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Metal-air batteries

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Technology Description

Metal-air batteries consist of a metal anode in a suitable electrolyte and an embedded air cathode. The metals that can be used as the anode must have a strong reducing power and a low molecular weight: first group metals such as sodium, lithium or potassium, second group metals such as magnesium or calcium, and third group metals such as aluminium and a few transition metals such as iron and zinc. Metal-air batteries tend to have longer storage and discharge times because the materials used are cheaper. Zinc-air batteries are metal-air batteries that work by oxidising zinc with oxygen from the air. When the system is delivering power, the zinc particles combine with the oxygen drawn from the air. When the system is recharging, the zinc particles are regenerated and the oxygen is returned to the ambient air. Iron-air batteries store energy through reversible corrosion. During discharge, the battery draws oxygen from the air to rust the iron. When the process is reversed, the oxygen is released and the iron is returned to its pre-rust state as the system recharges.

Relevance for Net Zero

A higher integration of variable renewable energy will increase the need of flexibility and energy storage. While Li-ion batteries have been largely deployed, issues around costs and a more limited lithium availability, call for alternative battery technologies.

Key Countries

Canada, United States

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