Scientists have been working on this alternative battery design since the 1970s, and now they’ve made a breakthrough. Is this the end of the lithium-ion battery?
Fluoride batteries have been of interest since the 1970s when researchers first started experimenting with the material in solid state designs. And though the tests only worked under extremely high temperatures, fluoride held their interest due to its capacity to create a battery with a high energy density- it could store more charge in the same amount of space. A typical lithium-ion battery has 3 parts. An anode and a cathode separated by an electrolyte. As the battery discharges, positive lithium ions flow from the anode, across the electrolyte, into the cathode. This leaves free electrons in the anode that create your current. When you charge your lithium battery, the reverse happens- ions in the cathode flow back into the anode.
Fluoride batteries work a little differently. Instead of relying on the transfer of positive lithium ions, fluoride batteries use negative fluoride ions to generate their current. Essentially, a lithium ion battery but in reverse! The reason these batteries have such a high energy density comes down to the molecular structure of metal fluorides. In a metal fluoride, the ratio of fluorine atoms to metal atoms is high. For example in copper fluoride, two fluorine atoms are combined with just one copper atom. That means for every copper atom, you get two fluoride ions that can move 2 electrons. In a typical lithium battery, however, you only get 1 lithium atom for every two oxygens 1 cobalt. That means for every two oxygen atoms and 1 cobalt atom there’s only one lithium ion, that can only move 1 electron. The copper fluoride gives you more ions that can move more electrons-- and does it without increasing overall mass. That means batteries of the same weight can hold more charge, and last up to 8 times longer.
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