Editorial Feature

Zinc-Based Batteries: Recent Advances, Challenges, and Future Directions

The world is transitioning towards renewable energy sources. While technologies like wind turbines and solar cells are crucial for utilizing renewable energy, storing this energy is equally important. Energy storage devices, particularly batteries, are thus essential for integrating renewable energy.

Zinc-Based Batteries: Recent Advances, Challenges, and Future Directions

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Lithium-ion batteries have long been the standard for energy storage. However, zinc-based batteries are emerging as a more sustainable, cost-effective, and high-performance alternative.1,2 This article explores recent advances, challenges, and future directions for zinc-based batteries.

Understanding Zinc-Based Batteries

Zinc-based batteries are rechargeable, using zinc as the anode material. During discharge, zinc atoms oxidize, releasing zinc ions that travel through the electrolyte to the cathode, where they are reduced and incorporated into the cathode structure. Electrons released during oxidation generate electricity by flowing through an external circuit. The reverse process occurs during charging.1,3

There are several types of zinc-based batteries, differentiated by their cathode material and operating mechanisms. Common components include a separator (a porous membrane preventing electrical contact while allowing ionic flow) and an electrolyte, which acts as a medium for ionic transport between anode and cathode. 3,4

Zinc-ion batteries typically use safer, more environmentally friendly aqueous electrolytes than lithium-ion batteries, which use flammable organic electrolytes.

Recent Advances in Zinc-Based Battery Technology

Significant progress has been made in enhancing the energy density, efficiency, and overall performance of zinc-based batteries. Innovations have focused on optimizing electrode materials, electrolyte compositions, and battery architectures.

In a recent study, researchers developed a novel 3D nanoporous Zn–Cu alloy electrode to enhance the performance of zinc-based batteries. This 3D NP Zn-Cu alloy anode, created using an electrochemical-assisted annealing method, addresses issues like shape change, dendrite growth, and passivation that traditionally limit zinc anodes' rechargeability.5

This advanced architecture promotes efficient electron and ion transport, leading to uniform Zn deposition/stripping and improved charge storage. The new anode shows exceptional cycling stability and high areal capacity, comparable to commercial lithium-ion batteries, offering significant potential for next-generation rechargeable aqueous zinc-ion batteries.5

Current Challenges Facing Zinc-Based Batteries

Zinc-based batteries face several challenges, including limited cycle life, rate capability, and scalability.

For instance, aqueous electrolytes can cause dendrite formation—needle-like zinc structures that accumulate on the anode during cycling—damaging the battery and reducing its rate capability and lifespan. These issues impact the commercial viability and scalability of zinc-based batteries.6,7

Researchers are addressing these challenges through innovative methods. For instance, a recent study introduced a grid zinc anode (GZn) using a stress-pressing method with a copper mesh framework.

This framework enhances electrode conductivity and reduces hydrogen evolution, while the in situ-formed Cu-Zn nano-alloy stabilizes the Zn deposition interface. 7 The GZn anode demonstrates lower overpotential and superior cycling stability than traditional Zn anodes, showing potential for use in Zn-ion capacitors and batteries.7

Potential Applications and Market Impact

Zinc-based batteries have diverse applications across industrial sectors. In the automotive sector, they offer a cost-effective alternative to lithium-ion batteries, with comparable energy densities, faster charging capabilities, and enhanced safety features. They are also valuable in grid-scale energy storage, where their low cost and high energy efficiency help stabilize renewable energy sources and alleviate grid congestion.1,4,8

Zinc-based batteries, particularly zinc-hybrid flow batteries, are gaining traction for energy storage in the renewable energy sector. For instance, zinc-bromine batteries have been extensively used for power quality control, renewable energy coupling, and electric vehicles. These batteries have been scaled up from kilowatt to megawatt capacities.

Early grid-scale applications began in Japan with a 1 MW system by Kyushu Electric Power Company, with companies like Exxon, Johnson Control, and ZBB Technologies advancing zinc-bromine battery development. Other zinc-based batteries, such as zinc-nickel, zinc-cerium, and zinc-iron, are also being developed for energy storage and renewable integration on smaller scales.8

Future Directions and Research Needs

To fully realize the potential of zinc-based batteries as a cost-effective alternative to lithium-ion batteries, ongoing research and development are essential. Researchers should focus on developing novel cathode materials with high capacities, stable cycling performance, and fast kinetics, as well as electrolytes that are more stable against zinc metal for longer battery life.

Beyond conventional cell designs, innovative architectures like hybrid batteries and redox flow batteries utilizing zinc chemistry should be explored. Advanced computational tools can optimize battery design, contributing to the development of high-performance zinc-based batteries.

More from AZoM: 3D Bioprinting: Market Trends and Innovations

References and Further Reading

  1. Tang, L., et al. (2024). Zn-based batteries for sustainable energy storage: strategies and mechanisms. Chemical Society Reviews. doi.org/10.1039/D3CS00295K
  2. Al-Amin, M., Islam, S., Shibly, SUA., Iffat, S. (2022). Comparative review on the aqueous zinc-ion batteries (AZIBs) and flexible zinc-ion batteries (FZIBs). Nanomaterials. doi.org/10.3390/nano12223997
  3. Wang, N., Wan, H., Duan, J., Wang, X., Tao, L., Zhang, J., Wang, H. (2021). A review of zinc-based battery from alkaline to acid. Materials Today Advances. doi.org/10.1016/j.mtadv.2021.100149
  4. Pross-Brakhage, J., Fitz, O., Bischoff, C., Biro, D., Birke, KP. (2023). Post-lithium batteries with zinc for the energy transition. Batteries. doi.org/10.3390/batteries9070367
  5. Liu, B., Wang, S., Wang, Z., Lei, H., Chen, Z., Mai, W. (2020). Novel 3D nanoporous Zn–Cu alloy as long‐life anode toward high‐voltage double electrolyte aqueous zinc‐ion batteries. Small. doi.org/10.1002/smll.202001323
  6. Lu, W., Zhang, C., Zhang, H., Li, X. (2021). Anode for zinc-based batteries: challenges, strategies, and prospects. ACS Energy Letters. doi.org/10.1021/acsenergylett.1c00939
  7. Gong, Z., et al. (2023). Conductive Framework-Stabilized Zn-Metal Anodes for High-Performance Zn-Ion Batteries and Capacitors. Energy Material Advances. doi.org/10.34133/energymatadv.0035
  8. Khor, A., et al. (2018). Review of zinc-based hybrid flow batteries: From fundamentals to applications. Materials today energy. doi.org/10.1016/j.mtener.2017.12.012

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Taha Khan

Written by

Taha Khan

Taha graduated from HITEC University Taxila with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. During his studies, he worked on several research projects related to Mechanics of Materials, Machine Design, Heat and Mass Transfer, and Robotics. After graduating, Taha worked as a Research Executive for 2 years at an IT company (Immentia). He has also worked as a freelance content creator at Lancerhop. In the meantime, Taha did his NEBOSH IGC certification and expanded his career opportunities.  

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