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Materials Energy

30: Batteries made of seawater

Problem:

Many battery materials, including metals such as nickel and cobalt, pose tremendous environmental and humanitarian risks.

Cobalt in particular, which is largely mined in central Africa, has come under fire for careless and exploitative extraction practices.

Solution:

Batteries made from seawater.

IBM Research has joined with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Central Glass, one of the top battery electrolyte suppliers in the world, and Sidus Energy, a Silicon Valley battery startup to create a new next-generation battery development ecosystem.

In December 2019, a team led by Young-Hye Na at IBM Research Center in Almaden in San José, California, USA announced the development of a new battery built from minerals and compounds found in seawater (magnesium, potassium, boron, strontium, fluoride etc.).

It uses a cobalt and nickel-free cathode material, as well as a safe liquid electrolyte with a high flash point, thereby reducing flammability, which is widely considered a significant drawback for the use of lithium metal as an anode material.

When optimized for this factor, this new battery design will exceed 10,000 Watt per Litre (W/L), outperforming the most powerful li-ion batteries available. Additionally, tests have shown this battery can be designed for a long cycle-life, making it an option for smart power grid applications and new energy infrastructures where longevity and stability are key.

Moving forward, the team has also implemented an AI technique called semantic enrichment to further improve battery performance by identifying safer and higher performance materials.

Using machine learning techniques to give human researchers access to insights from millions of data points to inform their hypothesis and next steps, researchers can speed up the pace of innovation in this important field of study. (www.research.ibm.com)

Discover solution 31: mechanical beach cleaners

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