Best hope yet for aluminium-ion batteries
Innovation and technology
UNSW Sydney’s Dr Dong Jun Kim has led a team of researchers to show rechargeable aluminium-ion batteries are a possibility with a future in renewable energy storage.
"We believe the research discussed in the article opens up a new approach to designing aluminium-ion batteries that could be of interest to scientists investigating next-generation electrochemical energy storage"

Aluminium-ion batteries are a step closer to becoming a reality after a UNSW Sydney chemist found a way to make the science behind the technology work.

In a study completed at Northwestern University in Illinois and published recently in Nature Energy, Dr Dong Jun Kim – now of UNSW’s School of Chemistry – led a team of researchers including Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart to demonstrate a strategy for designing active materials for rechargeable aluminium batteries.

Up until now, finding appropriate host electrodes for insertion of complex aluminium ions had been a fundamental challenge.

“We found a novel way to design rechargeable aluminium batteries by employing a redox-active macrocyclic compound as the active material,” Dr Kim said.

In other words, Dr Kim and his team managed to use a large organic chemical compound as the part of the battery that stores energy, something that previously had researchers stumped.

“We believe the research discussed in the article opens up a new approach to designing aluminium-ion batteries that could be of interest to scientists investigating next-generation electrochemical energy storage,” Dr Kim added.

What makes this is a big deal is that while lithium-ion batteries have enjoyed remarkable success powering mobile electronic devices, in renewable energy applications they are fraught by limited cycle life, safety concerns and relatively high costs.

Aluminium-ion batteries, on the other hand, have been seen as ideal contenders for this space, given aluminium is the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust behind oxygen and silicon. It also has the one of the highest theoretical volumetric capacities on account of its multiple redox states.

“Developing batteries using aluminium has received a lot of expectation for delivering high energy to price ratios,” Dr Kim said.

“Our results showed promising battery performances, however, it is early days and we stress that there is need to improve even more in every aspect. So it does not make much sense to compare against the well-established lithium-ion battery system.”

Dr Kim said he will be continuing to research aluminium-ion batteries while examining the potential of using other elements.

“I look forward to further research on utilising redox-active organic molecules for multivalent-ion intercalation batteries such as aluminium, magnesium, zinc, and calcium,” he said.

Partners & Collaborators
  • Northwestern University in Illinois

More in Innovation and technology

Natural preservative set to revolutionise food industry in Indonesia
UNSW research has helped commercialise a 100% biodegradable, natural chitosan product that preserves food for longer, reduces food waste and increases the income of smallholder farmers.
Innovation and technology
The cobalt threshold
How research in the UNSW Chemical Sciences has helped protect animals by informing regulatory limits of cobalt and arsenic in the racing industry.
Innovation and technology
Solving the lead problem in drinking water
UNSW material scientists address the problem of lead leaching into the drinking water of Australian households by creating a new, lead-free brass alloy that will be used to make plumbing parts.
Innovation and technology
One application of the new super desiccant could be removing smells from shoes. Image: Shutterstock.
Soaking up the water and the sweat – a new super desiccant
UNSW scientists have developed a new carbon-based material that could revolutionise moisture control in applications as diverse as electronics, packaging, air conditioning – and keeping footwear fresh.
Innovation and technology
The new technology has the potential to determine the levels of microRNA from just a finger prick blood test. Picture: Shutterstock
Blood-borne cancer detection receives gold-plated boost
Scientists will be able to detect cancer earlier from blood samples after advances were made in detecting microRNA molecules using gold-plated nanoparticles.
Innovation and technology
App helps ecologists map vulnerable ecosystems within minutes
A mapmaking app created by UNSW scientists harnesses the power of Google and NASA to empower ecologists to create a view on ecosystems without any specialist equipment.
Innovation and technology
Leading “the space race of the 21st century”
UNSW Sydney – and Australia – is at the forefront in the quest to develop the world’s first commercial scale quantum computer.
Innovation and technology
Fighting the war on waste
Waste microfactories are revolutionising recycling as the world’s waste crisis continues to escalate.
Innovation and technology