There’s hope for better batteries

David Prendergast, Berkeley LabScientists at Berkeley Lab think there’s light at the end of the tunnel as people quest to develop better alternatives to lithium ion batteries.

The problem with Li-ion batteries is that they sometimes burst into flames but we need rechargeable batteries with better energy density and cost reductions.

After running a series of simulations on supercomputers, David Prendergast and Liwen Wan (pictured) think a battery based on a multivalent ion, like magnesium (Mg), may well be the answer.

They think that an Mg-ion battery can provide twice the electrical current of Li-ions with the same density.  There have been problems with Mg-ion batteries but the scientists think that the problems aren’t insuperable.

“The catch for multivalent ions is that their increased charge draws more attention to them – they become surrounded in the battery’s electrolyte by other oppositely charged ions and solvent molecules – which can slow down their motion and create energetic penalties to exiting the electrolye for the electrodes. However, we found the problem may be less dire than is widely believed,” said Prendergast.

He said the simulations show that performance bottlenecks in Mg-ion batteries are related to what happens at the interface between the electrolyte and electrodes.

Essentially, Mg-ion based batteries are not as tricky as manufacturers might think as a result of the Berkeley Lab findings.