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The Daily Barometer

New zinc battery research at OSU offers improved renewable energy storage

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By Nino Paoli

Published on 5/1/23

Eighty-degree weather in April is unheard of in Corvallis, but look no further than the second floor of Gilbert Hall, where Xiulei “David” Ji, professor of chemistry at Oregon State University  keeps his zinc batteries nice and toasty.

The batteries, arrayed on a special shelf in a small workroom with controlled conditions, undergoing charging tests, have increased in efficiency to nearly 100% after Ji and his collaborators created a new electrolyte to be used in their zinc metal anodes–which is one step closer to solving renewable energy storage.

Ji, the primary investigator of this National Science Foundation-funded research project and co-author of the research paper, said the uniqueness of the battery lies in the use of an aqueous, or water-based, electrolyte in the anode – which is the positive electrode in this case.

Published in Nature Sustainability, an online research journal, on March 23, the paper was co-authored by a handful of OSU researchers and researchers from other universities, as well as individuals from Hewlett-Packard Corvallis and GROTTHUSS Incorporation, an OSU spinout company.

Zinc batteries can serve as a tantalizing alternative to lithium-ion batteries for storage of renewable energy, since lithium-ion batteries pose safety concerns. Lithium-ion powered scooters have caused explosions from Medford, OR to the Bronx, NY.

“This battery is not explosive, it’s non-flammable and potentially cost-effective,” Ji said.

Although Ji said a lithium-ion battery’s cycle life is “pretty impressive,” allowing it to have a lifespan of around 8 to 10 years before needing replacement, one of the most important motivations for him and other researchers is to work on non-flammable alternatives.

“The fatal issue of lithium-ion batteries is its safety,” Ji said. 

Read the full article on The Daily Barometer's website here.

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