A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Zinc-air batteries to join the charge

Move over, lithium-ion. A start-up company in northwestern Montana reports that it has solved the rechargeable problem that has dogged zinc-air battery development and will soon be in competition with the dominant lithium-ion technology.

Ron Brost, CTO and CEO of ZAF Energy Systems, reports his research team has developed a zinc-air prototype that produces two times the energy of a lithium-ion battery at a third of the cost, with applications ranging from powering cell phones to airplanes.

The technology, which has four (or pending) patents, was developed by an offshoot of four-year-old ViZn Energy Systems (formerly Zinc Air, Incorporated), which is beginning to commercialize its zinc-iron redox grid batteries.

Several other companies and research labs have reported breakthroughs in creating a zinc-air battery in the last few months, including Eos Systems and Fluidic Energy.

Advantages of zinc over lithium-ion are many and obvious: zinc is a readily available and cheap mineral, with resources totaling 1.9 billion worldwide; it costs about a third what lithium costs; it weighs about half what lithium weighs in comparable applications; and while lithium-ion batteries have caught fire under certain trials, zinc is environmentally benign, going to zinc oxide (the main component of baby powder) after playing out in a battery. And zinc oxide is easily recyclable; Brost claims the ZAF battery itself will be recyclable.

But let’s look at what ZAF scientists say their prototype can do. Brost wrote in a white paper that research institutes and industrial labs have verified the basic function of rechargeable zinc-air cells, but three basic problems have remained: the air catalyst must be stable and convert oxygen to hydroxide during discharge and evolve oxygen during charges; the zinc electrode must be protected against air oxidation in order to prevent self-discharge and must be able to be formed and reformed hundreds of times without loss of energy or shorting the cell; and the alkaline electrolyte cannot lose water as it is exposed to a continual stream of air, nor can it react with air contaminants such as carbon dioxide.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.