Magnesium batteries vie as lithium alternative

July 26, 2016 // By Nick Flaherty
Researchers at the first magnesium battery symposium hosted by Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) and Ulm Electrochemical Talks (UECT),
Over 100 researchers from around the world met last week in Germany for the first symposium on magnesium batteries as the technology looks to break into mainstream use.

Hosted by the Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) and Ulm Electrochemical Talks (UECT), the symposium looked at the latest state of research and to identify future scenarios. The presentations and posters at the symposium dealt with the topics electrolytes and additives, electrode interfaces, cathodes, anodes, modeling and systems.

Compared to lithium, magnesium may release and absorb two electrons, making it a very interesting material for battery research into stationary energy storage, for example in wind turbines or solar panels. Magnesium batteries are currently the most often researched candidates for lithium-free alternatives in the field of "high-voltage batteries" - not least because some automobile manufacturers invest in the research of magnesium batteries.

Magnesium is less reactive and so less dangerous for high density batteries, and during charging no dendrites grow with magnesium, which represents the main challenge to security in the use of lithium metal anodes. It is also cheaper to produce because it reacts less rapidly with air as lithium metal. Magnesium is available in large quantities, for instance in the form of rock dolomite, which results in lower prices.

Engineers at Toyota's Research Institute of North America (TRINA) back in May announced a new electrolyte for magnesium batteries from research into hydrogen fuel cells. "We were able to take a material that was only used in hydrogen storage and we made it practical and very competitive for magnesium battery chemistry,” said researcher Rana Mohtadi.