough achieved by Chinese and British researchers, however, is the first successful attempt to develop a feasible battery design. By combining a solid-oxide fuel cell and a metal-air battery, researchers claim that the resulting battery can store and discharge power equivalent to a lithium-ion battery but more safely and cheaply.

So far, both solid-oxide fuel cells and metal-air batteries have their own shortcomings. Solid-oxide fuel cells are not rechargeable and metal-air batteries are not as durable as lithium-ion batteries. With this current attempt, researchers have successfully enhanced the energy storage, power capacity and life-cycle of a battery by using salt as an electrolyte for electric conductivity. While salt has immense advantages, it also poses serious challenges in battery operation conditions. Professor George Chen, who leads a molten salt electrolysis laboratory at Nottingham University, said: “In extreme heat, molten salt can be aggressively corrosive, volatile, and evaporate or leak, which is challenging to the safety and stability of battery design. There was an urgent need to fine-tune these electrolyte characteristics for better battery performance and enable its future use in electric transport.”

Researchers have found a way to navigate this by using nanotechnology to convert molten salt into soft-solid salt, which provides increased stability during electrolysis. Researchers have concluded that this technology will revolutionize the way batteries are designed. Professor Chen added: “The modified molten salt metal-air battery has potential applications in new markets, including electric transport and renewable energy, which requires storage solutions in homes and at grid-level. The battery can store solar heat and electricity, which is desirable for both domestic and industrial energy needs. These batteries are currently used in Spain and China at large scale to capture and store solar heat, which is then converted to electricity.”