A research team at Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) established by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology has now developed an electrolyte that may be used for the construction of magnesium-sulfur battery cells.

The element magnesium is a another light metal offering very high theoretical battery capacity. Moreover magnesium is abundant in nature, it is non-toxic, and does not degrade in the atmosphere.

Magnesium Sulfur Battery Cathode Electron Microscopy Composite.  Image Credit: HIU, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.  Click image for the largest view.

Magnesium Sulfur Battery Cathode Electron Microscopy Composite. Image Credit: HIU, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Click image for the largest view.

In many electrical devices, lithium-ion and metal-hydride batteries are used for energy storage. While lithium is a very good metallic base for batteries alternatives are under study because lithium batteries as good as they are not a perfect solution.

Scientists are also studying alternatives to these established battery systems in order to enhance the safety, cost efficiency, sustainability, and performance of future devices. It is their objective to replace lithium by other elements. For this purpose, all battery components have to be newly developed and the understanding of the operating electrochemical processes is required.

Magnesium-based battery cells can be considered an attractive option to replace lithium in batteries. In principle, magnesium allows higher storage densities to be reached than lithium. Other advantages of magnesium are its relative abundance in nature, its also non-toxic in most forms, and it has low degradation in air in contrast to lithium. So far, progress achieved in this area has been limited. For the design of magnesium batteries of high storage capacity and power density, suitable electrolytes are needed that can be easy to produced, that are stable, and can be used in high concentrations in different solvents.

A research team at HIU headed by Maximilian Fichtner and Zhirong Zhao-Karger has presented a new promising electrolyte in the journal Advanced Energy Materials that might allow for the development of an entirely new generation of batteries.

The new electrolyte is characterized by a number of promising properties. It possesses an unprecedented electrochemical stability window and a very high efficiency. In addition, the electrolyte can be used in various solvents and at high concentrations. Moreover, the electrolyte is chemically compatible with a sulfur cathode, which can be discharged at a voltage close to the theoretical value.

Fichtner explained that another advantage is the very simple production of the electrolyte. “Two commercially available standard chemicals, a magnesium amide and aluminium chloride, are applied. They are added to the solvent desired and subjected to stirring. This simple mixture can then be used directly as an electrolyte in the battery,” he said.

Building the magnesium sulfur battery electrolyte solution using a two-step reaction in one-pot is for now a laboratory process. There is a very long way to go with questions adding up fast for which its too soon for many good answers.

But for now, a magnesium sulfur battery electrolyte is working and getting tested with more interest and innovation sure to be on its way.


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