IBM Research is reshaping the scene of sustainable batteries

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How about a new sustainable battery solution made predominantly from saltwater that could replace lithium-ion batteries? Yes, that is exactly what IBM Research‘s Battery Lab is currently in the process of testing and further developing. These new batteries are free of any heavy metals.

Combining materials science, molecular chemistry, electrical engineering, advanced battery lab equipment, and computer simulation, the Battery Lab draws on IBM Research’s history of advancing materials science.

IBM Research sustainable batteryExperimenting at IBM Research’s Battery lab

Discovering a groundbreaking alternative in sustainable batteries

Today, the disposal of batteries present a vast issue in the goal of long-term sustainability. Especially lithium-ion batteries that power most of our technological devices, including our smartphones, computers and vehicles. Specifically, the heavy metals of nickel and cobalt commonly found in batteries, induce essential environmental and humanitarian concerns. By applying a new combination of proprietary materials, IBM Research has discovered an unprecedented battery chemistry that neither includes any heavy metals nor substances with sourcing risks. This new technique of material mining, where saltwater from the sea is the main extraction source, disrupts and harms the environment far less.

Not only sustainable but also enhanced performance

Tests have shown that the battery offers immense potential in performance optimization when compared to the current capacities of lithium-ion batteries. These include lower cost, faster charging time, higher power and energy density, strong energy efficiency and low flammability.

For the reason that charging time, cost and flammability all are key concerns in the electric vehicle (EV) industry, the potentials of the new battery design could in particular benefit this market. IBM Research has conducted tests that prove its fast-charging capacity with an 80% state of charge reached in less than five minutes. Such progress could advance the market momentously with a low-cost and fast-charging EV. Furthermore, tests show that a long-life cycle configuration of this battery can alleviate new energy infrastructures and smart power grid applications.

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Outperforming lithium-ion batteries in several categories

  • Lower cost: alternative materials free of cobalt, nickel and other heavy metals cost far less and present greater sustainability
  • Faster charging: without compromising specific discharge capacity, less than five minutes is required to reach 80% state of charge
  • High power density: more than 10,000 W/L – surpassing lithium-ion batteries’ power level limit
  • High energy density: more than 800 Wh/L – same as the best lithium-ion battery
  • Excellent energy efficiency: more than 90% (qua ratio of discharge energy over charge energy)
  • Low flammability of electrolytes

From early-stage development to commercial use

IBM Research has collaborated with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Central Glass – one of the top battery electrolyte suppliers in the world – and Sidus, a battery manufacturer, to realize a next-generation battery development ecosystem. As the battery’s further development is still in the exploratory phase, the aspiration is to build an ecosystem to bring the batteries into commercial reality.

IBM Research’s new sustainable battery design could prove instrumental in reshaping the use of batteries and ultimately be a key contributor to the global green agenda.

Watch this external YouTube review of IBM Research’s new discovery of sustainable batteries:

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