DOE researchers announce major advance toward a solid-state magnesium battery

DOE scientists at the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) have discovered a new magnesium-ion solid-state conductor, a major step towards making solid-state magnesium-ion batteries that are both energy-dense and safe.

The liquid electrolyte used in current lithium-ion batteries makes them potentially flammable. Researchers around the world are working to develop a practical solid-state electrolyte, which would be far more fire-resistant.

Researchers at the DOE’s Berkeley and Argonne National Labs were working on a magnesium battery, which offers higher energy density than lithium, but found that there was no good option for a liquid electrolyte. “Magnesium is such a new technology, it doesn’t have any good liquid electrolytes,” said Gerbrand Ceder, a Berkeley Lab Senior Faculty Scientist. “We thought, why not leapfrog and make a solid-state electrolyte?”

In a paper published in Nature Communications, Pieremanuele Canepa, Shou-Hang Bo and colleagues report that a material called magnesium scandium selenide spinel has magnesium mobility comparable to that of solid-state electrolytes for lithium batteries. “We have identified a new class of solid conductors that can transport magnesium ions at unprecedented speed,” Canepa said.

Co-author Baris Key, a Research Chemist at Argonne, conducted nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy experiments to prove that magnesium ions could move through the material as rapidly as the studies had predicted. “It was crucial to confirm the fast magnesium hopping experimentally,” Key said. “As we’ve shown in this study, an in-depth understanding of short- and long-range structure and ion dynamics will be the key for magnesium-ion battery research.”

“This probably has a long way to go before you can make a battery out of it, but it’s the first demonstration [that] you can make solid-state materials with really good magnesium mobility through it,” Ceder said. “Magnesium is thought to move slowly in most solids, so nobody thought this would be possible. But we still have work to do. This material shows a small amount of electron leakage, which has to be removed before it can be used in a battery.”


Source: EurekAlert!

  • mipak

    Fantastic. The future is cheaper metal like magnesium, aluminum and zinc. Lithium is too rare and China controls most of the raw resources.

    • Chris Jones

      Sorry, but that’s not true. Lithium is not rare, nor does China control the raw resources. Australia currently produces over 30% of the world’s lithium through a small mine in Western Australia, and very soon will be converting it into LiOH for battery manufacture. In fact lithium is so cheap and abundant, it’s not even worth recycling at the moment.

      • mipak

        “At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth’s crust, lithium is the 25th most abundant element. According to the Handbook of Lithium and Natural Calcium, “Lithium is a comparatively rare element, although it is found in many rocks and some brines, but always in very low concentrations.”

        That makes Lithium rare despite what you think.

        From greentechmedia:

        “The U.S. Geological Survey produced a reserves estimate of lithium in early 2015, concluding that the world has enough known reserves for about 365 years of current global production of about 37,000 tons per year.”

        Thus, when the world really starts switching to Lithium used in car batteries–of which less than 1% of cars are EVs at this point, how long you think those 365 years supply at 37,000 tons per year are going to last when 100 to 1000 times as much is needed each year (3.7 million to 37 million tons per year)?

        If ONLY 100% of all cars were all using lithium based batteries–then that supply wouldn’t last 4 years. And if all construction equipment, farming equipment, trucks and buses were also using lithium batteries for energy storage (not even including solar installation using them like Tesla is doing) the it wouldn’t even last a month!

        What must happen is that the world has to research and come up with batteries from magnesium which is in abundance. And or Aluminum, Zinc and a few others. Lithium alone can’t do the job.

        Get your facts based on true facts.

        • Chris Jones

          Sure, it’s rare compared to silicon or oxygen, but as a resource it’s not the scarce element greentechmedia make it out to be. That one mine I told you about [] produced the lion’s share of global lithium. It is just one of about 6 mines in WA. Exploration hasn’t even commenced yet for more. Cobalt is FAR more rare, and in need of an alternative. Lithium is the universe’s smallest metal ion, and is therefore the most appropriate for electrochemical cells.

          • mipak

            Not true. Magnesium is the best because it stores TWICE the valence electrons and has twice the possible energy density as a result of that.

          • Knut Erik Ballestad

            And it is typically extracted from ordinary sea water, so any country with access to energy and the sea can produce Magnesium.

            An expansion in Magnesium production could also lead to more widespread use of Magnesium in applications where we today use Aluminium, as Mg is more lightweight than Al.

            – but wouldnt Aluminium’s +3 charge make Aluminium an *even* better battery material then?

        • Knut Erik Ballestad

          Sure, but it is only used a very small amount of Lithium in the battery electrolyte, most of the raw materials of a battery goes into anode and cathode, where you e.g. use Nickel, Manganese and Cobalt – not Lithium.

          • mipak

            37,000 tons are used per year currently of lithium–projected to be a 365 year supply at that rate. Bump that up a hundred times to support the number of cars needed to supplant ICE cars and you get less than a 3 year supply. Just do the math. Magnesium, Aluminum and Zinc are going to be necessary over the next 100 years and onward.

          • Knut Erik Ballestad

            Yes, as long as you are comparing to the currently known resources, much like wrt oil, this is a constantly changing landmark as more locations with Lithium is disovered.

          • howardpatr

            You forgot sodium – look up Tiamat for starters and it is all relatively early stage development.


    • Benoit Michel

      Not really true. Lithium resources in the Atacama desert in Chile are truly huge.

  • Pieter van Pelt

    Aluminum – air batteries (though not rechargeable) have by far the highest power density and have been demonstrated to power EV’s for long distance use. Aluminium batteries have the potential for up to eight times the range of a lithium-ion battery with a significantly lower total weight.
    As far as its problem of being non-rechargeable, there are solutions sought by rapid replacement of the Al anode and recycling the Al hydroxide that results from the chemical reaction with air NaOH into pristine Al metal by electrolysis. See:

    • Knut Erik Ballestad

      Since Magnesium itself is 4 times heavier than Lithium, what makes these batteries have significantly lower weight?
      – also power output is also important, especially if it is significantly lower than for Lithium batteries – as suggested in the article. If power output is too low, this kind of batteries might have to be installed more as range extenders than as main batteries in EV’s