Magnesium in batteries: A sustainable alternative to lithium

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde explore using magnesium in batteries as a sustainable and affordable alternative to lithium.

The study – funded by the Faraday Institution and conducted by researchers at the University of Strathclyde – will explore the possibility of utilising magnesium in batteries as a sustainable alternative to lithium. 

Using magnesium in batteries to replace lithium

The researchers will develop suitable electrolytes – which connect electrodes to each other and allow current to flow – for use in rechargeable, high energy density batteries. They will be capable of supporting the efficient and repeatable transfer of magnesium between the batteries’ electrodes. They will also have high stability to withstand the operating conditions of the battery.   

The electrolytes will be tested for electrochemical performance against existing cathode materials and analysed for their performance and stability.  

The one-year study has received seed funding of £114,641 from the Faraday Institution. It also involves the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), in which Strathclyde is a strategic partner, and the University of Sheffield.   

Combatting rising battery demand

Dr Stuart Robertson, a Senior Lecturer in Strathclyde’s Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, is leading the research. He said: “We are going through a period of massive battery demand, with governments setting targets for electric vehicles and increasing demand for off-grid storage, to store renewable energy for times when there is no wind or sun.  

“Lithium is used extensively in batteries, but it is not in great natural abundance and tends not to be recycled from spent batteries. Batteries in electric vehicles also need to be much larger than those in a phone or a laptop.  

“Magnesium offers a natural alternative because it is much more abundant, is easier to obtain, and has competitive performance levels.  

“We have been encouraged by the performance of magnesium in experiments we have carried out so far. At Strathclyde, we are a team of synthetic chemists and, with this grant from the Faraday Institution, we will be working on the design, synthesis, and testing of electrolytes along with electrochemists at the University of Sheffield and NPL.”  

The Faraday Institution: Expanding its battery research portfolio

The study is one of 16 small, fast-paced, focused projects to be funded by the Faraday Institution in areas not covered within its existing battery research portfolio. In doing so, it has widened its research scope, and set of university partners, in an initiative that will inform future priorities for its research programme beyond March 2023.  

The new seed projects aim to deliver transformative results that may lead to the second stage of collaborative research beyond the initial exploratory work.  

Faraday Institution CEO Professor Pam Thomas concluded: “These novel projects are in areas of application-inspired research that continue to strengthen the UK’s position in electrochemical energy storage and ultimately contribute to making UK industry more competitive.”  

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