The development of new rechargeable battery systems could fuel various energy applications, from personal electronics to grid storage1,2. Rechargeable aluminium-based batteries offer the possibilities of low cost and low flammability, together with three-electron-redox properties leading to high capacity3. However, research efforts over the past 30 years have encountered numerous problems, such as cathode material disintegration4, low cell discharge voltage (about 0.55 volts; ref. 5), capacitive behaviour without discharge voltage plateaus (1.1–0.2 volts6 or 1.8–0.8 volts7) and insufficient cycle life (less than 100 cycles) with rapid capacity decay (by 26–85 per cent over 100 cycles)4,5,6,7. Here we present a rechargeable aluminium battery with high-rate capability that uses an aluminium metal anode and a three-dimensional graphitic-foam cathode. The battery operates through the electrochemical deposition and dissolution of aluminium at the anode, and intercalation/de-intercalation of chloroaluminate anions in the graphite, using a non-flammable ionic liquid electrolyte. The cell exhibits well-defined discharge voltage plateaus near 2 volts, a specific capacity of about 70 mA h g–1 and a Coulombic efficiency of approximately 98 per cent. The cathode was found to enable fast anion diffusion and intercalation, affording charging times of around one minute with a current density of ~4,000 mA g–1 (equivalent to ~3,000 W kg–1), and to withstand more than 7,500 cycles without capacity decay.
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We thank M. D. Fayer for discussions. We also thank Y. Cui’s group for use of an argon-filled glove box and a vacuum oven. M.-C.L thanks the Bureau of Energy, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan, for supporting international cooperation between Stanford University and ITRI. B.L. acknowledges support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 21303046), the China Scholarship Council (no. 201308430178), and the Hunan University Fund for Multidisciplinary Developing (no. 531107040762). We also acknowledge support from the US Department of Energy for novel carbon materials development and electrical characterization work (DOE DE-SC0008684), Stanford GCEP, the Precourt Institute of Energy, and the Global Networking Talent 3.0 plan (NTUST 104DI005) from the Ministry of Education of Taiwan.
Extended data figures
A flexible Al/pyrolytic graphite cell continuously powers a red LED under a continuous bending and non-bending condition.
A flexible Al/pyrolytic graphite cell continuously powers a red LED (operating voltage ~1.7V) under a continuous bending and non-bending condition.
An Al/prolytic graphite cell was drilled through without causing safety hazard due to the high stability of ionic liquid electrolyte without flammability in air.
An Al/prolytic graphite cell was drilled through without causing safety hazard (only slight temperature variation, see temperature meter on the left) due to the high stability of ionic liquid electrolyte without flammability in air. Also, the cell operation continued (see voltage meter on the right) to light a red LED.
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