IBM’s New Battery Can Outperform Lithium-Ion (Without Heavy Metals)

new battery ibm

IBM’s New Battery Can Outperform Lithium-Ion | Batteries are an important component in many products around the world. But many of the heavy materials they make, such as nickel and cobalt, carry enormous environmental and human costs.

One of the downsides of technology is its heavy dependence on heavy metals such as nickel and cobalt which are mined in developing countries for use in battery manufacturing. The strenuous and grueling work produces little, involves child labor, and causes loss of life in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Why cobalt? Because cobalt is a major component in lithium-ion batteries found in almost every rechargeable electronic device. About two-thirds of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the Congo.

However, a new battery breakthrough made by engineers from IBM Research may present a new ray of hope. IBM recently announced that it is hard at work developing a new battery technology that could eliminate the need for heavy metals altogether in battery production. And offers some nice performance and safety improvements, to boot.

“While there are no heavy metals in this battery design, it has been shown to exceed the performance of standard lithium-ion batteries in initial testing in our Battery Lab,” Young-hye Na, materials innovation manager for next-generation batteries at IBM Research.

In addition to significantly lower flammability and a more sustainable material, as well as lower costs due to cheaper materials, this battery design can be configured to outperform lithium-ion options in a number of areas. This includes charging time, [di mana] can reach 80% charge in less than five minutes. This is important for applications where fast charge times are key and have become a barrier – such as in electric vehicles.

In testing, the new battery design was able to achieve a power density of over 10,000 W/L. That exceeds the power levels of currently available lithium-ion batteries. The active cathode material in the battery, iodide, can be extracted from seawater. This makes it more environmentally friendly than terrestrial mining. Since seawater extraction does not necessarily require fresh water to process, it minimizes the amount of contaminated water created for disposal.

However, as interesting as this is, there is still a lot of work to be done. “We are still in the early stages of developing this battery, so at this point we don’t have a definite timeline for when this battery might be ready for commercial use,” continued Na. “However, we have announced a collaboration with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America; Central Glass, the top battery electrolyte supplier; and Sidus, a Silicon Valley startup and battery manufacturer, to help us move this design from the lab to pilot production. ”