September 28, 2022

A zinc-based alternative to lithium-ion batteries – pv magazine USA

Salient Energy developed the water-based zinc-ion battery to have the same power, performance and footprint as lithium-ion systems without any safety risk.

Lithium-ion batteries dominate the electric vehicle and home energy storage market due to their lower cost, superior performance and lower weight compared to some alternatives, but the main challenges are safety and durability. material supply. The safety risk of lithium-ion is thermal instability, a condition that can lead to thermal runaway.

In recent years, lithium-ion batteries have exploded in laptops, cell phones and caused fires in large energy storage facilities. Sourcing battery materials, which include lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite, is also a challenge as the materials often come from conflict-prone areas like the Congo. These challenges have led some manufacturers to seek alternatives. pv magazine United States spoke with Ryan Brown, CEO and co-founder of Salient Energy, a manufacturer of zinc-ion batteries, and he explained that Salient’s mission is to develop a battery that mimics the performance of lithium-ion while using abundant materials from conflicts. free areas that do not present a safety risk.

Brown acknowledged that lithium-ion is the best in terms of power to weight and manufacturers have done well to cut costs, but safety remains an issue. He said, for example, that recent fires in Tesla vehicles are caused by the thermal runaway of lithium-ion batteries. “When used in home energy systems, safety is also a top priority,” Brown said.

Zinc-ion batteries are a nonflammable option, due to their water-based chemistry, Brown noted. He said zinc-ion energy storage systems have the same power, performance and footprint as lithium-ion systems, “so they are a real alternative to lithium-ion.”

One of the advantages of zinc-based batteries is that they can be manufactured on the same lines as lithium-ion, which reduces manufacturing costs. When it comes to safety, “safety is the killer’s edge,” Brown said. “What we’ve done is we’ve made a zinc battery that works the same way lithium-ion does. We have zinc that reacts on both sides, so we don’t need to store the reagent in the electrolyte.

Target market

Salient’s primary application market is stationary energy storage. “Residential yes, but ultimately we want to be in shipping containers.” With the primary benefit being safety, Brown sees the zinc-ion battery as a viable alternative to batteries that must be placed indoors, such as in apartment buildings. “A city is no place to store energy outdoors, and with California requiring apartments to have energy storage, zinc-ion is a safe bet.”

To demonstrate the safety of zinc-ion batteries as a residential energy storage solution, Salient Energy is partnering with Horton World Solutions (HWS), a sustainable homebuilder that installs the batteries in 200,000 homes it builds also in the Dallas Fort Worth area. like through the Sunbelt. Construction of these homes will be underway by the fourth quarter of 2022.

National supply chain

Salient’s batteries are comprised of a zinc, neutral pH zinc sulfate electrolyte and manganese oxide cathode, all of which are abundantly mined and processed in North America, allowing Salient to source materials from a national supply chain. While Salient is based in Nova Scotia, in early 2022 the company opened an office in Oakland, California. A team of 7 engineers based in Oakland is currently focused on developing and improving Salient’s residential battery systems, the same system used in the HWS demonstration.

For now, Salient is manufacturing batteries at its Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, plant on a small scale of around 100 batteries per month, but the company is in the process of ramping up production at this full-scale facility. pilot (thousands of batteries per month) to support pilot projects in the residential space.

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