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Magnesium To Replace Lithium-ion Batteries Soon

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are the mobile power sources of choice today, used in everything from laptop computers, smart phones and even electric cars. For years, though, they’ve been known to overheat and, at times, catch fire.

This was made painfully clear in January, when the lithium-ion batteries in Boeing’s newest commercial aircraft, the Dreamliner, caught fire, leading to a brief grounding of the planes until the fire hazard was resolved.

This is much less likely to happen with batteries made with magnesium, however. And magnesium ions in the batteries’ electrolytes, which transmit electricity, carry a double positive charge, increasing the device’s energy density, or the amount of electricity the battery can store.

Related: We Are On The Verge Of An Electric Car Battery Breakthrough

Still, no one’s been able to make a commercially viable magnesium-ion battery, mostly because of fears of magnesium’s high reactivity with other materials in a battery, which would interfere with the movement of the ions through the electrolyte.

Liwen Wan and David Prendergast of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California conducted computer simulations that show this reactivity actually isn’t a problem. In the October issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, they write that the interference is much lower than had been feared, and therefore that a magnesium-ion battery would be more efficient than expected.

On that basis, researchers at the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan improved the stability of the magnesium-ion battery. Fei-Yi Hung, one of the three leaders of the team, told the online publication EnergyTrends that they accomplished this in part by turning to a new technology that uses electrodes made of magnesium membranes and magnesium powder.

The idea of a magnesium-ion battery has long been attractive not only because it’s less likely to overheat, Hung said, but also has up to 12 times the energy density of a lithium-ion battery and its charge-discharge efficiency is 5 times greater.

To illustrate magnesium’s superiority over lithium, Hung said, an electric bicycle with a fully depleted lithium-ion battery needs about three hours to recharge fully. If equipped with a magnesium battery, he said, the process would take a mere 36 minutes.

Related: Why The Debate Over Energy Storage Utterly Misses The Point

Also, he said, lithium batteries ordinarily can’t operate properly in temperatures below 5 degrees Fahrenheit. But if these lithium batteries were coated with a film of magnesium, they work fine at temperatures as low as 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit and as high as 131 degrees Fahrenheit.

Only two problems remain, Hung said. First, negative electrodes high-storage rechargeable batteries normally are made from graphite, which is inefficient at storing electrical energy. Second, graphite is derived from processed petroleum coke, a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases.

Hung said his team hopes to replace the graphite with a more efficient material that “would be more environmentally friendly.”

By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com

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  • Bill Coviello on June 30 2016 said:
    Wer have developed a liquid extinguishing agent that extinguishes magnesium fires and it was approved by the FAA and tested by the US Air Force Fire Research Lab. This change in technology actually is a safe way to go.
  • Eletruk on November 17 2014 said:
    So this is based on computer simulation? Not even a prototype battery is even built yet? Wow, this is a long way off for magnesium to replace lithium "soon".
  • David Anderson on November 16 2014 said:
    When magnesium burns it is extremly difficult to put out.
  • Joe on November 16 2014 said:
    Hmm, do you have any concept how dangerous gasoline is? It burns extremely hot!...

    And it's in every non-electric car on the road! Well a few use diesel.
  • can't tell on November 14 2014 said:
    always negativety,very high tec idea Y be for and not against.
  • dogphlap on November 13 2014 said:
    Just because Mg is three times heavier per molecule than Li may not make such a difference since the Li in a Li-ion battery is only 2% of total weight so if the same relationship holds (I've no idea if it does) the battery may only be 4% heavier with twice the storage capacity. Li and Mg are both very reactive but at least in the case of Li care in the choice of chemical make up e.g. LiFePO4 can make them pretty safe, maybe Mg could also be rendered safe.
    Best regards.
  • Roto on November 13 2014 said:
    Something has been left unsaid. There must be more involved since Magnesium has a atomic weight of 24 and Lithium 7. Thus Mg is 3 times heavier (per mole) than Lithium. Even with a +2 charge advantage it does not in itself make for a higher energy density than theoretically possible with Lithium. So I doubt this article's content.
  • silicon valley on November 13 2014 said:
    Do you have any concept of how dangerous magnesium is? It burns extremely hot. The FAA will not allow magnesium in airplane seats. ... Water makes a magnesium fire burn faster.

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