Magnesium could outperform lithium in batteries says research team

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Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago say they have taken a significant step toward the development of a battery technology that could outperform lithium-ion technology.

According to the team, lithium ions – which carry a single positive charge can be replaced with magnesium ions, which have a plus two charge.

"Because magnesium ions carry two positive charges, every time we introduce a magnesium ion in the structure of the battery material, we can move twice as many electrons," says Jordi Cabana, pictured, assistant professor of chemistry and principal investigator.

"We hope that this work will open a credible design path for a new class of high voltage, high energy batteries," he added.

Every battery consists of a positive and negative electrode, which exchange ions through an electrolyte and electrons through an external circuit which provides power.

Cabana said: "We want to maximise the number of electrons moved per ion, because ions distort the structure of the electrode material when they go in or leave. The more the structure is distorted, the greater the energy cost of moving the ions back, the harder it becomes to recharge the battery."

Having established that magnesium can be inserted reversibly into electrode material's structure is said to move the work one step closer to a prototype. "It's not a battery yet," said Cabana, "it's piece of a battery, but with the same reaction you would find in the final device."