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New rechargeable zinc-air batteries coming soon

( — A new breed of rechargeable zinc-air batteries is soon to be available, and may replace lithium-ion batteries in cell phones, laptops and other consumer items. Lithium-ion batteries store only a third of the energy and cost around twice as much as the new batteries.

The Swiss company ReVolt, from Staefa, plans to release the new batteries next year, initially as small batteries for use in hearing aids, and later for cell phones. Eventually much larger batteries are planned for electric vehicles.

…Prototypes of the new battery have been tested for more than a hundred cycles, and are expected to last at least twice as long. CEO of ReVolt, James McDougall, said the company aims to increase the life to between 300 and 500 cycles, which would make them useful for cell phones and electric bicycles.

ReVolt has also been developing zinc-air batteries for use in electric vehicles. These batteries resemble fuel cells, with a zinc slurry forming a liquid zinc electrode, and a series of tubes forming the air electrode. Electricity is generated by pumping the slurry through the tubes, where it is oxidized and releases electrons. The resultant zinc oxide is stored in another compartment and flows back through the tubes when the battery is recharging. This releases oxygen, and the zinc oxide reverts to zinc.


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