This article needs to be updated.(October 2019)
Aluminium-ion batteries are a class of rechargeable battery in which aluminium ions provide energy by flowing from the positive electrode of the battery, the anode, to the negative electrode, the cathode. When recharging, aluminium ions return to the negative electrode, and can exchange three electrons per ion. This means that insertion of one Al3+ is equivalent to three Li+ ions in conventional intercalation cathodes. Thus, since the ionic radii of Al3+ (0.54 Å) and Li+ (0.76 Å) are similar, significantly higher models of electrons and Al3+ ions can be accepted by the cathodes without much pulverization. The trivalent charge carrier, Al3+ is both the advantage and disadvantage of this battery. While transferring 3 units of charge by one ion significantly increases the energy storage capacity, the electrostatic intercalation of the host materials with a trivalent cation is too strong for well-defined electrochemical behaviour.
Rechargeable aluminium-based batteries offer the possibilities of low cost and low flammability, together with three-electron-redox properties leading to high capacity. The inertness of aluminum and the ease of handling in an ambient environment is expected to offer significant safety improvements for this kind of battery. In addition, aluminum possesses a higher volumetric capacity than Li, K, Mg, Na, Ca and Zn owing to its high density (2.7 g/cm3 at 25 °C) and ability to exchange three electrons. This again means that the energy stored in aluminum-batteries on a per volume basis is higher than that in other metal-based batteries. Hence, aluminum-batteries are expected to be smaller in size. Al-ion batteries also have a higher number of charge-discharge cycles. Thus, Al-ion batteries have the potential to replace Li-ion batteries.
Like all other batteries, the basic structure of aluminium-ion batteries includes two electrodes connected by an electrolyte, an ionically (but not electrically) conductive material acting as a medium for the flow of charge carriers. Unlike lithium-ion batteries, where the mobile ion is Li+, aluminum forms a complex with chloride in most electrolytes and generates an anionic mobile charge carrier, usually AlCl4− or Al2Cl7−.
The amount of energy or power that a battery can release is dependent on factors including the battery cell's voltage, capacity and chemical composition. A battery can maximize its energy output levels by:
- Increasing chemical potential difference between the two electrodes
- Reducing the mass of reactants
- Preventing the electrolyte from being modified by the chemical reactions
This section may be confusing or unclear to readers. (April 2019)
Anode half reaction:
Cathode half reaction:
Combining the two half reactions yields the following reaction:
Aluminium-ion batteries are conceptually similar to lithium-ion batteries, but possess an aluminum anode instead of a lithium anode. While the theoretical voltage for aluminium-ion batteries is lower than lithium-ion batteries, 2.65 V and 4 V respectively, the theoretical energy density potential for aluminium-ion batteries is 1060 Wh/kg in comparison to lithium-ion's 406 Wh/kg limit.
Today's lithium ion batteries have high power density (fast discharge) and high energy density (hold a lot of charge). They can also develop dendrites, similar to splinters, that can short-circuit a battery and lead to a fire. Aluminum also transfers energy more efficiently. Inside a battery, atoms of the element — lithium or aluminum — give up some of their electrons, which flow through external wires to power a device. Because of their atomic structure, lithium ions can only provide one electron at a time; aluminum can give three at a time. Aluminum is also more abundant than lithium, lowering material costs.
Aluminium-ion batteries have a relatively short shelf life. The combination of heat, rate of charge, and cycling can dramatically decrease energy capacity. One of the primary reasons for this short shelf life is the fracture of the traditional graphite anode, the Al ions being far larger than the Li ions used in conventional battery systems. When metal ion batteries are fully discharged, they can no longer be recharged. Ionic electrolytes, while improving safety and the long term stability of the devices by minimizing corrosion, are expensive to manufacture and purchase and may therefore be unsuited to the mass production of Al ion devices. In addition, current breakthroughs are only in limited laboratory settings, where a lot more work needs to be done on scaling up the production for use in commercial settings.
This section focuses too much on specific examples without explaining their importance to its main subject. (July 2019)
Various research teams are experimenting with aluminium and other chemical compounds to produce the most efficient, long lasting, and safe battery.
In 2021, researchers announced a cell that used a 3D structured anode in which layers of aluminum accumulate evenly on interwoven carbon fibers. structure via covalent bonding as the battery is charged. The much thicker anode features much faster kinetics. The prototype operated for 10k cycles without signs of failure.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Around 2010, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) developed and patented a high energy density device, producing 1,060 watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg). ORNL used an ionic electrolyte, instead of the typical aqueous electrolyte which can produce hydrogen gas during operation and corrode the aluminium anode. The electrolyte was made of 3-ethyl-1-methylimidazolium chloride with excess aluminium trichloride. However, ionic electrolytes are less conductive, reducing power density. Reducing anode/cathode separation can offset the limited conductivity, but causes heating. ORNL devised a cathode made up of spinel manganese oxide further reducing corrosion.
In April 2015 researchers at Stanford University claimed to have developed an aluminum-ion battery with a recharge time of about one minute (for an unspecified battery capacity). Their cell provides about 2 volts, 4 volts if connected in a series of two cells. The prototype lasted over 7,500 charge-discharge cycles with no loss of capacity.
The battery was made of an aluminum anode, liquid electrolyte, isolation foam, and a graphite cathode. During the charging process, AlCl4− ions intercalate among the graphene stacked layers. While discharging, AlCl4− ions rapidly de-intercalate through the graphite. The cell displayed high durability, withstanding more than 10,000 cycles without a capacity decay. The cell was stable, nontoxic, bendable and nonflammable.
In 2016, the lab tested these cells through collaborating with Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to power a motorbike using an expensive electrolyte. In 2017, a urea-based electrolyte was tested that was about 1% of the cost of the 2015 model. The battery exhibits ∼99.7% Coulombic efficiency and a rate capability of at a cathode capacity of (1.4 C).
In June 2015, the High Specific Energy Aluminium-Ion Rechargeable Batteries for Decentralized Electricity Generation Sources (ALION) project was launched by a consortium of materials and component manufacturers and battery assemblers as a European Horizon 2020 project led by the LEITAT research institute. The project objective is to develop a prototype Al-ion battery that could be used for large-scale storage from decentralized sources. The project sought to achieve an energy density of 400 Wh/kg, a voltage of 48 volts and a charge-discharge life of 3000 cycles.
In May 2019, the project came to an end and published its final results. The project showed that the high power and cycling performance of Al-ion made it an appealing alternative. Proposed applications included lead–acid batteries in uninterruptible power supplies, telecommunications and grid energy storage. 3D printing of the battery packs allowed for large Al-ion cells developed, with voltages ranging from 6 to 72 volts.
In 2011 at Cornell University, a research team used the same electrolyte as ORNL, but used vanadium oxide nanowires for the cathode. Vanadium oxide displays an open crystal structure, allowing greater surface area for an aluminium structure and reduces the path between cathode and anode, maximizing energy output levels. The device produced a large output voltage during operation. However, the battery had a low coulombic efficiency.
University Of Maryland
In 2016, a University of Maryland team reported a rechargeable aluminium/sulfur battery that utilizes a sulfur/carbon composite as the cathode material. The chemistry is able to provide a theoretical energy density of 1340 Wh/kg. The team made a prototype cell that demonstrated energy density of 800 Wh/kg for over 20 cycles.
Queensland University of Technology
In 2017, researchers at Clemson Nanomaterials Institute used a graphene electrode to intercalate tetrachloroaluminate (AlCl−
4). The team constructed batteries with aluminum anodes, pristine or modified few-layer graphene cathodes, and an ionic liquid with AlCl3 salt as the electrolyte. They claimed that the battery can operate over 10,000 cycles with an energy density of 200 Wh/kg.
Zhejiang University Department of Polymer Science
In December 2017 a team, led by professor Gao Chao, from Department of Polymer Science and Engineering of Zhejiang University, announced the design of a battery using graphene films as cathode and metallic aluminium as anode.
The 3H3C (Trihigh Tricontinuous) design results in a graphene film cathode with excellent electrochemical properties. Liquid crystal graphene formed a highly oriented structure. High temperature annealing under pressure produced a high quality and high channelling graphene structure. Claimed properties:
- Retained 91.7 percent of original capacity after 250k cycles.
- 1.1 second charge time.
- Temperature range: -40 to 120 C.
- Current capacity: 111 mAh/g, 400 A/g
- Bendable and non-flammable.
- Low energy density
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