Magnesium may provide key to smaller, denser batteries

Magnesium battery diagram

Researchers at the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA) in Michigan have made a discovery that could lead to batteries that are smaller and cheaper to produce than lithium-ion units found in most electric cars sold today but with superior range.

The key is magnesium, which is already quite common in car frames and wheels.

Magnesium has long been known as a superior option to lithium for batteries but there’s always been the major hurdle of finding a magnesium-friendly electrolyte, the material that allows ions to flow between the electrodes of a battery.

Research still at a very early stage

A researcher at TRINA by the name of Rana Mohtadi managed to come up with a solution while working on a separate project, incidentally hydrogen storage materials and their application to fuel cell technology.

“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 Mohtadi. “It was exciting.”

Unfortunately, the research is still at a very early stage. According to Toyota it could take two more decades to get magnesium batteries into production. To help accelerate the development, Toyota is inviting other researchers to collaborate with Mohtadi and the rest of the team at TRINA. They’ve also produced a research paper detailing the discovery titled An Efficient Halogen-Free Electrolyte for Use in Rechargeable Magnesium Batteries.

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