The scarcity of cobalt and lithium is undebatable. That has been a challenge since they are essential components of modern batteries. With people transforming towards a zero-emission globe, the demand for modern batteries will only increase significantly because of electric vehicles. That’s why researchers saw the need to look for another alternative for this rare commodity.
Fortunately, the Journal of Materials Chemistry dated 7th Dec showed that finding an alternative could be around the corner. According to the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, there is one material that stands a chance to substitute lithium. The institution’s materials scientists say that fluorine has the potential. The element is light and exists in abundance compared to lithium.
Despite fluorine being a possible substitute for lithium, the difference between the ions of the two makes the possibility intriguing. Fluoride ion has stronger attractions for electrons than the lithium-ion. Therefore, the former makes electrochemical reactions easier than the former does.
Even before the publication, similar things were happening. For instance, Japanese researchers are testing if fluoride-ion batteries can replace lithium-ion batteries in powering vehicles. From the various tests so far, if the fluorine-ion batteries were to be used, a single charge would be enough to drive an electric car up to 621 miles equivalent to 1,000 km. The only problem with the fluorite ion batteries is the pathetic cyclability. Charging and discharging cycles could see them degrade quite fast.
Fortunately, other researchers are working on how to save the cyclability problem. They are Rohan Mishra and Steven Harman. The two are working on a new design of the fluoride-ion batteries. They have already identified two materials that would gain and lose gain fluoride ions quickly without much structural modification. Consequently, cyclability will improve.
According to the mechanical engineering & materials science assistant professor Rohan Mishra, the pair of materials are layered electrides. The knowledge of their existence having been there for about half a century. However, much wasn’t known about them until around 15 years ago. He added that the electrides conducts electrons just like ordinary metals. However, there is not even a single test carried out on the identified electrides in prototype batteries.
It is not the first time that McKelvey School of Engineering is conducting battery research. A previous one by its assistant professor Peng Bai can help somebody approximate a battery’s current density threshold. It also makes precise prediction of short circuit time if the current density is known.
On the other hand, Jason He carried out a study on lithium-ion batteries. Its focus was on making lithium cobalt oxide and other useful compounds by adding spent electrodes to the batteries electrochemically. As for Vijay Ramani, he has even received funding to continue researching on long, grid-scale energy storage.