This new type of calcium salt could replace lithium in batteries that store solar and wind energy

A recently synthesized chemical could pave the way for the manufacture of calcium-based batteries, which could be safer and cheaper than current lithium-based models.

Lithium-ion batteries in mobile phones and other electronic devices have numerous drawbacks: sometimes they catch fire and depend on increasingly scarce and toxic substances such as lithium and cobalt.

Cheap mineral

Lithium-ion batteries are currently the most used in electric vehicles, but lithium mineral resources may be insufficient in the future to supply the market with these batteries, which also contain toxic elements. There are several research teams in the world that have been carrying out advanced studies for some years to develop future batteries based on elements other than lithium, such as sodium, magnesium, calcium or aluminum, but development is still very difficult.

Anode batteries made of calcium, a cheaper and more abundant substance, could be more sustainable and safer than lithium anode batteries. But researchers who work with calcium batteries do not have a suitable electrolyte, the medium through which the electric charge flows into a battery. This requires testing with different compositions of salts and solvents in the optimum proportion.

Zhirong Zhao-Karger, from the Helmholtz Institute Ulm in Germany, reacted a calcium compound with a fluorine-containing compound to create a new type of calcium salt. The resulting material conducted electricity more effectively than any calcium-based electrolyte so far reported. It also efficiently conducted ions at a higher voltage than other calcium-based electrolytes.

Calcium-based batteries could be used in industrial scale systems to store wind and solar energy.

Video: Molten-salt battery. Wikipedia audio article (November 2019).