Battery makers are concentrating on trying to solve some of the key limitations of lithium ion batteries. One of those is the scant supply of raw materials required to make them, a supply that is unlikely to meet future energy storage demands, according to Prof Thomas Maschmeyer, co-founder of the University of Sydney spin-off company Gelion.
Gelion batteries use zinc and bromide, elements with more stable and abundant supplies than the lithium and cobalt of lithium ion batteries. Unlike lithium ion batteries, which will become more costly as demand for raw materials outstrips supply, the price of Gelion’s batteries will only decrease with increased production scales.
It can be fully charged in minutes while its efficiency exceeds all existing lithium-ion technologies. It is also fire retardant and cheaper to make
Gelion’s technology is based on a tweak of zinc/bromide chemistry – which is already used in Redflow batteries – that means the battery operates with a gel rather than a liquid. The resulting batteries look and work much like a lithium ion battery, but with greater heat tolerance. Gelion is currently raising funds to get their prototype into commercial production.
According to Gelion, it has got the charge time for the battery down to just a few minutes, while its efficiency is at 90 per cent, which is higher than in your mobile phone. It also has a longer lifetime and is cheaper than lithium, and the gel is made out of a fire-retardant material.
But the initial target market for Gelion’s batteries is for storage in buildings – both residential and commercial.
As Catalyst explains, being gel-based, the batteries are “bendy” – a feature that has caught the attention of the building industry – including big name players like Lend Lease, who are picturing a future where flat-pack zinc-bromine batteries could be included in the very fabric of buildings.
“We’re thinking about things like working with Professor Maschmeyer to use prefabricated wall segments, for example, as, effectively, battery storage or power storage facilities,” said Lend Lease CEO Steven McCann.
“So imagine that in a large scale and the impact that will have on the emissions from the built space, which is a very significant impact on the environment.”
Professor Maschmeyer explains further: “The idea is to build houses with batteries inherently included as part of their structure, ready to take advantage of rapidly improving, solar energy technology and also to serve as a buffer for the grid, enabling an ever greater share of renewables to be connected, while grid stability is maintained.”