Chemists from the University of Waterloo in Canada have developed a new long-lasting zinc-ion battery for grid energy storage.

The new battery, which features non-flammable, non-toxic materials and a pH-neutral, water-based salt, is said to cost half the price of current lithium-ion batteries.

It is expected to help in enabling communities to shift towards renewable solar and wind energy production replacing traditional power plants.

Professor Linda Nazar and her colleagues from the Faculty of Science at Waterloo made the important discovery, which appears in the journal, Nature Energy.

Waterloo University research professor in the department of chemistry Nazar said: “The worldwide demand for sustainable energy has triggered a search for a reliable, low-cost way to store it.

“The aqueous zinc-ion battery we’ve developed is ideal for this type of application because it’s relatively inexpensive and it’s inherently safe.”

The battery features a water-based electrolyte, a pillared vanadium oxide positive electrode and a metallic zinc negative electrode.

Electricity in the battery is generated through a reversible process known as intercalation.

Positively charged zinc-ions are oxidized from the negative electrode of zinc metal and travel through the electrolyte and insert between the layers of vanadium oxide, which creates an electrical current. The process is reversed on charge.

The research team said that the new technology meets four important criteria which include high reversibility, rate and capacity with no zinc dentrite formation.

The battery, which will provide more than 1,000 cycles with 80% energy retention, is estimated to have energy density of around 450 watt hours (Wh) per liter.

According estimates, the global market for energy storage will grow to $25bn in the next decade.

Image: University of Waterloo research team develops low cost grid battery storage technology. Photo: courtesy of Shutterstock/University of Waterloo.