New batteries developed by the United States Naval Research Laboratory and based on zinc are showing promise as a possible alternative to lithium-ion ones. Lithium-ion batteries, which are found in most, if not all, of our smartphones, have been around for quite some time but despite certain advantages, there are still drawbacks regarding the use of these types of batteries. Two of the major drawbacks of using lithium-ion batteries are the fact that these types of batteries can cause fires if mishandled, and the components of the lithium-ion battery are somewhat expensive due to the low supply of minerals required to produce them. In an effort to resolve some of these drawbacks, scientists are now looking into other elements that can be used in batteries, and some researchers are proposing Zinc as a possible replacement for lithium.
While there are other minerals that can replace lithium as a battery component, additional research into the battery's design and other chemical components should be done, experts at the Naval Research Laboratory believe. Also, additional testing should be performed in order to ensure the battery is as safe, if not safer than what is currently available. Of all the possible replacements, it is zinc that has seen considerable progress in terms of battery research and testing. Battery designs that use zinc primarily use the element as the anode, which is the positively charged electrode from which electrons leave the battery. Researchers have recently improved the batteries' long-term conductivity through mixing additional elements like bismuth and indium while showing similar charging capacity compared to lithium-ion batteries when nickel is used as the zinc battery's cathode. At this point, zinc batteries are targeted for use in electric vehicles, with advantages like reduced weight compared to lead-acid batteries and comparable charging cycle numbers.
Aside from using new materials in order to improve performance, safety, and lifespan of batteries, recent advancements in this field were focused on improving mainstream lithium-ion batteries, with modifications made to the battery to increase charging speed and allow it to self-recharge. It remains to be seen where science will go from here, but more details on the matter should be available shortly.