Scientists claim to have discovered a new metal-oxide magnesium cathode material that could pave the way for batteries that pack a higher density of energy.
Led by Texas A&M University chemistry specialist Sarbajit Banerjee, the researchers said this new material could be used to create cheaper and safer high-power batteries.
In the research project, the battery technology specialists limited the location of magnesium ions and forced them into atomic positions. This process is similar to the creation of vanadium pentoxide.
According to the scientists, this process means magnesium ions can travel more freely, tapping their charge-storing capacities.
The research team’s solution takes cues from vanadium pentoxide, which is essentially another variant of ageing lithium-ion cathode materials.
Writing in a research paper, Banerjee said that the “worldwide push to advance renewable energy is limited by the availability of energy storage vectors”.
He continued: “Currently, lithium-ion technology dominates; however, the safety and long-term supply of lithium remains a serious concern.”
Banerjee added that magnesium is “more abundant than lithium” and also has a higher melting point than other materials.
“[It] forms smooth surfaces when recharging, and has the potential to deliver more than a five-fold increase in energy density if an appropriate cathode can be identified,” he said.
Banerjee has spent much of his career as a chemist exploring ion intercalation, a process involving lithium and magnesium in batteries.
“We’ve essentially reconfigured the atoms to provide a different pathway for magnesium ions to travel along, thereby obtaining a viable cathode material in which they can readily be inserted and extracted during discharging and charging of the battery,” he added.
Justin Andrews, a chemistry graduate at Texas A&M University and a research fellow at NASA, said these findings could bode for safer electronics.
“Apart from being much safer for consumer applications, magnesium-ion technology is appealing fundamentally because each magnesium ion gives up two electrons per ion – twice the charge, whereas each lithium ion gives up only one,” he said.
“This means that, all other considerations aside, if you can store as much magnesium in a material as you can store lithium, you immediately almost double the capacity of the battery.”