Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Aussies build water batteries designed to be safer

A battery built to be safer in storage and recycling has been developed in Australia, and it’s a curious concept, to say the least.

Batteries are clearly important to technology — they give us power! — but they come with a downside or two. Ignoring the frustration of never having enough power and turning to a portable power bank, they can also be bad for the environment and volatile, to boot.

Simply put, the lithium ion batteries so much of our technology relies on catches fire and can explode, with over 1000 fires caused from lithium-ion batteries in Australia in the past year.

That’s a serious amount of damage from the power technology we all rely on, with lithium-ion waste also a potential problem, thanks in part to a minimal capacity for processing the batteries, according to the CSIRO.

Interestingly, there could be some change on the horizon, thanks to an Australian development.

Credit: Carelle Mulawa-Richards, RMIT University

The news comes courtesy of RMIT in Melbourne, where a team of researchers has come up with a more environmentally friendly form of battery that won’t catch fire or explode.

The concept takes the humble battery, and makes it run on water, using a combination of water, magnesium, and zinc to create an aqueous battery that can be used with technology.

“What we design and manufacture are called aqueous metal-ion batteries – or we can call them water batteries,” said Distinguished Professor Tianyi Ma, lead researcher on the project.

“Addressing end-of-life disposal challenges that consumers, industry and governments globally face with current energy storage technology, our batteries can be safely disassembled and the materials can be reused or recycled,” he said.

“We use materials such as magnesium and zinc that are abundant in nature, inexpensive and less toxic than alternatives used in other kinds of batteries, which helps to lower manufacturing costs and reduces risks to human health and the environment.”

At the moment, the water-based battery is small and wouldn’t be useful for phones and other gadgets reliant on lithium-ion batteries. However, the researchers suggestion that these new magnesium-ion water batteries have the potential to replace lithium-ion sometime in the next decade or so.

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