Navy research on safer zinc batteries advances

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WASHINGTON – The US Naval Research Laboratory is exploring potential future uses for its zinc-based batteries which provide a safer and reusable alternative to other types of batteries.

In particular, zinc-based batteries would provide the Navy with an option instead of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries which are prone to fire and struggle to gain safety approval.

The laboratory battery, coming out of technological readiness level one, uses a 3D metal sponge, which makes it rechargeable.

“We’re starting to step away from the really basic part of chemistry and go to, ‘OK, can we make some devices? »Can we have applications that require a specific current or voltage? And then can we design batteries specifically for this? So that starts to elevate us in terms of manufacturing and technological readiness in things that are either tested or deployed, ”said Ryan DeBlock, a researcher in the division of surface chemistry at the US Naval Research Laboratory.

The sponge, a “porous network of metallic zinc,” is only 30 to 40 percent dense, according to DeBlock, who spoke with C4ISRNET at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference.

“What it does is it takes the current you apply to the battery, and instead of spreading it out on a flat surface, you spread it all over that area of ​​internal sponge,” a- he declared. “This allows us to actually use the zinc batteries in a rechargeable way instead of just one like an AA battery.”

Zinc-based batteries have several advantages, he said. Zinc is inexpensive and widely available, so batteries cost less and don’t depend on more complex regional supply chains, while lithium for lithium-ion batteries comes largely from South America. Another major advantage is that the research lab battery is not flammable.

“You can’t have fires on ships or in submarines,” he said.

Zinc batteries are much more environmentally friendly than lead and can deliver “a lot more energy” by weight or volume, DeBlock said. In the future, batteries can also help with the storage of grid batteries.

Andrew Eversden covers all defense technologies for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on Federal IT and Cyber ​​Security for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a Congressional Reporting Officer for the Texas Tribune. He was also an intern in Washington for the Durango Herald. Andrew graduated from the American University.

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