An Exciting Alternative to Lithium for Batteries


Mobile phone batteries with up to three times longer life than current technology could become a reality, thanks to a breakthrough led by RMIT University.

Only 10% of used hand batteries, including mobile phone batteries, are collected for recycling in Australia, which is low by international standards. Image credit: Adobe Stock

Rather than throwing batteries away after two or three years, the team believes that by using high-frequency sound waves to remove rust that impairs battery performance, it could be possible to have recyclable batteries that last up to nine years. come along.

In Australia, only 10% of used hand batteries, including those used in mobile phones, are collected for recycling, which is low by international standards. The remaining 90% of batteries are discarded incorrectly or end up in landfills, causing significant environmental damage.

The high cost of recovering lithium and other materials from batteries is a major obstacle to recycling, but the team’s discovery could help address this problem.

The team is working with MXenes, which they believe will provide an intriguing alternative to lithium for batteries in the future.

MXene is equivalent to graphene in terms of electrical conductivity, according to Leslie Yeo, Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and Senior Senior Researcher.

Unlike graphene, MXenes are highly adaptable and open up a whole range of possible technological applications in the future.

Leslie Yeo, Distinguished Professor, Chemical Engineering, School of Engineering, RMIT University

The main problem with using MXene was that it rusted easily, hindering its electrical conductivity and making it unusable.

Yeo adds: “To overcome this challenge, we found that sound waves with a certain frequency remove rust from MXene and restore it to its original state.”

He says the group’s breakthrough could one day help to revive MXene batteries every few years, extending their lifespan by up to three times.

The ability to extend the shelf life of MXene is critical to ensuring it can be used for commercially viable electronic componentsYeo adds.

The research has been published in the journal Nature communication.

How the innovation works

Mr. Hossein Alijani, a Ph.D. candidate and co-lead author, stated that the most difficult aspect of using MXene was the rust that accumulated on the surface in a humid environment or when suspended in aqueous solutions.

Surface oxide, which is rust, is difficult to remove, especially from this material, which is much, much thinner than a human hair. Current methods used to reduce oxidation depend on the material’s chemical coating, which limits the use of MXene in its native form. In this work, we show that exposing an oxidized MXene film to high-frequency vibration for just one minute removes the rust on the film. This simple procedure restores electrical and electrochemical performance.

Mr. Hossein Alijani, co-lead author of the study and PhD candidate, School of Engineering, RMIT University

The potential applications of the team’s work

According to the researchers, their work to eliminate rust from MXene paves the way for using the nanomaterial in a variety of applications, such as sensors, energy storage, wireless transmission and environmental restoration.

One of the lead senior researchers, Associate Professor Amgad Rezk, said the ability to rapidly reduce oxidized materials to an almost pristine state represented a breakthrough in terms of the circular economy.

Materials used in electronics, including batteries, generally deteriorate after two or three years of use due to rusting. With our method we can extend the life of battery components by up to three times.

Amgad Rezk, Associate Professor, School of Engineering, RMIT University

Next steps

While the technology looks promising, the researchers need to work with industry to incorporate the acoustic device into current manufacturing systems and processes.

The team is also exploring the potential of their innovation to remove oxide layers from other materials for sensing and renewable energy applications.

We are happy to work with industry partners so that our method of rust removal can be scaled up”, concludes Yeo.

Magazine reference

Ahmed, H., et al. (2023) Restoration of oxidized two-dimensional MXenes by nanoscale high-frequency electromechanical vibrations. Nature communication.


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