Aluminum Anodes Show Promise for Safer, Cheaper, and More Powerful Batteries

Aluminum anodes store more lithium, leading to higher density and longer driving ranges for EVs


A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has taken a novel approach, utilizing aluminum foil to create solid-state batteries with increased energy density and stability compared to the widely used lithium-ion technology.

Unlike traditional lithium-ion batteries, solid-state batteries utilize solid materials as the electrolyte, eliminating the flammable liquid electrolyte and significantly reducing the risk of fires.

Furthermore, solid-state batteries allow for integrating new high-performance active materials, paving the way for innovative battery designs.

The early attempts to use aluminum as a battery material failed due to the rapid fracturing and failure of pure aluminum foils in conventional lithium-ion batteries.

The team led by Matthew McDowell at Georgia Tech revisited this concept, realizing that aluminum could offer significant advantages as the anode material in solid-state batteries.

Creating Aluminum Foil Anodes with “Microstructures”

The research team took a different approach to address the challenges associated with using pure aluminum foils.

They incorporated small amounts of other materials to create aluminum foils with specific “microstructures” – unique arrangements of different materials. The team conducted tests with over 100 different materials to identify the most promising combinations for battery applications.

The team said the aluminum foil anodes exhibited exceptional performance and stability in solid-state batteries, surpassing the limitations of conventional lithium-ion batteries.

The aluminum anodes could store more lithium, leading to higher energy density and potentially longer driving ranges for electric vehicles on a single charge. Moreover, using aluminum foils directly as battery components streamlines the manufacturing process, making it more cost-effective.

The implications of this breakthrough extend beyond electric vehicles. Short-range electric aircraft, a growing area of interest, face limitations due to battery capacity.

The aluminum foil anodes present an opportunity to develop more powerful battery technologies enabling electric aircraft to cover longer distances efficiently.

The team at Georgia Tech, in collaboration with Novelis, is continuing its research to scale up the size of the batteries and understand how size influences the behavior of aluminum foils.

Additionally, they are exploring other materials and microstructures to create even more cost-effective foils for battery systems.

As the industry moves toward long-range vehicles and electric aircraft, researchers are pushing the boundaries of lithium-ion and searching for alternatives that offer higher energy density, improved stability, and enhanced safety.

The researchers at the institute said the emergence of solid-state batteries has been a game-changer in pursuing safer and more efficient energy storage.

Recently, a group of researchers from the University of Ulm and the University of Freiburg developed a positive electrode material made of an organic redox polymer based on phenothiazine for aluminum-ion batteries to help enhance its storage capacity.

In a similar study, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a new battery made from aluminum and sulfur, two of the nature-abundant and cost-friendly materials.

Image Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology