Aluminium-ion batteries are a class of rechargeable battery in which aluminium ions provide energy by flowing from the negative electrode of the battery, the cathode, to the positive electrode, the anode. When recharging, aluminium ions return to the anode. The trivalent charger carrier, Al3+
is both the advantage and disadvantage of this battery. While transferring 3 units of charge by one ion significantly increase the energy storage capacity but the electrostatic intercalation of the host materials with a trivalent cation is too strong for a well-defined electrochemical behavior.
Like all other batteries, the basic structure of aluminium-ion batteries includes two electrodes connected by an electrolyte, an ionically (but not electrically) conductive material acting as a medium for the flow of charge carriers.
The amount of energy or power that a battery can release is dependent on factors including the battery cell's voltage, capacity and chemical composition. A battery can maximize its energy output levels by:
- Increasing chemical potential difference between the two electrodes
- Reducing the mass of reactants
- Preventing the electrolyte from being modified by the chemical reactions
Various research teams are experimenting with aluminium and other chemical compounds to produce the most efficient long lasting and safe battery.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Around 2010 the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) developed and patented a high energy density device, producing 1,060 Wh/kg versus 406 Wh/kg for lithium-ion batteries. ORNL used an ionic electrolyte, instead of the typical aqueous electrolyte which can produce hydrogen gas during operation and corrode the aluminium anode. The electrolyte was made of 3-ethyl-1-methylimidazolium chloride with excess aluminium trichloride. However, ionic electrolytes are less conductive, reducing power density. Reducing anode/cathode separation can offset the limited conductivity, but causes heating. ORNL devised a cathode made up of spinel manganese oxide further reducing corrosion.
In 2011 at Cornell University, a research team used the same electrolyte as ORNL, but used vanadium oxide nanowires for the cathode. Vanadium oxide displays an open crystal structure, allowing greater surface area for an aluminium structure and reduces the path between cathode and anode, maximizing energy output levels. The device produced a large output voltage during operation. However, the battery had a low coulombic efficiency.
In April 2015 researchers at Stanford University claimed to have developed an aluminum-ion battery with a recharge time of about one minute (for an unspecified battery capacity). They claimed that their battery has no possibility of catching fire, offering a video of a hole being drilled into the battery while it was generating electricity. They also claim that their battery is inexpensive. Their cell provides about 2 volts. Connecting 2 cells in a series circuit will provide 4 volts. The prototype lasted over 7,500 charge-discharge cycles with no loss of capacity.
In June 2015 a European Horizon 2020 research project on aluminium-ion batteries was launched at the technological research center LEITAT. The project aims at developing a prototype with the help of various European industries and research institutes. The project entitled High Specific Energy Aluminium-Ion Rechargeable Batteries for Decentralized Electricity Generation Sources, or ALION for short, pursues an integral approach comprising electroactive materials based on “rocking chair” mechanism, robust ionic liquid-based electrolytes as well as novel cell and battery concepts, finally resulting in a technology with much lower cost, improved performance, safety and reliability with respect to current energy storage solutions (e.g. Pumped hydro storage, Compressed air energy storage, Li-ion battery, Redox flow battery etc.). The project covers the whole value chain from materials and component manufacturers, battery assembler, until the technology validation in specific electric microgrid system including renewable energy source (i.e. mini wind turbine, photovoltaic system, etc.). Thus, the final objective of this project is to obtain an Al-ion battery module validated in a relevant environment, with a specific energy of 400 Wh/kg, a voltage of 48 V and a cycle life of 3000 cycles.
University Of Maryland
In 2016, a University of Maryland team reported a rechargeable aluminium/sulfur battery that utilizes a sulfur/carbon composite as the cathode material. The chemistry is able to provide a 1340 Wh/kg energy density in theory. The team made a prototype cell which demonstrated an energy density of 800 Wh/kg for over 20 cycles.
Zhejiang University Department of Polymer Science
In December 2017 a team, led by professor Gao Chao, from Department of Polymer Science and Engineering of Zhejiang University, announced the design of a battery using graphene films as anode and metallic aluminium as cathode.
The 3H3C (Trihigh Tricontinuous) design results in a graphene film cathode with excellent electrochemical properties. The arrangement of graphene liquid crystals result in a highly oriented structure. A process of high temperature annealing under gas pressure produces a high quality and high channelling graphene structure. This 3H3C design creates an aluminium-graphene battery (Al-GB) which has impressive properties
The battery works well after quarter-million cycles retaining 91.7 percent of its original capacity.
The battery can be fully charged in 1.1 seconds.
The assembled battery works well across a temperature range of minus 40 to 120 degrees Celsius.
It offers a high current capacity (111 mAh / g 400 A / g based on the cathode).
It can be folded.
It does not explode when exposed to fire and the materials used are non flammable.
However, the aluminum-ion battery cannot compete with commonly-used Li-ion batteries in terms of energy density, or the amount of power you can store in a battery in relation to the size, according to Gao. 
Anode half reaction:
Cathode half reaction:
Combining the two half reactions yields the following reaction:
Aluminium-ion batteries are conceptually similar to lithium-ion batteries, but possess an aluminium anode instead of a lithium anode. While the theoretical voltage for aluminium-ion batteries is lower than lithium-ion batteries, 2.65 V and 4 V respectively, the theoretical energy density potential for aluminium-ion batteries is 1060 Wh/kg in comparison to lithium-ion's 406 Wh/kg limit. The large difference in energy density potential is due to the fact that aluminium ions have three valence electrons while lithium ions only have one. Aluminium is also more abundant than lithium, lowering material costs.
Aluminium-ion batteries have a relatively short shelf life. The combination of heat, rate of charge, and cycling can dramatically decrease energy capacity. When metal ion batteries are fully discharged, they can no longer be recharged. Ionic electrolyte materials are expensive.
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- HIGH SPECIFIC ENERGY ALUMINIUM-ION RECHARGEABLE DECENTRALIZED ELECTRICITY GENERATION SOURCES on cordis.europa.eu
- HORIZON 2020 ALION Project Kick Off Meeting @ LEITAT
- ALION Project
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- Elektor 2018-01-10 Al-ion battery retains 92% capacity after 250,000 charge cycles
- XINHUANET 2017-12-23 Chinese scientists develop fast-charging aluminum-graphene battery
- on YouTube