Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Zeta Energy

Could our batteries be built without 'critical' metals?

Agriculture & Energy

A new battery design eliminates the use of metals vulnerable to supply chain disruption

Spotted: Lithium-ion batteries can contain various metals beyond lithium, including cobalt, aluminium, manganese, and nickel. All of these are considered “critical” minerals or materials by the US Department of Energy, meaning they’re extremely vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and are also essential in energy technologies. Because these are finite resources and some are in particularly limited supply, price and availability are very volatile, and often easily impacted by external socio-political factors. Zeta Energy, however, has developed batteries that are free from nickel, graphite, manganese, and cobalt. And the company’s most recent battery, produced in collaboration with Huntsman, also eliminates the need for copper and aluminium too.

Zeta’s latest lithium-sulphur battery replaces copper or aluminium foil with carbon-based current collectors. On the anode side, the company uses vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, eliminating the need for a metal current collector. Lithium is then deposited over and between the nanotubes.

The battery’s cathode also eliminates the need for a metal current collector by using sulphurised carbon. According to Zeta Energy, both the anode and cathode offer higher stability and capacity than other technologies, with no dendrite growth (metal that builds up on the lithium surface and eventually shorts out the battery).

In January, the Houston-based company was selected to receive $4 million (around €3.7 million) in U.S. Department of Energy funding for the development of electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The funds come from the ARPA-E Electric Vehicles for American Low-Carbon Living (EVs4ALL) programme, which aims to boost the supply chain for affordable, reliable, and safe batteries.

Every week seems to bring new innovations in EV battery technology. Recent advances include chemical-free metal extraction for reusing metals in batteries and sodium-ion batteries made from agricultural waste.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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