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Cheap zinc/manganese battery being developed commercially (www.adelaide.edu.au)
87 points by porsupah 6 months ago | hide | past | web | 34 comments | favorite

Zinc/manganese has been around for decades; in fact, it's the standard issue disposable battery:


"An alkaline battery (IEC code: L) is a type of primary battery which derives its energy from the reaction between zinc metal and manganese dioxide."

The new permutation which allegedly ups the energy density and allows it to be safely recharged supposedly uses a different electrolyte with more manganese ions. The research has been funded in the West for decades, with some interesting new results in 2017. Of course, this is one of those "submarine" "news" articles which originated in someone's marketing department, so it's not entirely clear it's going to be a useful result or yet another pile of woo hoping to hit "human informational centipede" the way a lot of recent woo has.

Can you explain what "woo" means in this context? I've seen it used a lot lately, but it's new to me.

Reading the sibling link, it looks like this person is using "woo" incorrectly in this context. Good science/technology often has failed outcomes (which isn't woo). I'm also presuming the University of Adelaide isn't practicing pseudoscience.

Eh, it's definitely a loose/sarcastic usage of the word, but it works for me.

w is quite close to p on my colemak keyboard. Maybe they meant poo.

Rechargable alkalines have also been around for several decades: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rechargeable_alkaline_battery

Reminder: if an article about breakthrough battery tech touts one of energy density, number of cycles, cost, discharge/charge rate, while conspicuously not mentioning the others there is a good reason for that...

I found an article from April 2016 that talks about an electrolyte breakthrough with zinc and manganese batteries:

> the test battery was able to reach a storage capacity of 285 milliAmpere-hours per gram of manganese oxide over 5,000 cycles, while retaining 92 percent of its initial storage capacity.


According to Wikipedia, lithium ion batteries have an energy density of 100–265 Watt-hours per kilogram at 3.6 - 3.8 Volts with 400 - 1,200 cycles. Converting that to Amp-hours (Wh)/(V) =(Ah) means about 74 Ah/Kg in the best case scenario.

I'm not sure if the tech from University of Adelaide is the same as what was published by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and I wasn't able to find any info about discharge/recharge rate, but it looks like it compares very well to lithium ion in the other areas.

It's not meaningful to compare Ah between different cell chemistries, because they may have different voltages. You should convert the Ah to Wh and then compare. For Zn-Mn typical cell voltages are a bit less than half that of Li Ion batteries.

For actual apples-to-apples comparison you will want to compare actual battery assemblies -- the numbers reported from labs often exclude parts of the batteries. In this case they are comparing just the MnO2 cathode weight judging by the quote you posted. Some of the wikipedia numbers on Li Ion will also be from articles like this too, so who knows how it reflects on reality.

A "per gram of manganese" energy density doesn't really translate directly into... energy density... does it?

Oddly enough, non-rechargeable alkaline batteries already use zinc and manganese (dioxide) (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alkaline_battery ).

The article talks about solar energy storage, vehicle batteries, and comparisons with lithium ion. The article doesn't explicitly say they're developing a type of rechargeable battery, but that seems to be implied by context.

Anyway, it would be nice to see lead-acid batteries phased out someday and reduce the usage of lead in human activities.

Yes, the batteries are rechargeable. Apparently good for at least 2,000 or 5,000 cycles.

$1m is a tiny amount to bring a battery to manufacture. That number is about what it costs to set up production to have a LiPo battery in a specific shape for your electronics.

If they had said $100m then I'd believe that there was finally going to be a serious competitor to the status quo on batteries.

Even if it was serious you'd have to wait for the patent-enforced monopolies to expire before there is significant benefit to us normal people.

This is one of the reasons why everybody is running around with 18650 lithium ion batteries. It's all 1990's tech that has been evolved and improved on since then by numerous competitive businesses.

18650 is a size, not a chemistry. The 18650 you'll find in a Tesla, for example, is very different from any 18650 you could source in the 90s, and likely contains technology patented by (or licensed by) Panasonic.

It seems like there's some competition in this space after an initial breakthrough in 2016.



If anyone's interested here's an actual company selling a real Zinc-air product:


Two largest downsides of this technology are:

1. Round-trip efficiency of 75%.

2. Low power density.

Cost and cycle life are great though - should be great for grid storage.

75% isn't great, but if solar continues its 70 year exponential trend of dropping by half every 3-4 years for another two decades, then round-trip efficiency may not much matter in the long run. Too, the 75% is at 100% Depth of Discharge - it may be better at lower total discharge. Lifetime 15 years / 5,000 cycles is almost perfectly balanced for one full cycle per day (5,475 days in 15 years). Doesn't give the price, though, so hard to calculate cost per cycle. https://eosenergystorage.com/products-technology/

Energy density per $ is not the metric for new transportation storage. Its kWh/pound that's critical. They don't mention it?

Aren't some modes of transportation less sensitive to overall capacity or weight?

I can imagine trains can be extra heavy, and scooters might require less overall energy capacity.

Battery breakthrough announcements from marketing departments with not a SINGLE commercial sale should be banned from HN.

For many years now at least once a week there has been an announcement of a breakthrough new battery technology that is going to revolutionize energy storage. But in spite of all these purported breakthroughs, we are still stuck with li-ion (though it has been improving steadily).

I think it would be nice if there was a site that tracked all these announcements, that is had a listing of all of them and how each has done in the following years.

I can not imagine them reaching that cost even in China. That $10 per kWh is basically the material cost.

On other hand, you can already source lithium batteries of cheaper varieties at below $100 per kWh in large wholesale quantities in China

Even if they don’t last as long as li-ion batteries the environmental/health friendly aspects of this technology might be useful.

But yeah, curious to see how it shakes out in practical application.

what is the round trip efficiency of this "breakthrough"?

whats the energy density?

finally lifespan?

Zinc is very important in the diet and its deficiency is very common. Our food is already becoming scarce in zinc, potentially needing supplements from mined minerals. But these are not projected to last very long either [1]. This doesn't make me very excited for using it for batteries at all.

[1] https://www.iatp.org/documents/scarcity-of-micronutrients-in...

i wouldn't worry about Zinc, men need 11 mg/day, women even less. The common battery, the Leclanché element, already consist of Zinc, but it is not advisable to recharge them (danger of explosion). In the 90s people even claimed the could safely recharge the Leclanché element, so I could imagine the have overcome these problems

A kilogram of Zinc costs about $2.50[1] and is enough for an adult man for three months. There is no zinc crunch in the foreseeable future. Plus if it really became a problem you could recycle the zinc out of old batteries.

[1] https://markets.businessinsider.com/commodities/zinc-price

1 kg for 3 months? Maybe 3 lifetimes..

Bah, you're right. I put in a KG instead of G in my calculation, so 3000 months instead of 3 months. In any case I am not worried about running out even if we go whole hog on these batteries.

To show the math:

1 kg Zn * 1000 g / kg * 1000 mg / g * 1 day / 11 mg Zn * 1 year / 365.2425 day * 1 male lifespan / 76.04 years = 3.27 lifetimes.

The amount of Zn in one US post-1982 penny is 2.5 g (ignoring the copper cladding), which is 0.62 of a year's requirement.

What relevance does this have? Do you think zinc is scarce?

In addition, eating foods that contain zinc makes this point moot. Meat, shellfish, nuts, even dairy

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