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Magnesium – a sustainable alternative to lithium in batteries?

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Scientists at the University of Strathclyde are exploring the potential for magnesium to provide a sustainable and affordable alternative to lithium in batteries.

Having received funding of over £114k from the Faraday Institution, the study being conducted will develop suitable electrolytes, which connect electrodes to each other and allow current to flow, for use in rechargeable, high energy density batteries. They will be capable of supporting efficient and repeatable transfer of magnesium between the batteries’ electrodes and will have high stability, to withstand the operating conditions of the battery.

The one-year study also involves the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), in which Strathclyde is a strategic partner, and the University of Sheffield. 

Dr Stuart Robertson, a Senior Lecturer in Strathclyde’s Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, who is leading the research, said:

“We are going through a period of massive battery demand, with governments setting targets for electric vehicles and increasing demand for off-grid storage, to store renewable energy for times when there is no wind or sun.

“Lithium is used extensively in batteries but it is not in great natural abundance and tends not to be recycled from spent batteries. Batteries in electric vehicles also need to be much larger than those in a phone or a laptop.

“Magnesium offers a natural alternative because it is much more abundant, is easier to obtain, and has competitive performance levels.

“We have been encouraged by the performance of magnesium in experiments we have carried out so far.” 

The study is the latest project to be funded by the Faraday Institution, which was established in 2017 to overcome key challenges in energy storage technology and is actively widening its’ research scope and partners, in order to better understand future priorities and areas of focus. The CEO Professor Pam Thomas commented:

“These novel projects are in areas of application-inspired research that continue to strengthen the UK’s position in electrochemical energy storage and ultimately contribute to making UK industry more competitive.” 

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