New rechargeable batteries that use iron instead of cobalt could be a game changer for electric cars

Business Insider | 1/9/2018 | Irina Slav, OilPrice.com
Every month there are dozens of exciting potential discoveries in battery technology.

Iron — a common metal —has taken a surprising lead as a candidate to replace expensive cobalt.

Month - Battery - Project - Headlines - Excitement

It would be a dull month if a new rechargeable battery project didn’t make headlines amid all the excitement surrounding electric cars. This month’s indisputable winner is the lithium-ion battery that replaces cobalt with iron, and—rather surprisingly—works, at least according to the people who came up with the idea.

The potential implications of this invention are huge: Cobalt is enjoying a very strong rally as demand is estimated to skyrocket with the influx of electric cars in the world’s biggest markets, notably China and the United States. So is lithium, but the iron battery is unlikely to have an impact on lithium demand. Also, theoretically, the iron battery could put some battery makers out of business.

Idea - Iron - Batteries - Attempts - Metal

The idea of using iron in batteries isn’t new, but so far, attempts to substitute the cheap metal for costlier cobalt and other metals have ended in disaster. Christopher Wolverton, professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University, had two problems to solve to make his battery work. First, replace cobalt with iron. Second, trick oxygen into taking part in the reaction that moves the lithium ions from the anode to the cathode and back again as the battery is charged and discharged.

The second challenge was the bigger one. The widespread opinion in science circles is that using oxygen in the reaction taking place in a rechargeable battery makes the concoction inside unstable and oxygen escapes, making the reaction irreversible and the battery non-rechargeable. That’s why Wolverton and his...
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