Redesigning structural batteries with cartilage electrolytes
Researchers from the University of Michigan presented a prototype «structural» zinc battery with solid cartilaginous electrolyte, which, even if damaged, continues to work stably and safely.
The idea behind a structural battery is to store and store energy in structural elements, such as the bumper of a car or wing of a drone, reducing their overall weight. Scientists at Ann Arbor have found that our knee tissue and smartphone battery have surprisingly similar needs. This inspired them to prototype a safe and lightweight battery made of cartilage-like material, durable and easy to structure..
In the developed prototype aramid nanofibers (material for body armor) act as collagen, and polyethylene oxide and zinc salt are analogs of the soft components of cartilage. For the device to function fully, the team connected zinc electrodes with manganese oxide. This is a combination of standard alkaline batteries, but in this case a cartilaginous membrane is used instead of a separator and electrolyte.
During the tests, the prototype continued to operate stably even after punctures through and removal of individual parts. These unique properties are due to the solid structure of the electrolyte, which allows ions to move freely from one electrode to another. It also inhibits the growth of dendrites – metal tendrils that penetrate the separator between the electrodes and create stripes for the movement of electrons, which leads to the closure of the circuit and may cause fire. It is for this reason that manufacturers have previously ignored zinc..
Drone Mounted Zinc batteries increased flight time by 5-25%, depending on cell size, drone weight and weather conditions. At this stage, they are best suited as secondary energy sources because they still cannot charge and discharge as quickly as their lithium-ion counterparts. However, a team of engineers has already begun to search for the best electrode that will speed up these processes and extend the life. Prototypes are now capable of efficiently running over 100 cycles at 90% capacity..
Earlier we wrote that Honda’s research division developed a new type of battery that stores 10 times more energy than lithium.
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: Evan Dougherty / Michigan Engineering, video: YouTube / Michigan Engineering