Zinc-air batteries (ZABs) are known to have great potential when it comes to next-generation battery technologies due to several inherent advantages. The most noteworthy are their unique half-open structures, flexible electrodes, an intrinsically aqueous electrolyte, and a substantial theoretical energy density. Furthermore, compared to other materials used in batteries, Zinc (Zn) is present in abundance and causes less degree of environmental harm.
Recent research has brought forth a new form of zinc-air pouch cell. The new pouch cells feature copper phosphosulfide [CPS(101)] as a cathode, patterned Zn as the anode, and most importantly, anti-freezing chitosan-biocellulosics as super-ionic conductor electrolytes. This is a considerable contribution to the Zinc-Air Batteries Market and can outdo other commercially available batteries present. In addition, the technology can be produced at an industrial scale and has several applications such as electric short-distance aircraft, electric vehicles, or power drones.
In the study, the researchers used CBCs (Chitosan Bacterial Cellulosics) as anion exchange, solid-state electrolytes. The material basically comprises chitosan and bio-cellulose, followed by DBO (,4-diazabicyclo[2.2.2]octane) and TEMPO (2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine-1-oxyl) quaternary linkages. Two processes that were crucial to the whole process, DBO quaternization and TEMPO oxidation, resulted in improving the batteries’ anti-freezing features. Moreover, it also enhanced the batteries’’ resistance towards swelling, ion-discerning property, and compatibility for crosslinking.
The novel one-ampere-hour (Ah) flexible zinc-air pouch cells introduced in the study are commercially viable and display ultrahigh cell-level energy densities at a different range of temperatures, i.e., -20 to 80 oC. They have a high rate capacity of 5-200 mA cm-2 over 1100 cycles for 70% DOD. These pouch cells can easily excel against the currently available commercial Li-ion batteries and other types of common ones as well.
The pouch cells displayed the highest cell-level energy density for about 350 cycles with 70% DOD at a current density of 25 mA cm-2. This was done by optimizing the cell parameters. It also provided that the volumetric energy density could additionally increase up to ~1800 Wh L-1. Furthermore, it could be done at a pouch cell capacity of ~20 through the application of bipolar stacking technology, thus, increasing the number of stacks. This facilitates the driving range of ~800-900 miles per charge, the mileage durability of ~1 million miles, and 100% charging capability within 15 min.
The research team is set to take their innovation a step ahead by simplifying the synthesis recipes for air cathode (CPS) and Solid Electrolytes (CBCs) so that production can be scaled up. Even though the ZABs generally operate at a -20 to 80 oC, efforts are being made to make the operation range much more comprehensive. Further, the team might also experiment with aluminum instead of zinc to assess the potential of an aluminium-air battery.
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