This new room-temperature liquid-metal battery may last longer than lithium-ion batteries, says a new research

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  • These metallic electrodes in the new battery can remain liquefied at a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, the lowest operating temperature ever recorded for a liquid-metal battery.
  • Unlike the current batteries, these can be scaled up or down easily, depending on the power needed. The bigger the battery, the more power it can deliver.
  • The researchers also noted that it may be possible to create a battery with even lower melting points using different materials.
The researchers at The University of Texas claim to have developed a new type of battery that combines the many benefits of existing liquid and solid-state batteries while eliminating their key shortcomings and saving energy.

According to the researchers, this will be the first all-liquid-metal battery that can operate at room temperature, and it apparently outperforms lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are used to power an increasing number of devices, such as thermometers, remote car locks, MP3 players, calculators and battery backup systems in computers. The Lithium-ion batteries are also commonly used in electric vehicles because of their high energy density compared to their weight.

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“This battery can provide all the benefits of both solid- and liquid-state—including more energy, increased stability and flexibility—without the respective drawbacks, while also saving energy,” said Yu Ding, a postdoctoral researcher in associate professor Guihua Yu’s research group.

University of Texas

What's different?

In liquid metal batteries, the electrodes are made of liquid metals, which makes it less susceptible to wearing out than solid batteries, since dendrites don’t form and damage the components. However, liquid-state batteries can deliver energy more efficiently, but they either fall short on high energy demands or require significant resources to constantly heat the electrodes and keep them molten.

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According to researchers, this battery includes the “best of both worlds” of liquid- and solid-state batteries. And, can be scaled up or down easily, depending on the power needed. The bigger the battery, the more power it can deliver.

Stays liquefied at a room temperature

Usually, the liquid-metal batteries must be kept at temperatures above 240 degrees Celsius in order to keep the metals liquid. However, these metallic electrodes in the new battery can remain liquefied at a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), the lowest operating temperature ever recorded for a liquid-metal battery, according to the researchers.

University of Texas

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The new battery includes a sodium-potassium alloy as the anode and a gallium-based alloy as the cathode. Anode and cathode are the parts of the battery through which the current enters and exits into an electrical device. The researchers also noted that it may be possible to create a battery with even lower melting points using different materials.

Still at a nascent stage

The researchers are still working to find alternative materials that can deliver the same performance while reducing the cost of production. As the gallium remains an expensive material which constitutes the backbone of this new battery.

The researchers are also working to increase the power of the battery at the room-temperature battery as it “cannot compete with high-temperature, liquid-metal batteries at the current stage, better power capability is expected if advanced electrolytes are designed with high conductivity,” said Ding.
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