The first lithium-ion batteries entered the market in 1991 with the active participation of Sony, but it was not until 2019 that their creators received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Humanity is now in dire need of new technologies for storing electric charge. The search for alternatives to lithium batteries is being actively pursued; magnesium is proposed as one of them.
As the Nikkei Asian Review explains, even the very ability of one magnesium ion to carry two electrons versus one in a lithium ion can significantly increase the storage density of electricity. According to preliminary calculations, magnesium batteries can store up to 1 kW of electricity in one liter of volume. They are being developed by the E-Magic scientific consortium, which brings together researchers from Denmark, Israel, Germany, Spain and the UK. The project is supported by the authorities of the European Union, and the developers are ready to make the market participants happy with serial batteries based on magnesium ions only in the next decade.
The cost of magnesium in terms of mass production can be lower than that of lithium. Magnesium is used to create the negative electrode of batteries. E-Magic says it has already built a prototype magnesium ion battery that can handle up to 500 charge and discharge cycles. In the United States, representatives of the Toyota Corporate Research Institute are developing a magnesium battery with a positive electrode based on an organic composition and a boron-based electrolyte. Prototypes so far can withstand no more than 200 charge and discharge cycles, but differ from lithium ones in higher stability.
Japanese scientists are experimenting with batteries whose positive electrodes are made of manganese oxide and the negative ones are made of magnesium. Zinc is another alternative to lithium, especially since it has been used in the creation of batteries for many decades. Zinc-ion batteries have a lower risk of fire than lithium-ion batteries. If three decades ago, Japanese specialists acted as pioneers in the creation of lithium-ion batteries, nowadays Chinese and Korean companies are ahead of the same Panasonic in terms of production of traction batteries. Japan has not yet lost its scientific potential in this area, but it should not show weakness in the commercialization of new technologies.