“Extremely cheap battery compared to lithium-ion”

A newly developed battery could keep the lights on in low-income countries at minimal cost, helping the world meet pollution reduction goals without sacrificing modern comfort.

Tech Xplore reported that researchers at Sweden’s Linköping University have created a modest but effective battery that can be used more than 8,000 times without performance dropping below 80%.

To do this, they used zinc and lignin. Thanks to this combination, a battery with an energy density similar to lead-acid products, without harmful toxins, was created. Unlike other zinc batteries that lose charge within a few hours, a zinc-lignin product can last for about a week.

Professor of organic electronics at Linköping University, Reverend Crispin, believes the technology could prove to be a key tool as developing countries invest in their infrastructure, ensuring the reliable availability of clean energy.

“Solar panels have become relatively inexpensive and many people in low-income countries have adopted them,” Crispin said. “However, near the equator, the sun sets around 6 p.m., leaving households and businesses without power. “We hope that this battery technology… will ultimately offer a solution to situations like this.”

One of the benefits of using zinc and lignin is their affordable price.

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“Both zinc and lignin are very cheap, and the battery can be easily recycled. If you calculate the life cycle cost, it is an extremely cheap battery compared to lithium-ion batteries,” said Ziyauddin Khan, who works as a scientist at the university’s Organic Electronics Laboratory.

Lithium-ion batteries are now used to power most electric vehicles, providing a mode of transport that is kinder to the planet and lungs due to the lack of tailpipe pollution. They are also used to store renewable energy, which is crucial as the world phases out dirty fuels.

However, as detailed by the US Department of Energy, these batteries are generally more expensive and there is a risk of very rare but serious fires. Khan also pointed to human rights concerns over the mining of cobalt, a metal used in most lithium-ion batteries and mined mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Therefore, our sustainable battery represents a promising alternative where energy density is not critical,” Khan explained to Tech Xplore.

Many different zinc batteries have been around for some time, but researchers are still working to unlock their full potential.

For example, zinc-air batteries have been on the market for over 100 years, and researchers in Japan recently discovered a way to improve their stability and durability. This potentially opens the door to more environmentally friendly electric vehicle batteries, although mining materials for lithium-ion batteries is already less polluting than sourcing dirty fuels.

As Tech Xplore noted, most zinc batteries are not rechargeable and have “poor durability” due to the way zinc reacts with water in traditional electrolyte solutions.

To solve this problem, the team at Linköping used a substance called “potassium polyacrylate-based water-in-polymer electrolyte” – designed to limit the reaction.

Scientists believe that in the future they will be able to build zinc-lignin batteries similar in size to car batteries currently on the market, although producing them for large-scale use would require the partnership of a new company.

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